Did you know Richard Simmons is missing? Well, he is! Sort of. As the new podcast Missing Richard Simmons puts it, the beloved fitness guru “ghosted the world” back in 2014. The show delves into the reasons why he might have done so in the most suspenseful and entertaining way imaginable. (Are you listening to it? You should listen to it. Really.)

The podcast updates but once a week (unless you subscribe to Howl) and the suspense is killing me. So I found a bunch of books featuring fitness-oriented characters, imperiled and otherwise,¹ to fill the void. They are linked to their Booklist reviews, excerpted below.


cold comfort quentin batesCold Comfort, by Quentin Bates

When the notorious Long Omni escapes from an Icelandic prison a few months before he is eligible for release, the newly transferred Sergeant Gunna knows that something isn’t quite right. And when Omni’s known criminal sidekicks turn up badly beaten, she starts to wonder whether they are connected to the suspicious death of a former TV actress and fitness instructor.




cream puff murder joanne flukeCream Puff Murder, by Joanne Flake

Hannah starts working out at a health club and vows to stop tasting the scrumptious treats she prepares every day for the Cookie Jar bakery in Lake Eden, Minnesota. Stress mounts when Hannah discovers the body of a fitness instructor floating in her club’s Jacuzzi.



first bad man miranda julyThe First Bad Man, by Miranda July

Eccentric Cheryl lives alone and works most days from home (her bosses’ suggestion) for women’s self-defense and fitness company Open Palm. She struggles with globus hystericus—a perpetual lump in the throat combined with an inability to cry—and tries to refind a baby she met and felt instantly connected to when she was 9, over and over again.





heros body william giraldiThe Hero’s Body, by William Giraldi

In his compelling memoir, novelist Giraldi (Hold the Dark, 2014) uses beautifully nuanced prose to describe growing up in a working-class, hypermasculine New Jersey family. As a motherless, thin, somewhat sickly, and not particularly athletic boy with a macho father who excelled at physical exploits, Giraldi endured a lonely childhood, hungry for love that rarely came his way.


hot rocks lev raphaelHot Rocks, by Lev Raphael

Raphael’s series hero, Nick Hoffman, is in midlife crisis when he and partner Stefan Borowski return from their Caribbean vacation (marred by murder, of course; see Tropic of Murder, 2004) to resume teaching at the State University of Michigan. Nick’s musings over getting older halt abruptly when he realizes that his companion in the health-club steam room is head trainer and all-around stud Vlado Zamario, and he’s dead.




ann cleeves silent voices Silent Voices, by Ann Cleeves

A stab at getting fit puts brilliant detective Vera Stanhope right in a crime scene, at the very fitness center where Vera has been hopelessly doing laps on the advice of her doctor. Vera sits in the steam room after her laps, feeling very bulky and out of place, envying the woman with the long lean legs who seems so relaxed next to her—a little too relaxed.



thinner than thou kit reedThinner Than Thou, by Kit Reed

Imagine a not-so-distant future in which idolatry of everything youthful, perfect, and beautiful has become the only religion, and natural aging, with its spare-tire midriffs, cheesy thighs, and wrinkly faces, is a punishable sin.






¹ Please allow me to emphasize that I’m not trying to be ghoulish; I really hope Richard Simmons—a real person who is still very much alive and whom many people love—is doing OK. I provide this list of books in hopes that other people listening to the podcast can quell their thirst for resolution via books, which can, of course, read as quickly and/ or slowly as we desire, so we don’t die of suspense, which seems like a very real possibility. 




About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the former Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist.

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