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Fit to Die
Table of Contents
About The Book
When Owen Galloway, the track star son of a prominent US senator, is found dead of an overdose in his bedroom, LAPD Detective Cari Garcia suspects that he’s just another teenager who hid a drug addiction.
In Vancouver, Dr. Julie Rees, an experienced toxicologist, notices a growing number of overdoses among the eating disordered and body builders, and mentions it to her boyfriend, Detective Anson Chen.
Then Rain Flynn, a famous pop star and social media influencer, dies in her Vancouver hotel room showing the same symptoms of a fatally high fever and uncontrollable seizures as Julie’s other ER patients, including the coowner of a wildly popular wellness center with locations in both Vancouver and LA.
After an autopsy confirms that Rain overdosed on illicit diet pills containing a deadly toxin known as DNP—an explosive agent originally used in the trenches of World War I—the media gets hold of the story and runs wild with it. But who’s behind the online marketing and distribution of DNP? And how is the wellness center connected? The daunting challenge of putting the pieces together falls to Detectives Garcia in LA and Chen in Vancouver. Can they solve these crimes before DNP becomes the next viral TikTok challenge?
“Someone killed him,” the woman murmurs.
Her cheeks are splotched. Her pupils huge. And her outstretched finger trembles, pointing to the corpse near her feet.
How else is a mother supposed to respond? Detective Cari Garcia wonders with a sympathetic nod as she glances around the tidy bedroom, its walls lined by framed black-and-white posters of marathon runners and races. A pair of crime technicians in white bunny suits survey the scene, acting as usual as if they’re the only living souls present. The victim lies on his back with his right leg flopped out to the side, bent at the knee, and a pool of vomit puddled under his chin, which accounts for the faint sour odor drifting to Cari’s nostrils.
Cari had been on her way to dinner when the captain phoned with his urgent request. It was almost a relief to be called out to a case. She had only agreed to go on the date to appease her best friend, Benny, who insisted Cari had been “on the bench” too long since Mattias.
Cari looks back over to the mother, whose whole body is now shaking.
“I see how it looks.” Her finger has turned on Cari. “Just another teen suicide. Or maybe an accidental OD. Another addict who fooled his parents. No fucking way! I know my Owen.” Her voice cracks and her chin drops, fractionally. “Never, never, never…”
“We don’t make any assumptions from the outset,” Cari says.
“Somebody must have killed my son!”
Cari has witnessed the same response too many times in her career. The outrage. The shock. The denial. But not in this setting. Not with the victim still splayed on the floor of his own bedroom. The uniforms would never have allowed the mother to stay in the room while two crime scene techs scoured the scene, were she not one of California’s most influential state senators—a fixture on the local news—and, according to some pundits, the front-runner to succeed the current governor.
“We’re going to find out what happened to Owen. I promise you, Senator Galloway.” Cari has to stop herself. It’s not the time or place to pose the usual questions: Did her son have mental health issues? Were there substance use concerns? Had his mood changed of late? Was there a recent breakup or any other crisis in his life?
Without any visible signs of trauma, murder is already near the bottom of Cari’s list. Statistically speaking, fentanyl or some other opioid would be at the top. Suicide, a close second. Granted, there are a few anomalies, like the lack of any visible drug paraphernalia or pill bottles. Perhaps even natural causes? The boy is rail-thin. Regardless, the LAPD’s Robbery and Homicide Division would not normally have been called to a scene as tragically familiar as this one.
The finger stills and the senator’s hand drops to her side. The voice is calmer. The visage of the seasoned politician re-emerges. “What’s next, Detective Garcia?”
“We’ll start with the forensic evidence we find here.” Cari waves toward the nearest crime scene tech, who is examining the pinkish rug where Owen lies.
Cari can tell by the way the tech avoids direct contact with the body that he’s uncomfortable with the mother’s presence. She steps out into the hallway and, without looking back, senses the senator’s hesitance to leave her son’s side. Cari cannot begin to imagine her torrent of emotions. And, as usual, she refuses to try. “Don’t catch feelings. Feelings are the investigator’s kryptonite,” her old Detective Training Unit instructor used to drill into them. “They will blind you.”
The senator finally joins Cari in the hallway, which is mercifully out of the sight line of her son’s body.
“It could be homicide.” Cari spreads her hands. “No question. Owen might’ve been drugged or poisoned. But the autopsy—and especially the toxicology screen—will be essential in establishing what happened to him. And how.”
The senator eyes her steadily. Her voice is eerily calm now, almost affable. “I get it, Detective Garcia. Anything to appease the grieving mother. You’ll go through the motions. The toxicology will find fentanyl or something even worse. And you’ll file your report. It will all be very professional and respectful. Maybe you’ll call it an accidental overdose to protect the family’s reputation.” She goes quiet and the thrum of the air conditioner fills the void. “But someone did this to my Owen. And I expect you to find out who.”
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 9, 2023)
- Length: 320 pages
- ISBN13: 9781982191429
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Raves and Reviews
“Enthralling . . . a propulsive suspense, one that raises awareness about a very real, very frightening drug, while also entertaining his captive audience. A feat that only an author of Kalla's caliber could accomplish.”
— SAMANTHA M. BAILEY, USA Today and #1 national bestselling author of Watch Out for Her and Woman on the Edge
“A compulsive, fast-paced thriller that'll keep you flipping those pages well into the night. Filled with twists, turns, and shocking revelations about the diet industry, this is one heck of an intriguing must-read. I devoured it (guilt-free).”
— HANNAH MARY McKINNON, internationally bestselling author of Never Coming Home
“Combines a timely plot with a well-paced thriller I became addicted to, fast. This is a gripping page-turner crafted by a skilled, intelligent writer.”
— MARISSA STAPLEY, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky
“Timely and relevant. Exposing the dark side of the wellness industry, this electrifying, ripped-from-the-headlines thriller will keep your heart racing from the first page to the very last.”
— JENNIFER HILLIER, USA Today bestselling author of Things We Do in the Dark
“I love all of Kalla’s thrillers, but Fit to Die offers his most unique premise yet. . . . a riveting mystery about a deadly weight-loss drug that kills indiscriminately. With skill and empathy, Kalla presents multiple perspectives—the victims, the villains, those who help them, and those who hunt them—and keeps the twists and turns coming until the very last page. I couldn’t put it down!”
— ROBYN HARDING, bestselling author of The Drowning Woman
“Tight and tense with great dialogue and snapshot descriptions that crank up the believable. Daniel Kalla is one hell of a writer, and Fit to Die is one hell of a thriller.”
— DIETRICH KALTEIS, award-winning and bestselling author of Under an Outlaw Moon
“Once again Kalla demonstrates his ability to focus his lens squarely on hot topics.”
— Vancouver Sun
“[A] timely and relevant story.”
— The Miramichi Reader
“[A] timely thriller . . . [Kalla] balances interesting medical details with empathy and a pacey plot, without getting preachy.”
“Kalla’s characters are well-developed across the board, be they victims, heroes, or the long list of suspects. The original and twisty plot helps this taut thriller stand apart.”
— Publishers Weekly
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- Author Photo (jpg): Daniel Kalla Michael Bednar Photography(0.1 MB)
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