This Year's Model by Sam Baker

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This Year's Model by Sam Baker

Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jo Heffer
Reviewed by Jo Heffer
Summary: A young fashion model has gone missing in Tokyo where there have been a series of murders. Is Scarlett Ulrich the latest victim? Scarlett's half sister Lou is worried and calls upon her best friend and investigative jounalist Annie to find out what has happened. Her search takes her from New York to Japan, and as she starts to ask around, she begins to reveal many dark truths which some people would prefer to be kept secret.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 978-0752874265

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This Year's Model turned out to be a very interesting and enjoyable read for me. Although it is classed as a thriller, it also provided a fascinating insight into some aspects of the fashion world as well as creating very likeable and real characters. When I first picked up the book, I thought it was going to be quite a light read, but actually there is a complex storyline starting in New York and moving to Japan, which is interlaced with a number of personal story lines as well. I felt these all worked together well and very soon I was engrossed in the story.

The central character is Annie Anderson. She is known as a successful investigative journalist which is why, when her best friend Lou's half sister goes missing, she is the one Lou turns to. The sister, Scarlett, was a very successful child model, but now in her late teens things are not so good and she could be considered a 'has been'. She has been working in Japan which apparently is notorious for being very tough for models trying to make it. At the time of Scarlett's disappearance there have been a number of western girls murdered in Tokyo so everyone assumes the worst.

Annie heads for Japan and starts asking around about Scarlett. She soon discovers a somewhat seedy side to the lives of the models as most of them take on 'hostessing' jobs as well. Annie soon discovers more and more about Scarlett but as she does so this presents her with more questions than answers. As the novel heads towards its exciting conclusion, Annie is faced with the truth about Scarlett and the double life she has led, and the dilemma of how much she should tell her best friend.

I thought this was a very well written book. The storyline was strong and the author, Sam Baker, had obviously researched well. It was not surprising that she was able to describe the fashion world so well as she has been the editor of a number of women's magazines, but I also felt that the features of living in Japan and some of its strange customs were depicted extremely well too. It was a fascinating view of a culture which I know very little about. The pace of the book was fast moving and built up the suspense nicely. This certainly kept me interested and wanting to read on to the next part especially as the author kept dropping in clues to keep you guessing.

What really made this book for me though was the development of strong characters and their individual stories. Both Annie and Lou have their own personal issues to deal with. Annie has great difficulties forming relationships caused by a horrendous incident in her past. On the other hand, Lou is always attracted to the wrong men, constantly searching for a father figure due to the fact that her father walked out on her at a young age. Throughout the novel, both women grapple with these problems, and both are very warm but sympathetic characters. Not all the people we meet are as likeable. Lou and Scarlett's father is a very successful business man but also a control freak and Annie's boss Rebecca is the epitome of a hard driven businesswoman. Whether you like them or hate them, all these characters are strong and contribute to the overall success of the story.

The author does also seem to be making a comment about the fashion industry and how hard it is on those who don't quite fit in. There are descriptions of models waiting for hours at castings only to be treated like cattle at a market. Also it touches on the need to be a size zero, and the extreme measures that calls for from most models. I don't think it paints the industry in a very good light and certainly does not glamourise it in any way.

Overall, I enjoyed This Year's Model very much. It was an absorbing read which kept me guessing until the very end, whilst getting to know some strong characters which I was starting to care about. Also, quite unexpectedly, it is a reflective novel as well making you think about the complexities of relationships and also the power of friendship. The book seems to be telling you that quite often, things are not what they seem, and that actually is quite true of this book which turned out to be a far different read from the one I was expecting!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy this book you will probably be interested in Friends and Lovers by Maureen Martella.

Buy This Year's Model by Sam Baker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Year's Model by Sam Baker at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy This Year's Model by Sam Baker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Year's Model by Sam Baker at Amazon.com.


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