Aerobics Can Be Deadly (Bucket List Mysteries Book 1) (2023) by Ryan Rivers

Cozy mystery fans, this may be your new favourite series! Set in a quiet Texas town where everyone knows everyone else and may well be related, this is a fun story with a darker undertone. Everything seems peaceful, until a murder takes place in the last place you’d expect it, that temple of health and fitness, the gym, during an aerobics lesson.

Cover image: Aerobics Can Be Deadly by Ryan Rivers. Two men in exercise gear, one small dog and a hint of a body on the floor
Cover: Aerobics Can Be Deadly by Ryan Rivers

Sho Tanaka and Levi Blue have only been friends for six weeks, but in that time they’ve become very close. Sho used to be a nurse, Levi was a teen star in a teenage detective series, but now he’s Mayor of Bluebonnet Hills, a small town in Texas.

Jenny, Sho’s sister, has challenged him to create a bucket list, but to spice it up, she’s added lots of ideas. First out of the bucket is the challenge to take part in a triathlon. Before that can happen, the friends have to join a gym to get into shape. They visit Lone Star gym, and before they know it, they’re signed up, not just for the gym, but to be extras in a fitness video with gym owner Barbara Lou (Barbie for short) and obnoxious trainer Nick.

Pining after his lost fame, Levi jumps at the chance of being on camera. Sho reluctantly joins in, but during an introductory visit, he notices Nick bullying the gym’s cleaner and speaks up. This leads to a physical showdown where Nick meets more resistance than he’d expected. When filming starts, Nick fluffs his lines and Sho notices he is wearing a nicotine patch. Knowing that Nick fasts before exercising, Sho’s medical background kicks in and he once again speaks up to warn Nick that using a patch without eating is dangerous. Nick ignores him, simply sending Trevor for some of his special water. Then Nick collapses and Sho is having symptoms, too. He is merely having a panic attack, but Nick is less lucky…

Together, Levi’s sleuthing skills gained from several years acting as a teen detective and Sho’s medical knowledge combine to make a perfect sleuthing pair. And Nick was such an unpleasant man that there are many people who are under suspicion of what turns out to be murder. And there’s more to come.

The one thing this book lacks is aerobics! Every time anyone works up a sweat, something dramatic happens to put a stop to it. I was also completely unconvinced by the sweatbands, which I haven’t seen since the early 1990s. And sequinned headbands; were they ever a thing?

This is a fun story with a lot of silliness, but there is also a serious side. Some of the characters are recovering from substance abuse, there’s bullying, references to grief and serious health issues. But the main thrust is the amateur investigation into the murder and what happens next. Nothing too grim, nothing gory, nothing to keep you awake at night. But the mystery isn’t solved and the tension doesn’t let up until the very end. Bonus: there’s a cute little dog who has a role to play in solving the mystery.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Book Sirens for the free e-book. My review reflects my honest opinion.

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