Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Damage Control

Summary:  Maggie Silver is solidly middle class, with a mortgage to pay and an ill mother to support. She is doing her best to scramble up the ladder at an elite PR firm in Southern California whose clients include movie stars and famous athletes. Now, Maggie tackles her toughest client yet: Senator Henry Paxton, a distinguished statesman who also happens to be the father of Anabelle, Maggie's estranged best friend from high school.

Senator Paxton's young female aide has been found murdered, and Maggie must run damage control to prevent the scandal from growing. Thrown back into the Paxtons' glamorous world, Maggie is unexpectedly flooded with memories from the stormy years in high school when her friendship with Anabelle was dramatically severed after a tragedy that neither of them has been able to forget. As Maggie gets further embroiled in the lives of the Paxtons, she realizes that the ties of her old friendship are stronger than she thinks. 

Riveting and suspense-filled, Damage Control examines our craving for celebrity and spectacle, and how far the bonds of friendship can stretch before they break forever. -- Scribner

I mentioned last Monday that I'm finding myself a little bored with cozies, so I decided to mix things up a bit for Mystery Monday. This week, I read DAMAGE CONTROL by Denise Hamilton. DAMAGE CONTROL was still a mystery, but I'd probably classify it as more of a psychological thriller along with some L.A. Noir. The novel has already been awarded starred reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and it was just what I needed to get out of my mini mystery reading slump.

DAMAGE CONTROL tells the story of Maggie, a woman who is working at a prestigious PR firm in Los Angeles during the day and taking care of her sick mother at night. Her life is seemingly normal (except for her fondness of Adderall -- it just helps her focus, right?) until she is asked to take on a client with whom she has ties from her past. Senator Paxton is the father of her former best friend, Annabelle, and when his young (and attractive) aide is found suspiciously murdered, Maggie is knee-deep in helping write the "spin" on the situation. But she also quickly discovers that she has to deal with some very complicated memories from her teenage years.

I was immediately drawn into DAMAGE CONTROL from the very start. I found Maggie to be an extremely interesting, and I liked that she was so flawed. I also appreciated that she was a very well-developed character. Rather than just being about the mystery of who murdered Senator Paxton's aide and Maggie's attempt to solve the crime, DAMAGE CONTROL delved into some pretty complex issues. For example, Maggie's dependency on Adderall as well as her problems with dealing with her sick mom (and also just the normal mother-daughter issues of living with your mom as an adult) added other dimensions to her character.

However, it was Maggie's reaction to her her present conflicting with her past that really made the book stellar in my opinion. I loved how the author portrayed the present-day Maggie with then teenage one, and I thought she did an especially good job of delving into the complexities of Maggie and Annabelle's friendship. I think Ms. Hamilton also did a terrific job of featuring this blend of present and past by the way she told this story. In DAMAGE CONTROL, there were flashbacks to the past and they were just so well done. The timing of their appearances seemed almost perfect, and I loved the pace of how both stories (and the secrets) unfolded.

It wouldn't be a mystery book without a mystery, and I thought the mystery of who killed Senator Paxton's aide was a pretty good one. It most definitely kept me guessing, and I have to admit that I suspected quite a few people and quite a few different scenarios until the final one was revealed. Was I totally surprised? Not really, but there were enough twists that I felt as if I were being manipulated by the author. And for that reason, I enjoyed the mystery a great deal.

In addition to the murder mystery, there were some other side stories (mysteries, if you will) that also kept me guessing. A few of these stories had to do with Maggie's past and her relationship with Annabelle and her family; however, there were also lots of unanswered questions about Maggie's employer and her love interests. As I was reading DAMAGE CONTROL, I had absolutely no idea about whom I could and couldn't trust. Believe me when I tell you that I switched back-and-forth in my opinions of almost every character at least twice. I would definitely say that DAMAGE CONTROL played some major mind games with me and I absolutely loved all of the suspense.

If you are looking for a good suspense novel with some interesting twists, then I highly recommend DAMAGE CONTROL.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I love thrillers and this really sounds like a good one!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to be back to blog reading I've missed your mystery reviews (well all your reviews really). It's been forever since I've read a good suspense story. I think I'm going to give this one a try.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds really good. Your review makes me really curious about what happened with Maggie and Anabelle!

Anonymous said...

I read this one a few weeks ago and it definitely has some twists and turns. Like you, I was engaged with the characters and found Maggie an interesting person. I was frustrated with her Adderall use, but I think it was more of worry about health issues. I suspected things were not quite what they seemed, but there some real surprises for me. Wonder if there will be a sequel? This author does write another series and this could be the beginning of a second one.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

OOH I am so in the mood these days for mysteries!

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