- Book: Damage
- Location: Maine
- Author: Caitlin Wahrer
You know that feeling when you come across a novel that is more than engaging. A little bit different and special? Well, Damage is one of those books.
It is a slow paced story that nevertheless grips. The author’s attention to detail, the way she feathers in the story’s progression and the character development, all combine to make this a rich and human story. At the heart are two brothers, Nick and Tony. They have come from a difficult childhood family dynamic and there is quite a large age gap between them. They shared the same father and Nick, the younger sibling, came off worst in terms of the neglect and abuse he suffered from his alcoholic parents. Tony has always been drawn to try and take care of Nick, even if it means smothering his personality with care and with what he believes to be nurturing involvement,
Nick runs into serious trouble when he is sexually attacked. He had been stood up at a bar by his mate Chris and soon found himself talking to a rather handsome man, who called himself Josh. Nick and Josh were agreeable as far as the hotel door and at this point, Nick was clubbed over the head and blacked out. He says he remembers nothing of what ensued but had clearly fallen foul of the perpetrator’s rage and violence. His face and psyche have truly taken a battering, but in the early stages of shock he claims he is fine and coping.
He confides in Julia, Tony’s wife, who is a lawyer and is savvy when it comes to the darker side of humanity, and she knows how things can change at the drop of a hat. She is reassured and positive when Detective Rice is assigned to the case. However, once the perpetrator is found and bailed, he makes it very clear that he will be running with a very different story of the events on that fateful night.
The author is adept at telling her story in an accessible way and paces it with just sufficient tension to make it an easy read yet keeping the traction fine-tuned. I probably did, at some level, anticipate the ‘terrific final twist’ (as Stephen King calls it) – there are, in fact, a couple – but rather than feeling let down, I was sufficiently invested in the characters that I felt gratified I could anticipate their responses (credible? Possibly not, however!). The author also demonstrates the ripple effect through the family fabric when one serious and traumatic event has unanticipated consequences. Just how well do you know your family members? This is not so much a thriller (which is its genre classification) but more a nuanced look at family dynamics.