Thursday, May 03, 2007

DAMAGE CONTROL

Damage ControlGiving positive reviews to a book such as this seems like madness. Can just about anyone these days write a murder mystery and get it published? It’s more likely that this is related to established authors (although Mr. Dugani has only one other notable book in his arsenal, THE JURY MASTER, it is still in the same genre and was fairly well received). I don’t mean to bash publishers but I felt pointing out these possible flaws might help guide readers in the right direction when jonesin’ for a good book.

If you’re reading this review, you’ve probably been a fan of the murder mystery genre and are wondering if you should pick up this novel; or maybe you already have and are wondering what others thought of it. If you’re in the first category, you might want to bypass this book in favor of something more appetizing. I’m not saying that Mr. Dugani is a horrible writer; he’s not. But he does do some irritating things with his prose that’ll drive readers to distraction. This is immediately evident in the very first paragraph of DAMAGE CONTROL. And here it is:

"Dr. Frank Pilgrim adjusted the flexible lamp clipped to the edge of his cluttered metal desk, but the additional illumination did not keep the typewritten words on the page from blurring. He set his wire-framed glasses above his bushy gray eyebrows and pinched the bridge of his nose. His eyes had reached their limit; they could no longer take the strain of night reading small print."

Although not too poorly put together, this is a prime example of what the remaining 401 pages contain as far as style goes. You’ll note that there are three references to Dr. Pilgrim’s failing eyesight in this one short paragraph. Perhaps the author was afraid we wouldn’t get that the character was old, but the gray eyebrows were pretty much a dead giveaway (example: "..page from blurring." and "..had reached their limit" and "...could no longer take the strain..."). We get it already! Please don’t beat us over the head with things like this!

The only redeeming qualities are that the novel is plotted well and with enough baggage plopped on top of the main protagonist to make her a very sympathetic character. Disease, divorce, murder of a loved one, and face-to-face encounters with a psycho-killer all make Dana Hill (the main character) endearing to readers. A distracted love story between Dana and the investigating detective, Logan, is a bit odd and contrived but still a necessary element that added a touch of light to an otherwise dark tale.

Going into detail about the story’s machinations is fairly useless, too. If you’ve ever read a murder mystery, you know exactly how this one’s structured: murder happens, loved ones grieve, detective gets in over his head with a family member of the deceased, family try and help solve the murder and put themselves in harm’s way, murderer stalks main character, blood is spilled, happy ending. Similarly, Damage Control sets everything up in a pretty ending package for the reader, making it so sweet you’ll probably gag on the final few pages.

For some truly great murder mystery stories, try picking up an Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus novel.

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