I didn’t know that Amy Among the Serial Killers (2022) by Jincy Willett was the third book in a series that begins with The Writing Class and Amy Falls Down when I picked it up at the library, but it worked as a standalone.
Carla is just fine; she is a grown-up former child star whose controlling mother has died, and left her a house on the beach in San Diego–called Inspiration Point. Carla has turned it into an ongoing writer’s retreat where people pay for “cells” that have no internet, and have a daily word count quota. One day, she finds one of the writers, who is also bartering therapy services, dead in her cell. So begins a murder investigation that gets stranger and stranger.
Feeling unsafe in her home, Carla goes to the one person who makes her feel safe–Amy, her former writing instructor. Maybe her old writing group is getting back together? But Amy has writers’ block, and Carla hasn’t written anything in a while, either.
As a whole, it’s a little bit of a comedy of errors mystery, a critique of society’s obsession with serial killers, and a premise on how to deal with spam callers. There are a lot of possible killers, maybe too many, but everything was resolved in the end. I did enjoy the characters of Amy, Carla, and the lawyer Harry.
Willett has included both anti-fat and fat-positive ideas in the book. Amy, the elderly writing instructor, was once described as fat by Carla’s critical mother, but it’s uncertain whether she’s a truly fat person or just a “Hollywood fat” person since Carla’s mother was a stereotypical controlling showbiz parent. Carla admits to herself that she deliberately put on weight after being sexually assaulted (which she thinks was no big deal because it wasn’t close to what others went through) but that just reinforces the idea that fatness is associated with trauma.
On the positive side, Carla does find love with Chuck and begin to deal with her trauma, and that love has nothing to do with the size of her body, and neither does the plot, so Carla could be any size, as could Amy. Willett does describe certain characters as “gaunt” but does not associate fatness with any negative attributes. I wouldn’t say the book is fat positive, but I would characterize it as weight neutral with some limited anti-fatness. It’s sad that the mere acknowledgement of fat people existing in Southern California counts as possible fat positivity, but such is the state of our world, unfortunately.