Book review: I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland

20 May

eat when imRAGE Fashion Book is the world’s most dynamic, ambitious magazine.
Its editors ­- like Cat Ono – have the power to change minds and the market.
They’re savvy, sisterly and polished to perfection. Even the one found dead in her office.

Everyone thinks Hillary starved to death – but Cat knows her friend’s dieting wasn’t a capital P problem. If beauty kills, it’d take more than that. Hot-headed and fiercely feminist, Cat’s sure she can match the investigating skills of Detective Mark Hutton, solve the case, and achieve sartorial fulfillment.

But going undercover, Cat’s in over her head, and soon becomes snared in a very stylish web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that will change her look – and outlook – forever.

Cat’s about to find out what it really means to be a fashion victim.

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is Barbara Bourland’s debut novel; a no-holds barred satirical look at the fashion and magazine industry, set in New York. The book has been described as “The Devil Wears Prada meets American Psyco” and I was so intrigued I went against my normal tendency to steer away from anything involving crime or murder to give this book a try.

I’m pleased I did because although this book does have a deadly murder mystery within, it is so much more and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it did remind me of The Devil Wears Prada and there were parts that made me think of Candace Bushnell’s novels, I’ll Eat When I’m Dead put me most in mind of the classic Valley of the Dolls which I read for the first time last year. Fans of all of these should give this book a try – it’s one of those books that doesn’t easily fit into a single genre and I liked it all the more for that.

The novel opens with the death of thirty-seven year old Hillary Whitney. Hillary was a fashion editor at fashion magazine RAGE – a publication with worldwide domination in the fashion magazine industry. The employees of RAGE are the most fashionable women in New York and Hillary’s cause of death -cardiac arrest due to persistent starvation – is both surprising and not to the occupants of an industry where the pressure to look perfect is constant. But as we soon find out, thanks to the interest on Detective Mark Hutton, there may be more to Hillary’s death than the NYPD intiially thought.

And so the mystery part of the novel is set. As Mark investigates the increasingly crazy world of RAGE and its staff, we are introduced to Hillary’s friends and colleagues, associate editor, Bess Bonner and Editor Catherine “Cat” Ono. Bess and Cat are very different characters and I enjoyed getting to know them both and following as their stories developed. I also liked that Bourland gave Mark an interesting back story and I thought the sub-plot involving him and his on/off girlfriend Callie added and interesting mix.

Set over three months, the story moves swiftly and is packed with insider detail of the fashion industry with commentary on everything from digital start ups, 24/7 social media, the cult of celebrity, eating disorders, drug addiction and ethical production and of course the unbelievable lengths people will go to to remain young and beautiful. This book really does give a whole new meaning to the phrase “fashion victim” and it makes for addictive reading.

Bourland clearly knows her stuff and digs deep into the contradictory world of fashion using Cat to show the other side of the story. The scenarios created are in places so far-fetched that they could only be true and I found myself switching between envy and shock frequently as I read. I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is both darkly humorous and deadly disparaging whilst paying homage to the industry that its author loves. A gripping debut!

4/5

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Riverrun.

Find out more about Barbara and her writing at: http://www.barbarabourland.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

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