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THE DAMAGE DONE by Hilary Davidson: Book Review

[amazon-product]0765326973[/amazon-product]Imagine you’re in Spain, writing a travel book about Barcelona that is a follow-up to your guide on Madrid.  You get a phone call from the New York Police Department saying that your sister has been found dead in your apartment and that you need to come home to identify her body.

Claudia has always been in trouble, has been a drug addict for years, so although it’s sad that she’s died so young it’s not really surprising.  The surprise comes when the detective brings you to the city morgue and you look at the body and say, “That woman isn’t my sister….I’ve never seen her before in my life.”

That’s how The Damage Done opens. The older sister, Lily Moore, has always been the responsible one, the one who took charge after their father’s sudden death one Christmas, their mother’s descent into alcoholism and her suicide one New Year’s Eve.  But now Lily is bewildered, and things are spiraling out of control all around her.

Her former fiancee, wealthy hotel magnate Martin Sklar, still hasn’t given up pursuing her and is putting pressure on her to return to New York permanently and marry him.  Her sister’s neighbor, Sarah Lyons, is taking an extraordinary interest in Claudia’s disappearance.  The two detectives assigned to the case aren’t sure it’s not simply an accidental death, but they can’t explain why the woman found in the apartment introduced herself to the superintendent, who knew Claudia, as Claudia’s cousin, and to Sarah Lyons, who didn’t know Claudia, as Claudia Moore herself.

Lily tries to follow the trail that her sister left behind. It takes her to the apartment of her sister’s friend, a Pakistani man named Tariq, whom Lily has always suspected was involved in Claudia’s drug use; while she’s there, Tariq’s girlfriend attacks her.  Then Martin tells Lily that Claudia had been in touch with him, asking him for money for another attempt at rehab, but when he agreed and told her to pick up his check, she never showed.  And then there’s the mysterious woman from Hong Kong who spoke to the police about Claudia but now seems to have disappeared.

Hilary Davidson has created a very believable heroine in Lily Moore. At the beginning of the novel she appears to be the opposite of her sister, a very successful, put-together professional woman who has endured a life that would have destroyed someone weaker, as it appeared to have done to her sister.  But the more one reads, the more Lily’s own demons come out.

She’s still dealing with the deaths of her parents–her beloved father, who perhaps wasn’t quite as wonderful as she remembers; her emotionally disturbed mother, who used to lock Lily and Claudia in a closet for hours to protect them from some imagined harm; her off-again, on-again feelings for her former fiancee, whose business practices she abhors but whose touch still arouses her.

The supporting characters are well-drawn too–Jesse, a gay photographer, Lily’s best friend; the two police detectives; Tariq, a very successful businessman who travels with bodyguards; the ex-fiancee Martin; and Martin’s son Ridley, a sullen teenager with emotional problems that his father will not see.  This is a debut worthy of the three awards for which it has been nominated.

You can read more about Hilary Davidson at her web site.

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