by Stephanie Bond

August 2006
ISBN: 0-7783-2333-1
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books
Trade Paperback

Carlotta Wren never could have imagined that she would still be working at the upscale Neiman-Marcus department store when she was in her late twenties. When she was in high school and engaged to Peter Ashford she envisioned being the one shopping at the store instead of waiting on Peter's demanding wife, Angela. Peter broke his engagement to Carlotta when her parents ran off, after her father was accused of investment fraud. The resultant scandal left Carlotta with few friends and her nine year old brother, Wesley, to raise alone. Her brother has not been easy to care for and love. Wesley is smart, but has used his intelligence to hack into computers and rack up huge gambling debts in get-rich-quick schemes of high stake poker games. Carlotta has finally had enough and gives him an ultimatum to find a real job or else she won't bail him out again.

Wesley finds a job he enjoys, despite its grisly nature, as a body mover. Cooper Craft, Wesley's boss, is willing to give Wesley a chance since he has his own issues from the past. When Wesley and Coop go to an upscale neighborhood to pick up a body they discover it is Angela Ashford. Carlotta is shocked and does not believe it was accidental drowning, as the police first believe. She also feels guilty since she has never truly gotten over Peter and had run into him a few days before Angela's death. They had only kissed, but Peter revealed how he really had felt. As Carlotta becomes involved in searching out the facts behind Angela's death, she may be putting herself in jeopardy, with both a possible killer and the thugs after payments from Wesley.

Ms. Bond has finely crafted characters that are quirky and, at times, aggravating, but truly realistic. Carlotta is a better woman than most of us to put up with her troubled brother who she easily could have tossed out. Wesley has his own bad boy charm, but in dire need of Gamblers Anonymous. Peter has his flaws, but the reader can see why Carlotta has carried a torch for him for so long. There is something vulnerable about him.

There is sensual romance, but the reader is given glimpses of several romantic possibilities for Carlotta. Body Movers is the first in a series. The ending leaves things open for the next book due out in 2007. This novel is set in Ms. Bond's current home of Atlanta. As someone who has lived most of her adult life in the Atlanta suburbs, I was able to relate to the many locations mentioned. Even if you have never been to the area, the author's vivid descriptions will bring it alive for you.

I look forward to the next book in the series. It is hard to find an author who can mix humor, mystery and thought provoking glimpses into human foibles. Ms. Bond succeeds at this, as shown by her past novels and this current one.

Reviewed in August 2006 by Roberta.

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