Damage Control
Denise Hamilton
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Buy *Damage Control* by Denise Hamilton online

Damage Control
Denise Hamilton
384 pages
September 2011
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In the summer of 1993, the clapboard beach shacks of Playa del Ray - the rundown part known as “the Jungle” - pound with dance music. A party is in full swing, attended by Maggie Silver and her best friends, Luke and Anabelle Paxton. The current "it" couple, Luke and Anabelle are shadowed by a man named Ivan and Dan, a blue-eyed guy who gives Maggie a joint and a strong drink and takes her for a walk along the beach.

Suddenly Maggie’s world is shimmering, pulsing, and shifting. A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Maggie is bound to Anabelle by shared teenage passions for a lifestyle that seems out of her reach. After the night ends in disaster over accusations of date-rape, Maggie and Anabelle lose touch. Then in 2009, Anabelle’s father - Henry Paxton, now a successful U.S. senator - is linked to the brutal murder of Emily Mortimer, a female aide who worked in his Los Angeles office.

Recently hired by the Blair Company, LA's top crisis management firm, Maggie has been given the task handling the crisis. Guiding disgraced politicians and celebrities through the messy media labyrinth, The Blair Company is well-known in a town that blurs the line between what is real and what is scripted. Maggie must write the initial draft and lay out the facts as Henry Paxton’s betrayal ripples outwards.

Henry adores his children and his wife, Miranda. Maggie knows the family, and she went to school with Anabelle: they’re not capable of murder. Driven by wanting to do right by Henry and to finally prove her worth to the Paxton family, the case takes her to their family home, the picaresque Villa Marbella, where she attempts to reconnect with a very different Annabelle. Yet there’s too much secret history and buried heartache for the girls to be ever to be more than wary strangers.

Hamilton’s sensational noir thriller seethes with shadows gleaming just beneath the surface. A sinister black hornet crawls from a pink secret heart in a city raging with a smoky inferno. Maggie’s hillside bungalow in Cypress Park may be a place of solace for her and her sick mother, but the tiniest detail can set Maggie off. Only the neuro enhancer Adderall helps, the drug simmering at the edge of her consciousness and giving her the kick she so desperately needs.

Entering Maggie's mindscape, Hamilton’s talent is executing the cutthroat world of damage control. Maggie's neurosis takes hold, driven by Adderall. She begins to run on the greased wheels of personal relationships in a twenty-four hour news cycle that only enigmatic Thomas Blair understands. This is Blair’s secretive empire, manipulated by Jack Faraday, whose approachability disguises utter impenetrability, and handsome Matt Tyler, who Maggie distrusts and longs for at the same time.

Haunted by her memories of that night at Playa del Ray sixteen years ago, Maggie shudders at seeing Anabelle after all these years. Then there are the long hours of sacrifice, the lies and half-truths, the sleepless nights. Through the mean streets of Los Angeles to the isolated beaches around LAX to the suburbs of Pacific Palisades, family and position are all that matters. Maggie is blinded by the ramifications of the Paxton family’s indulgent, reckless, and destructive behavior, thick and cloying as fog.

Maggie knows the past never really goes away, yet Tyler’s feelings for her ultimately save her life. Powerbrokers vie with corrupt cops and drug dealers feed off brutality that rolls in waves. Complex and labyrinthine, Hamilton had me from the get-go, her violent thriller a real delight, the tale epitomizing everything that we have come to expect from this talented local writer.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2011

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