On the very first page of the prologue to “Damage Control,” the
terrific new book by Denise Hamilton, the reader meets high school
student Maggie Weinstock. Fast forward sixteen years: Maggie is now
Maggie Silver, divorced, and 33 years old. The crux of the plot stems
from that earlier time frame, when Maggie, in her first two years of
high school, met the Paxtons, who became the “golden ones” in her
young life. Before “BFF” became part of the vernacular, their
daughter, Anabelle, was that and more – she was everything Maggie
admired and, to some extent, envied. And her good-looking brother,
Luke, was a Surf God.
Maggie now works for the top crisis management firm in L.A., doing
corporate PR. The newest client to whose case she is assigned is a
U.S. Senator with a wife and grown children, a probable candidate for
vice president in the next election, whose 23-year-old female aide has
been found murdered, in a scenario reminiscent of the one involving
Gary Conduit and Chandra Levy a decade ago. The senator is none other
than Henry Paxton, Anabelle’s father, who had been a father figure and
a role model to Maggie all those years ago. Welcome to the wonderful
world of “damage control,” or spin.
This novel provides a fascinating glimpse, in a schadenfreude way,
into a world about which most readers know little. Maggie suspects
that her past involvement with the Paxton family is what brought the
assignment to her desk. She believes, and tells her colleagues, that
no member of that family is capable of murder. The response is that
“everyone’s capable of murder if you give them the right reason.” But
she is determined to prove that no member of the family is guilty.
The backstory of Maggie’s friendship with Anabelle, and how it ended,
is the lens through which Maggie views the Paxtons. In the end, it’s
all about the secrets we keep from one another. As with the earlier
books by Ms. Hamilton, comprised of the five books in the Eve Diamond
series as well as “The Last Embrace,” a standalone, “Damage Control”
is thoroughly entertaining, and is recommended.