My favorite thing about Damage Control, the latest mystery novel by Robert Dugoni, is how he uses his hit man to play cat and mouse with the reader. He makes you care about attorney Dana Hill and Detective Michael Logan -no relation to Mike Logan of Law And Order Whatever-but his killer, a secondary character really, really steals the scenes he pops in on.

I definitely prefer a hard-boiled character but Damage Control by Robert Dugoni really worked for me because attorney Dana Hill is a believable and interesting character.  Hill finds herself investigating the mysterious death of her brother (there is stuff about their being twins that doesn’t do much) right after she discovers she has breast cancer and her husband is having an affair and while her boss at the law firm wants her head on a platter -preferably with an apple stuck in her mouth. I enjoyed following a smart woman who very unwillingly turns detective and the fact her vulnerabilities and her fears did not read staged. Whole too many female leads in mystery novels are either too artificially butch or keenly aware of their estrogen and circle of girlfriends, Dana Hill is a real person. That Dugoni can get away with lading her with so many burdens and still have the reader believe she is real is amazing.

Dugoni is one of very few mystery novelists keenly aware his novel will be read by someone who enjoys trying to figure things out before the end of the book. In Damage Control the author cleverly hints at the hit man’s demise -the bad guy always dies, right?-and then toys with the reader by planting possible settings where this might happen.

Not everything is perfect in Damage Control. The mystery Dugoni cleverly created seems towards the end of the novel to take a back burner to Dana Hill fixing a few things wrong in her life before getting back to bringing her brother’s killer to justice. There is also an instance where  Deus Ex Machina has a good ol’ time fixing things but although it is annoying, it is not enough to stop you from buying the rest of it.

This mystery ends much like a fairy tale, something that very much disappointed me, but there you go.

Damage Control
Robert Dugoni
Warner Books 2007
406 pages

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