When the beautiful Hillary Whitney is found dead, her co-workers smell a rat, but hunting for clues in stilettos isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Hillary is found dead—of starvation, no less—in a locked workroom of the New York City fashion mag RAGE Fashion Book, and her co-workers are shocked, especially her close friend and RAGE’s senior editor, Catherine “Cat” Ono. While her death isn’t officially labeled murder, Detective Mark Hutton wants to dig deeper, smelling a career maker, and enlists Cat’s help. Sparks fly between the two but quickly cool after a sting goes south, with Cat as bait. If Cat and her friend Bess Bonner, the magazine's associate editor, thought they’d seen enough death, they’d be wrong. After the fallout from the sting, Cat and Bess, in an attempt at damage control, are remade as the glam faces of RAGE, and the endless photo shoots, appearances, and dresses so tight they have to be sewn on are only relieved by alcohol and drugs, of which there are plenty. Hutton becomes increasingly alarmed by their behavior, and it looks like a RAGE employee has her own agenda and will kill to achieve it. Bourland’s delightfully snarky (with names such as Whig Beaton Molton-Mauve Lucas) debut leans heavily on satire, poking razor-sharp fun at the beauty industry and the cutthroat world that Bess and Cat inhabit, and some scenes are laugh-out-loud funny: keep an eye out for the makeover Cat and Bess give two female police officers for an undercover job. However, for all the outrageous (and eye-opening) focus on makeup, beauty, fashion, and, of course, the desire to be thin, there are tantalizing glimpses of the vulnerability and insecurities beneath the surface, especially with Cat, who longs for her home in Brussels, the smell of her mother’s horses, and freedom from the constraints that are put on women in the name of beauty.
Death by beauty was never so much fun.