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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Damage Done

(Author: Hilary Davidson; Mystery; Forge books; Hardcover $24.99)
I usually read for a short while before starting on my own writings because I find that it knocks loose the vocabulary in my brain. In that regard, The Damage Done, by first-time novelist Hilary Davidson, presented me with a slight problem... I kept blowing off my schedule to read just one more chapter of this gripping mystery.

After living in Spain for several months, Lily Moore, a travel writer and atypical Manhattanite, comes home to the lower east side to manage the burial of her recently deceased sister Claudia. The only problem is, the woman in the morgue is not her sister. Lily is a refreshing mix of Carrie Bradshaw (sans the puns) and Olivia Benson, set upon a path of intrigue and danger by the actions of her heroin-addicted younger sister. An old fiancé reminiscent of Mr. Big and trying to rekindle their flame, Lily's gay best friend Jessie, the colorful tenants of her lower east-side tenement, a pair of wizened NYPD detectives, and the players surrounding her sister's debauched life round out the playbill on this snappy mystery.

Because this is a mystery, and since I hate it when reviewers reveal elements in my own stories that I had wished the reader to discover on their own, I'll refrain from going into details about the plot. But I will say that Davidson's attention to detail and character are impressive. Her NYPD detectives do not come off as incompetent or buffoonish in order to make the heroine look smarter, and even characters that appear archetypal at first prove to have deeper dimensions as the author scratches at their surface one chapter at a time. Davidson's plot moves along at an eight-minute-mile pace with crisp dialogue and efficient prose. I can see this as a movie and found myself even casting parts as I read. A strong debut by a freshman novelist.

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