Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review by Aaron Lazar
Author: Denise Hamilton
Publisher: Scribner
ISBN-10: 0743296745
ISBN-13: 978-0743296748
Price: $17.82 hardcover; $12.99 Kindle 
Author’s website:

DAMAGE CONTROL is a complex psychological thriller set in current day Los Angeles, peopled with vibrant characters battling fears of survival and loss, tautly stretched loyalties, and well-camouflaged villains.

The story begins when Maggie Silver—a young PR rep who’s struggling to support her cancer-stricken mother and keep a house with an upside-down mortgage—is assigned to insulate Senator Henry Paxton and his family from the press by spinning the sordid facts of his aide’s murder and protecting the family’s reputation. After all, the Senator has been tapped for a much higher office, and chances are he’ll move upward quickly.

The problem is Maggie knew the Senator’s family when she was a teenager and was the poor church mouse best friend of rich kid Anabelle Paxton. Years have passed, and in the time since they grew apart, neither has acknowledged or faced the memories of the one horrible night they shared on the beach.

Hamilton weaves some interesting themes throughout this complicated novel, including subtly erotic romance, power struggles and cover-ups, and dangerous flirtations with potential killers.

The author’s style is breezy and smooth, and occasionally she sneaks in some lovely poetic passages, well worth savoring.

“At the cemetery, Anabelle threw the first spade of earth on the coffin. The wind shifted and ash fell softly and silently over us all, blanketing the dark soil and clinging greasily to our clothes, reminding us of where we’d come from and where we would all return.”

(Note: the “ash” here refers to cinders from the wildfires burning nearby)

Here’s another simultaneously lovely and unsettling segment:

“A voice whispered at the edge of my consciousness as the jets screeched and the tide sucked the pebbles. If only I could make out the words. But it was just out of reach, echoing with faint, faraway laughter, taunting me with secret knowledge.


What if she’d crossed the highway to the ocean, swimming out until she drowned? I pictured her body carried on the swell of the waves, arms spread like wings, orange crabs crawling in and out of empty eye sockets, long blond ropes of hair floating like seaweed, a million microscopic sea animals clinging to her curves, illuminating her in a phosphorescent shroud.”

Most intriguing was the author’s inclusion of scents into the story. Hamilton’s descriptions of the perfumes Maggie loved and remembered was evocative and poetic, and her use of fragrance as a vital clue was brilliant. Her passages reminded me of my own passion for essential oils and their subtle, complex aromas capable of transporting one to places quite foreign and delicious. I discovered after reading the book that Denise Hamilton spends time with fragrance in a professional capacity (she blogs about perfume, for one thing) and this explained the interesting additions. See this passage:

“The previous Christmas, we’d stood at her mother’s vanity table, dabbing Caron’s Nuit de Noel behind our ears from the ravishing black Deco crystal flask. It was Christmas in a bottle, rich and exotic, all mulled wine and candied chestnuts, green pine with sandalwood and roses and a holiday goose roasting on the horizon. Anointed for midnight mass, we’d floated down the stairs in a cloud of scent and black velvet.”

Although this reviewer is hardly a perfume aficionado, the descriptions of this fragrance brought to mind the Young Living essential oil blend “Christmas Spirit,” a delightful amalgam of orange peel, cinnamon bark, and spruce leaf oil.

In DAMAGE CONTROL, surprises are deliciously revealed and sufficiently shocking. Denise Hamilton is a proficient writer who maintains perfect tension and keeps her readers turning the pages.

I recommend this tightly woven tale of deception and love.


Aaron Paul Lazar
Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries, Moore Mysteries, and Tall Pines Mysteries enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at and watch for his upcoming Twilight Times Books releases, FOR THE BIRDS(2011), ESSENTIALLY YOURS (2012), TERROR COMES KNOCKING (2011), FOR KEEPS (2012), DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (2012), and the author’s preferred editions of DOUBLE FORTÉ and UPSTAGED (2012).


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