Review

Damaged: A Maggie O'dell Novel

by Alex Kava

If you are looking for the beach book of 2010, I think
I’ve found it for you. It is DAMAGED, the latest installment
in Alex Kava’s Maggie O’Dell series. While far
from a traditional beach read, it is nonetheless the perfect book
to take along on vacation --- for so many frightening, twisted and
entertaining reasons.

The novel finds O’Dell, an FBI criminal profiler, on
assignment in Pensacola, Florida, following the grisly discovery by
a Coast Guard rescue team of a fisherman’s cooler loaded with
body parts. This initiates the introduction of Liz Bailey, a rescue
swimmer who was seasoned in her job by the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina. At the same time, Colonel Benjamin Platt,
O’Dell’s erstwhile love interest, is investigating a
horrific and fatal outbreak of a contagion in a ward of seriously
wounded combat soldiers who had been deployed in Afghanistan. These
investigations slowly but surely intersect.

In the meantime, O’Dell’s case takes an even more
puzzling turn when the forensic investigation reveals that the
former owner of one of the body parts had been missing for several
weeks, and from a site several hundred miles away from the
discovery of the cooler. The nexus of all this activity is
introduced early on, though part of the draw of reading DAMAGED is
figuring out how and why the villain of the piece is doing what he
does, or if he has a reason at all.

The city and the coastline of Pensacola, however, is as much a
protagonist here as any one character, including O’Dell, and
the threat of an incoming Category Five hurricane serves as a
terrific backdrop --- not to mention another ticking clock --- to
the goings-on as O’Dell’s investigation proceeds
forward, with Bailey’s personal life providing the answers
not only to O’Dell’s case, but to Platt’s as
well.

As to the question of whether or not O’Dell and Platt get
together, the answer is yes. In a manner of speaking. There are
many twists and turns in DAMAGED, though they are not so complex
that you can’t follow the plot, and quite easily at that. To
reveal one is to reveal all, however, so I won’t reveal any.
Suffice to say that this is one thriller that will give you the
crawlies in some places and have you remembering our first
responders in your prayers in others.

While this is an O’Dell book, she shares the spotlight
with Bailey, who, along with the secondary characters who move in
her circle, could easily guide the helm of a series on her own.
Kava is incapable of writing badly, and DAMAGED moves and rides and
thrills right along from page to page. While I won’t impute
emotions or motives to her wordcraft, the novel reads as if Kava
actually had fun writing it. That’s not to say that the
subject matter and tone of the work is not serious. It’s
frightening and graphic --- I don’t think you’ll be
eating pizza or seafood while reading (at least not for long) ---
but it’s difficult to read a page or two without having to
resist a trip to Pensacola to walk the shoreline and look for a
red, white and blue hot dog stand run by a cheerful seasoned
citizen, whether you like frankfurters or not.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

Damaged: A Maggie O'dell Novel
by Alex Kava

  • Publication Date: July 13, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385531990
  • ISBN-13: 9780385531993