A debut thriller examines the dark underside of the glamorous modeling world.
This tale, set in 1978, introduces readers to naïve Anna McKenna. Anna lost both of her parents at an early age. When Anna was 7, her Italian American mother, Gina, was fatally hit by a truck. Anna’s hard-drinking, Irish American father, Patrick, died of a heart attack two years later. She ends up living with her mother’s parents, Maria and Carmelo Gallo, along with her younger brother, Joey, born prematurely on the day of Gina’s death. Joey suffers from numerous medical problems, including “learning issues” and bad eyesight. Then Natasha Burns, owner of Top Form Management, pulls into the Gallos’ farm stand. She is taken by lovely 18-year-old Anna, with her red hair and emerald eyes. Natasha returns to recruit Anna as a model for her agency. Anna moves into Natasha’s New York City town house, where she lives with other fledgling models. But while Anna is learning the ups and downs of modeling in New York, then Milan, something sinister is happening in the background. A killer is stalking models, including Anna’s friend Petra. Anna’s Uncle Mickey, a detective, inserts himself in to the case. Even though modeling seems glitzy and alluring, the novel deftly describes its downside through Anna: “Many days were spent schlepping around New York City” with a heavy bag “filled with her portfolio, makeup, shoes, and sometimes even a wardrobe.” The protagonist’s work ethic serves her well when it comes to avoiding the pitfalls of her industry. A model’s social life then offered many obstacles, including predatory men and free-flowing drugs and alcohol, especially at clubs like the famed disco Studio 54. A former model, Moran draws on her own experiences to create a likable protagonist. The author does a masterful job illustrating how short-lived models’ careers are, during which beautiful people must make a name and a fortune quickly before their “look” goes out of fashion. Unfortunately, the whodunit portion of the thriller gets shorter shrift: Mickey and New York City Detective Frank Tansey lock onto a suspect fairly early. But Moran does throw in a nifty twist in the end. Still, there’s plenty here that will please mystery and modeling fans alike.
This promising first novel takes readers onto the catwalk while skillfully maintaining suspense.