Review

Damage Control

by Denise Hamilton

Life for PR maven Maggie Silver is lived at the mercy of her clients. As an up-and-comer at the “damage control” firm The Blair Company, the work she does can make or break the careers and personal lives of the famous and powerful. While taking crisis and spinning it into something positive (or at least less criminal) is her job, Maggie's own life is in crisis as well. Addicted to Adderall and supporting her ailing mother, Maggie is exhausted and stressed beyond her 32 years. Hoping to rise to the top of The Blair Company and have time for a successful romantic relationship prove to be near impossible, though when the next client is one she knew as a impressionable high schooler, things get even worse.

"DAMAGE CONTROL is a fun and fast-paced thriller, a taut and twisty tale of betrayal and loyalty, friendship and lust for power."

In the world of Los Angeles money, intrigue and violence, Maggie is always on call. From athletes to actors, her job is to make their mistakes go away. When her boss assigns her to cover the murder of a young female aide to Senator Henry Paxton, Maggie is pulled back 16 years to 1993 when, before one horrible night, she was consumed with her friendship for Anabelle Paxton. The Paxtons were everything her family was not: rich, powerful and radiant. And for the teenage Maggie, they were magnetic, almost magically attractive. From the strong and brilliant Henry to his glamorous and artistic wife, Miranda, and especially Anabelle and her handsome and charming brother Luke, Maggie loved the Paxtons and cherished the time she spent with them.

But a violent act many years ago propelled them away from her and continues to emotionally resonate with Maggie, and with Luke and Anabelle, in ways she cannot imagine. Maggie puts aside any trepidations she has about seeing the Paxtons and tries to remain professional. Memories and a reunion with Anabelle, not to mention the power the whole family has over her, may just destroy her career, but the threats to her life are far more serious.

DAMAGE CONTROL is a fun and fast-paced thriller, a taut and twisty tale of betrayal and loyalty, friendship and lust for power. Maggie is both annoying (bemoaning her “almost cronehood” in her very early 30s) and intriguing (author Denise Hamilton works in her own fascination with scent and perfumes as Maggie's own). She is smart, sexy and strong, but riddled with doubt and insecurities. Being back in the lives of the Paxton family, especially as they deal with the killing of the aide and then a second murder, just about pushes her over the psychological edge. Hamilton does a fine job blurring the lines: it is not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad as all the characters are flawed individuals, some tragically so. Maggie does not know who to trust and neither does the reader. The conflict she faces, personal and professional, is further illustrated by flashbacks to 1993 when her friendship with Anabelle fell apart and her time with the Paxtons ended.

Los Angeles itself is more than just a setting. In Hamilton's hands, the city becomes a character and lends the novel a classic noir feeling, all the while playing backdrop to themes of contemporary celebrity and scandal.

Because the characters are all far less than heroic and the story so of-the-moment, DAMAGE CONTROL may not be the book to win over new fans of the genre. However, those already enamored with thrillers will find an entertaining combination of traditional tropes and original and timely ideas, all presented by Hamilton's solid writing abilities and fantastic eye for detail.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on September 8, 2011

Damage Control
by Denise Hamilton