The Damage Done
by Hilary Davidson
Cover Artist: Photos: Raimund Koch (city) and
David Toase (man with clouds) / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326973
Date: 28 September 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Freelance journalist Lily Moore is living in Barcelona, Spain when she learns that her heroin-addicted sister, Claudia Moore, has drowned in her bathtub. Rushing to New York, she discovers that the corpse at the morgue is not her sister but an unknown impostor. Where is the real Claudia? What is her connection to the dead woman? During her search to find Claudia, Lily learns that her sister was connected to an unethical, controversial rehabilitation center, Idylhaven, in Lenox, Massachusetts. Furthermore, staff and patients associated with the center are dying under bizarre circumstances.
The Damage Done is a riveting, Agatha Christie-like mystery from Hilary Davidson. It is a complex, intricate whodunit with numerous subplots and a large assortment of strange, evil characters. The detectives' hands are tied and the distraught heroine, Lily Moore, must take it upon herself to find her missing sister by questioning her friends and neighbors. It seems everyone around her has something to hide and no one is who they pretend to be. She can't trust anyone except her gay best friend, Jesse Robb. After her search takes her to Idylhaven, the body count begins to rise the closer she comes to the truth of her sister's disappearance.
Lily hates the holidays. Her adulterous father was shot in a brawl on Christmas Eve and her alcoholic mother committed suicide on New Year's Eve. Consequently, Lily became addicted to abusive men and Claudia became addicted to drugs. Assuming the role of mother, Lily has always protected her rebellious, violent sister; she has often had to shelter her and clean up after her damages. One has to admit that Lily is a saint; she pays the rent on her own apartment in Barcelona while paying the rent on her sister's New York apartment. Writing travel guides must pay well.
Lily loves Claudia despite Claudia fighting her and repeatedly stealing from her in order to purchase drugs. Unable to live with her sister in the same city, let alone the same apartment, Lily moved to Spain. Upon learning that Claudia is still alive, she turns into an amateur sleuth and moves heaven and earth to find her. While reading the novel, I kept comparing Lily to Agatha Christie's fictitious Jane Marple. Later, I laughed when Jesse Robb referred to her as Miss Marple. Speaking of classic literature, I was thrilled upon learning that Lily's ex-fiancÚ, Martin Sklar, lived in the historical Dakota, where one of my favorite horror novels, Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, was filmed. Though The Damage Done doesn't mention this fact, it does inform the reader that John Lennon was shot there.
There are numerous characters of questionable reputation in this novel. Chief among them is real estate mogul Martin Sklar who will let no one prevent him from erecting gaudy, humongous hotels. Tariq Lawrence is a Pakistani drug lord who dated Claudia. Both Martin and Tariq are willing to commit violent acts to protect their loved ones. A controversial pseudopsychologist, Dr. Alexander Gorevale, has sexually abused his female patients, one of whom was Claudia. An extremely nosy neighbor, Sarah Lyons, was good friends with the Claudia impostor; upon learning that Claudia is still alive, she seems overly eager to assist Lily in her search. The muscular, tattooed Detective Bruxton (who will never reveal his first name) flatly tells Lily that he is an alcoholic; a lot of sexual tension exists between them, causing the reader to wonder if they will ever have a lasting relationship.
A twisting, winding plot; an unusual cast of characters; a cold Wintry, post-holiday setting; and a mysterious rehabilitation center make The Damage Done a must read. The author, Hilary Davidson, and her heroine have similar interests; both are travel writers and both love vintage clothing, classic Hollywood films and Art Deco design. Fans will be thrilled to learn that Hilary is currently at work on a sequel, The Next One to Fall, which is tentatively scheduled to be published by Forge in October 2011.