Nancy G. West’s Fit to be Dead is the first humorous mystery in a series following Aggie Mundeen’s brush with the darker side of society. Single and approaching forty, Mundeen fears nothing – except perhaps middle age. She quits her high paying, high stressful job in Chicago and moves to San Antonio to expand on her success as the writer of the “Stay Youth with Aggie” column. But before doing so, she has to take the very advice she is dolling out. This means taking the “Aspects of Aging” university class and joining a gym. She also decides to check out if any of the men at the gym are perhaps single and ready for a relationship. But being rusty at flirting, she irritates a number of them, further compounding the situation by stumbling on a murder. Her sleuthing instincts are awakened, and she tries to use her access to the gym to uncover the perpetrator, only to have the killer set his sights on her.
While the plot seems dark, West injects quite a massive dose of wry humour in her book, making it a light read. The book is well written, features a well-developed and interesting character, and an interesting plot. But it also was tedious at times, with page long descriptions of what Mundeen was learning in class which did not have much to do with the story. There is also a lot of information about Mundeen, her life, and those around her which does not seem to be organized and tightened as well as it could be, so much so that some of the twists in the plot lose the element of surprise.
Despite this, Mundeen is a character that many will no doubt become attached to because of how human she is, and how she continues picking herself up and trying again. She has a couple of ah-ha moments in this book. The most memorable one comes when Mundeen realizes how wrapped in herself she has been, in the very same way she has been criticizing the other members of the gym. This I feel is an important realization in general to have; that the faults of others are often the faults that we ourselves carry, and that perhaps it would be a better use of our energy to resolving said fault in ourselves.
Fit to be Dead is an enjoyable, well-written book. No doubt the following books in the series will build on its strengths and become increasingly better. More information about Nancy G. West is available on her website.