Monday, September 13, 2010

THE DAMAGE DONE - Hilary Davidson

FIRST LINE: "It was the bright yellow tape that finally convinced me my sister was dead."

Lily Moore took a job in Spain that allowed her to escape the escalating troubles with her sister, Claudia. While Lily loved her sister and wanted to help her, it was clear Claudia didn't want to help herself and thus, there was little Lily could do. Lily had also broken off her engagement with Martin Sklar, a rich businessman. The move to Spain allowed Lily distance from both of these dysfunctional parts of her life. But, when Lily receives the call that her sister is dead, she committed suicide on the anniversary of their mother's suicide, Lily rushes home in a overwhelming cloud of guilt. She should have tried harder, done more for Claudia. And then Lily discovers that it isn't her sister that was found dead in the apartment. Who is this impostor on the medical examiner's table and where is Claudia?

THE DAMAGE DONE is Hilary Davidson's debut crime novel and I'm thrilled to discover her at the onset of what I'm sure will be a long and prosperous career in crime fiction. This debut is exciting, engaging and all around exceptional.

Davidson brings all of her characters to life, even the ones we never meet and the ones who spend the entire novel dead. The layers to each character accentuate the brilliant plotting by helping to build the suspense. Each character comes complete with quirks and flaws and endearing qualities. One of my favorite characters is Lily's friend Jesse with his protective nature, his witty charm and his beloved car Ginger. He'll puff up with testosterone-laden courage, ready to go nine rounds with the offending party or make tea and offer a soft shoulder to cry on. The good, the bad and the ugly can all come through in a single characteristic and Davidson expertly balances all three to create her multifaceted characters.

Davidson's judicious plotting covers every angle of the story, weaving multitudinous outcome possibilities into the fibers of the plot. Questions build upon questions and everyone's a suspect. This keeps the reader turning pages; just how do all the pieces and characters fit into this puzzle? Davidson expertly sneaks the story and its cast into the reader's thoughts, not leaving room for much else.

Sense of place is strong in THE DAMAGE DONE, and while Davidson's career as a travel writer may have contributed to this strength in the novel, her understanding of the population contributes equally to the overall effect. New York is highly defined by the diversity of those who inhabit it. Davidson brings that through as distinctly as the landscape:

"We finally screeched to a halt in front of a turquoise brick building at East Thirtieth Street. The color bled out into a dull gray on the upper stories, which were pockmarked with air conditioners hanging out of the windows."

THE DAMAGE DONE exudes beauty from every angle. Defined characters playing their parts in a strong plot. The relationships between the characters are complex and realistic. But, I believe the novel's greatest strength, the truest beauty lies in the writing itself. Davidson opted to write in first person from the perspective of Lily. This enhances the suspense since the reader can only know what Lily knows as she knows it. But that perspective also enhances the emotional aspects of the plot. Lily, who is not completely over her ex-fiance:

"'Martin,' I said, my heart dropping to my feet. It would probably tumble out of a hole in my stockings."

Lily, who is conflicted by her inability to help her sister, her sole remaining family member:

"It was one thing for me to criticize Claudia, but I hated to hear anyone else do it, even Jesse. It was holdover from childhood, when my sister wouldn't go to sleep at night unless I got rid of the monsters under her bed. She was convinced that I was the only person who could do it. I'd always been flattered by her belief in me and willing to banish monsters wherever she saw them. But now, the job had gotten too big for me."

The imagery grabs readers because it is something we can easily relate to and bring our own experiences to. And suddenly, we're a part of the story, we're invested in it. And that investment is the recipe for a remarkable novel, debut or not.

THE DAMAGE DONE will be released in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-7653-2697-3) from Forge on September 28, 2010.

The super nice folks over at Forge have afforded me the opportunity to give away a signed copy of THE DAMAGE DONE to a lucky reader. So here's your chance to win one of 2010's greatest debuts. Complete the form below to be entered. Entrants need to have a U.S. mailing address - no P.O. Boxes, please. And entries need to be completed by midnight (Eastern) on Friday, September 17, 2010. If you have any questions, please drop me an email.

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Paul D Brazill September 13, 2010 at 4:08 AM  

Phew! Sounds like a CRACKING book!

Chris September 13, 2010 at 7:37 AM  

I am so crazy-insane looking forward to reading this one. Hilary's short fiction is some of the best I've ever read, and THE DAMAGE DONE sounds like a super-sized version of her unique brand of awesome.

Anonymous September 13, 2010 at 9:36 AM  

Jen, thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I'll be on the lookout for sure. Sounds like something I would really enjoy!

Hilary Davidson September 13, 2010 at 12:11 PM  

Jen, when I first read your review earlier this morning, I briefly considered going back to bed, since there was no way my day was going to get any better! I knew from your previously published reviews that you'd be a careful, thoughtful reviewer, so it means a great deal to have you praise THE DAMAGE DONE so highly. Thank you!

Beth F September 13, 2010 at 12:24 PM  

I'm always willing to give a debut novelist a shot. Thanks too for the giveaway.

Hilary Davidson September 13, 2010 at 2:02 PM  

Paul, thanks for your kind words!

Chris, you are also making my day. You know I love and admire your work, so hearing that you're looking forward to the book is kind of like catnip...

Kay and Beth, I appreciate your willingness to give a debut novelist a chance. Thank you!

Anonymous September 13, 2010 at 2:53 PM  

This book soiunds great. Hope to win it! Thank you for the giveaway.


Jenn's Bookshelves September 13, 2010 at 3:46 PM  

I cannot wait to read this one! So...why don't you just forget about the giveaway and just send the book to me? :)

Jen Forbus September 13, 2010 at 7:44 PM  

Paul - It IS cracking!

Chris - I completely agree with you on Hilary's short fiction. Love it! Can't wait to hear your reaction to TDD!

Kay - thanks for stoppin' by today! I bet you will love this one. Look forward to hearing your reaction as well.

Candace - you're wonderful!

Jenn - you crack me up! I just love sharing books with you. :-)

And Hilary, I'm honored to be able to talk about your book here. There is no greater joy for me on this blog than to share great books with folks. THE DAMAGE DONE is definitely great!

le0pard13 September 13, 2010 at 10:35 PM  

I'm really looking forward to this one, Jen. Glad you reviewed it! Now, if only we could get Hilary to come out to next year's L.A. Times Festival of Books, we can begin planning our FoB party ;-). Thanks, Jen.

kathy d. September 13, 2010 at 11:52 PM  

Sounds like a really good read to me, can't wait to get it into my hands--a real book, too, not a virtual one. Cheers.

S. Krishna September 14, 2010 at 11:55 AM  

Oh, I totally want to read this one now. Thanks for the review and giveaway!

Anonymous September 14, 2010 at 12:14 PM  

I love crime fiction and debut novels. There is something about discovering an author right from the beginning. If I don't win I'll have to pick it up.

Tribute Books September 16, 2010 at 2:01 PM  

sounds good, thanks!

HODGEPODGESPV September 21, 2010 at 3:15 AM  

ok, shared with facebook friends who like a good mystery! and it's now on my wish list! probably twitter too...will lessen my odd but it does look good and they would hate me if i didn't share a good thing! friends!

still have my biography of ava gardner...she was...such a DAME and i don't mean in the british sense!

love old movies. i remember staying up late with my mom for a tyron p. movie! tk god for turner classic movies!

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