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Excerpted from Damaged by Alex Kava Copyright © 2010 by Alex Kava. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Where did the inspiration for DAMAGED come from? Why did you decide to send Maggie O'Dell into the path of a deadly hurricane?
In spring of 2004 I bought a house on the bay just outside of Pensacola. Six months later Hurricane Ivan hit. Nine months after that, it was Dennis. I've lived most of my life in tornado country so I thought I was prepared for hurricanes. The anxiety and anticipation is excruciating. And nothing prepares you for the aftermath. It's hard to explain. It may sound a bit clichéd but there's a transformation that takes place when you experience something like that, especially as a community. I've been wanting to throw Maggie into the path of a hurricane ever since.
You write in great detail about FBI processes and forensic investigations. How did you do research in these areas?
Real experts are still the best sources of information. I've been very fortunate to have contacts in a variety of law enforcement and forensic fields, people I can call or email with questions. Some have become close friends who share details of their cases with me over dinner. I've also had the privilege of visiting Quantico, and was able to spend some time down in the Behavioral Science Unit talking to special agents who do every day what I only write about.
What I don't know, I read, constantly. I now have an extensive library of my own and anyone who checked my laptop's cache would probably be shocked to see the types of websites I surf on a regular basis.
In DAMAGED, you write about the black market for human organs. Where did that idea come from and how did you research?
Several years ago I read a special report in USA Today about the illegal body parts business. It mentioned a case in Brooklyn involving a body broker and several funeral homes that were stealing tissue and bone from corpses, in some instances, replacing the bones with PVC piping and hiding the theft by sewing the bodies back up. Sometimes entire bodies were stolen instead of being sent to the crematory. The indictment charged that as many as 1,000 bodies may have stolen by this one group.
It fascinated me how greed could literally eviscerate a solemn practice that we take for granted and expect to be treated with dignity and respect.
From then on I started searching for and saving anything I could find on the subject. I read several books including Annie Cheney's BODY BROKERS and Kathy Braidhill's CHOP SHOP.
Tell us about Maggie O'Dell. Where did the inspiration for her character come from, and is she based on a real life person?
I never intended for Maggie to be a series character, so she's had to evolve and reveal herself to me with each novel. In the beginning with A PERFECT EVIL Maggie was a tough, young FBI agent driven much more by impulse and passion. She's matured a bit, though still driven to do the right thing. I think Maggie's a lot more accepting of who she is and less apologetic of how she goes about doing her job.
She's not, however, based on any one person and although she and I share some personality traits - our unintentional abuse of fine leather shoes and our love of college football - Maggie's certainly not my alter ego. For one thing she's much braver than I am.
Critics and fans alike have found your heroine, Special Agent Maggie O'Dell, very appealing. What is it about her that readers can't get enough of?
I have to admit I'm not sure what it is, because sometimes Maggie drives me crazy. What I hear from readers is they like that Maggie's not a superhero. They can relate to her. Yes, she might be an excellent profiler but she failed at her marriage and struggles with her personal relationships. She has flaws. She makes mistakes. But the bottom line is that Maggie does the right thing even when it's not the easy thing, even when it gets her in trouble or puts her in danger. I think readers admire that about her.
You've written about Maggie for seven novels now: what did you discover about her or what surprised you about her in DAMAGED that you didn't know or realize before now?
Maggie protects herself from being hurt emotionally almost more than she protects herself from physical injury. Put a gun in her hand and send her into a dark tunnel to hunt for a killer - no problem. But put her across the table from someone who truly wants to have a heart-to-heart talk and Maggie's squirming to get away. In DAMAGED she actually lets her personal armor down long enough to get close to Liz Bailey and to Benjamin Platt. And she did it without squirming to get away.
Your journey from struggling writer to published author is a Cinderella story. Can you tell us about that?
I had 116 rejections for a novel that remains unpublished. In 1996 I quit my job as a director of public relations. I was burned out and needed a change. I decided while I was looking for a different career I'd try writing another novel. In the year and a half that it took me to write A PERFECT EVIL my savings account depleted quickly. I taught part-time and even had a newspaper delivery route. My roof started to leak. I maxed out my credit cards to pay bills. My dog - my companion of fifteen years - had to be put to sleep. Yes, it was a bit of a struggle. I told myself that if I wasn't published before I was forty years old, I'd put aside my dream, get a job and go on with the rest of my life. Fortunately, three days before my fortieth birthday I was at Book Expo America signing advance copies of A PERFECT EVIL.
What is on your nightstand now?
Another strange combination for research and leisure, but currently the stack includes:
THE DAY AFTER ROSWELL, by Colonel Philip J. Corso
DOGS OF GOD: Columbus, the Inquisition and the Defeat of the Moors, by James Reston, Jr.
THE COLD ROOM, by J.T. Ellison
THE MIDNIGHT HOUSE, by Alex Berenson
WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG, by Lisa Scottoline
DEADHOUSE: Life in a Coroner's Office, by John Temple
How long does it take you to research and write a Maggie O'Dell novel?
I love the research and I'm constantly taking notes and digging up information for more than one book at a time. I usually fill two spiral notebooks and one file folder for each novel. After two to three months I have to tell myself to stop researching and start writing, but oftentimes the research continues all the way through the editing process, honing details or adding something I may have just discovered. Actual writing time? Another two to three months with an additional month for fine tuning.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
In spring and summer you'll find me gardening. This year I may actually learn to can some of the vegetables I grow. Fall, it's college football. Winter, walks along a beach somewhere outside of Pensacola. And wherever I am you'll find my pack of dog there with me.
What's next? Can you give us a preview of your next novel, and will we see more of Maggie O'Dell?
Maggie will be back in HOTWIRE. Her boss sends her to the Midwest to investigate cattle mutilations in the area and Maggie stumbles upon a bizarre triple murder of some local teenagers.
1. The novel opens with a map, dated Saturday, August 22, detailing Hurricane Isaac’s wind speed, travel speed, and projected path. What mood does this prelude create?
2. How does the author set up the reader’s interest in and sympathy for Danny Delveccio, the surfer who sleeps in his Chevy Impala, and Charlotte Mills, the eccentric, beachcombing widow? How does this technique impact your reading of Joe Black’s character?
3. Why is Maggie’s boss, Assistant Director Raymond Kunze, angry with her over the Potomac serial killer case? Is he justified? Is Maggie simply being paranoid when she ponders whether Kunze “splattered her with the killer’s brains . . . to do just that—splatter her” (75) and considers that perhaps what he wants is to psychologically “shove her and see if she’d fall” (76)? Why would she persist in this seemingly abusive work climate when her work is considered brilliant across several government agencies?
4. Maggie’s internal struggle about her first helicopter ride—“A refusal or even hesitancy would be a mistake, especially with this macho group” (88)—is reminiscent of Liz’s inner monologue as she prepares to jump at the start of the novel: “Liz kept her hesitation to herself” (6) and refuses to let her aircrew see “even a hint of her reluctance” (7). What challenges do these women face in two male-dominated fields? Do they hold their own through the course of the novel? Does each garner the respect they want from their male colleagues by the end? What are the other female characters in the novel like?
5. Scott Larsen’s weak character keeps him in thrall to the wily charms of smooth operator Joe Black. He’s thrilled to drink with Joe, to make Joe laugh, to be dubbed affectionately as “Dude” by Joe. When does this crush first begin to wane? What sends it totally over the edge? Does Scott ever fully recognize the depth of Joe’s betrayal? Is Scott an irredeemable character?
6. At what point do Maggie and Liz truly connect? Do you predict that Liz Bailey will make an appearance in the coming Maggie O’Dell novels?
7. This novel was written before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, although its publication date was a few months after the accident. How did your knowledge of the oil spill affect your reading of the novel, with its repeated references to “emerald-green waters . . . sugar-white sands” (19)?
8. Platt’s theory that the mystery illness felling wounded soldiers stems from biomechanical implements tainted by donor decomposition is the first and only plausible theory anyone has proposed. Why does Ganz dismiss it immediately and so thoroughly?
9. Maggie and Platt walk a delicate line between friendship and romance. Does their relationship develop over the course of the novel? Is either of them psychologically equipped for intimacy?
10. Despite the Florida Panhandle being at the storm’s bull's-eye, there are repeated references in the novel to New Orleans being “where all the media is” (73). What is the author’s intent with this crack?
11. What does Maggie refer to as “her leaky compartments” (252)? What is her strategy for handling them? What do you think would solve the issue?
12. At what point does Liz realize she’s made the grade with Wilson, Ellis, and Kesnick?
13. As the novel closes, Trish and Mr. B cook dinner for the hungry neighbors, side by side in the Coney Island Canteen. Since his rescue, “Trish hadn’t left his side” (331). How do you explain this total turnaround by Liz’s angry, aloof sister?
14. What was your reaction to the last few lines of the novel and the enormity of the task now facing Maggie O’Dell and her colleagues? What does the author seem to be saying about the plight of the FBI profiler?
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Posted July 8, 2010
Maggie O'Dell can't ever relax. As an FBI profiler for murder cases, she's frequently in the line of fire (and other unpleasant things) when she's trying to do her job. Barely off a case where she's blamed for not predicting the killer would return to his hide-out, she's rushed off to Pensacola, Florida where a cooler full of body parts is found floating in the ocean. It would seem an easy task, if it weren't for the Category 4 hurricane heading her way.
Damaged is Alex Kava's eighth Maggie O'Dell novel, and though I haven't read the first seven, I would definitely give them a go someday. I didn't feel like I was missing any incredibly important detail from the earlier books, because Kava slips in tidbits when they are needed. The writing is intuitive and natural, the plot is intriguing, and though it isn't hard to figure out who the murderer is, it's fun watching Maggie solve the mystery.
Damaged is fairly short, only 255 pages of actual text, and some chapters are only a page and a half. I think some of the passages could have been lengthened, gaps filled in with more detail to make the book fully resonate. The ingredients are all there, and they represent a tasty dish, but the heartiness of a home-cooked meal is missing.
Regardless, Damaged is still an enjoyable read. If you're looking for a quick and easy suspense book for the beach next weekend, pick up a copy when it's released on July 13.
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Posted June 12, 2010
I have to say that I really enjoyed Damaged. It has been awhile since I've read anything in this genre (and by that I mean "FBI-profiler-seeks-serial-killer" stuff) because frankly I think that it's been seriously overdone. While the premise of such a novel is hardly original, I think that Kava does a good job of keeping this story fresh. It is set in the path of a Category 5 hurricane, which adds an element of interest, and has a very smart plot with subplots that are all equally interesting. As I mentioned, this is my first Maggie O'Dell novel, but it will certainly not be my last. Damaged is fast-paced with super-short chapters. a perfect beach read. While prior Maggie O'Dell cases were referenced throughout the book, I never found myself at a loss, though I may have understood some of her personal relationships better if I had read some of the earlier titles. FBI profiler stories have become a dime a dozen over the years, so Kava's ability to create an interesting story line populated with believable (and not over-the-top) characters is a testament to her genuine talent. The great thing about this book is that it essentially takes three separate story lines and gradually intertwines them into one seamless thriller. Damaged is creatively and intelligently written and I look forward to backtracking through the rest of the series to see if they are all also done this well.
The Bottom Line: A terrific psychological thriller that will restore your faith in the genre.
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Posted June 7, 2010
Posted August 5, 2012
Posted December 22, 2011
I have read the first 8 Maggie Dell books in the series and can't wait to read Hotwire. If I could change anything about them, it would be Maggie's rescues at the end. Alex Kava's books are so fascinating and hold your attention because she is so detailed you are immersed in her stories as if you are there on the sidelines watching like a fly on the wall. But when it comes to the climax of the story, it's like Maggie just comes in and it's over - no nail-biting tension in her rescue - it's over before you realize it and you're reading the aftermath. Alex, you are such a compelling writer, please give me more at the rescue climax! But no matter, I will continue to read your grippingnovels as long as you continue to write them. Thank you, Alex, for providing such wonderful entertainment in so many different subject matters!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 12, 2011
This thriller is a fast read. Not because it's short, but because it's so hard to put down non-stop action. The short chapters, mostly five to six pages long, move the reader through the book like the hurricane sweeps through the story.
Hurricane Isaac is heading straight for Pensacola, Florida. It has already hit Jamaica as a category-4 storm, which means its winds were 131 to 155 miles per hour and caused "devastating" damage, killing dozens of people. It soon picks up to a catagory-5 with winds 156 miles per hour or greater and capable of causing "catastrophic" damage.
Some residents of Pensacola-the ones who rode out the last storm-don't believe it will hit dead on, but most of the area is evacuating. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bailey, a twenty-seven-year-old Coast Guard rescue swimmer and veteran of Hurricane Katrina, is part of a team who discovers a floating cooler of horror, full of body parts. They're not even all from the same body.
Meanwhile.Maggie O'Dell, FBI special agent and profiler, returns from a bloody shootout to be sent by her unfriendly boss into the hurricane's path to help investigate the discovery. No time to recover.
Meanwhile.Colonel Benjamin Platt, an infectious disease expert and a guy Maggie would like to have as more than a friend, is sent to the same area to see if he can figure out what's happening to cause some mysterious deaths among military patients.
Meanwhile.a funeral director named Scott, who is Elizabeth Bailey's brother-in-law, is getting himself involved in something that he knows should make him a lot of money. He doesn't exactly realize what it is though.
The threads are woven together expertly against the backdrop of the impending storm, which is picking up power and heading straight for all these characters. The climax will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Reviewed by Kaye George, author of "Choke" for Suspense Magazine
Posted June 12, 2011
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Posted March 1, 2011
This book was a disappointment for me. First, there are a lot of POV characters. None of these characters felt fully developed. Their stories eventually, sort of, tie together. In the meantime, it's exhausting to follow them all. The plot is all over the place. There is a lot going on in a kind of chaotic mess. None of it really pulls me into the story. Instead, I find myself being shoved in so many directions, so quickly, that I'm never allowed to plant my feet down in any one spot. In the end, I simply didn't care.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 3, 2011
This book was one of my favorite Maggie tales! The story weaves all the characters into the ending and it is really well written! The characters come to life as the storm takes over! Can't wait for the next one!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 20, 2010
Posted September 2, 2010
I discovered this author and this series when Barnes and Noble reduced the price on the first book in this series. They are well written, intriguing and easy to read. The main character is believable as are the adversaries she pursues. This author's work and this series is highly recommended if you like mysteries and thrillers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 9, 2010
My cover of Damaged has a sticker with a quote from Lee Child, author of the great Jack Reacher series, saying that (Maggie) O'Dell could be Reacher's long lost twin. I wonder what he meant by that, since I don't think O'Dell reads anywhere near as well as Reacher does. This novel is okay, a bit lame in my opinion, but hardly suspenseful or sophisticated in its plot. Lee Child should know that and think of his own credibility before he blurbs for others.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 28, 2010
Damaged is the 8th novel in the series of Maggie O'Dell is an FBI profiler. Maggie has proven herself and become the "go to person" for the complex serial killer cases. In Damaged, O'Dell is mentally and psychologically exhausted from her latest case, but she's tough and unwilling to give an unsympathetic boss leverage over her. Maggie has learned to keep her demons to herself. When a cooler filled with body parts is found floating in Florida, her boss sends her down to assist. Maggie ends up in middle of a hurricane trying to help local officials identify a container of body parts, determine whether the parts come from murder victims - and if so, stop the killer.
Maggie's dropped in an unfamiliar city with a minimal support system. Part of the book's strength comes from Kava's description of just how Maggie overcomes these difficulties and learns to make alliances. Things don't come easily for Maggie and she appreciates every consideration and kindness that she receives. Not surprisingly, other folks that are similarly situated warm up to Maggie.
One such character is Liz Bailey. Although she's a secondary character in the novel, Liz stands out. She's a rescue diver which means that she's lowered from a moving chopper into dangerous waters and volatile situations. While her courage, technical expertise, and her fast thinking have saved lives, Liz has been assigned to a new team and must prove herself to them. Like Maggie, Liz faces an unsympathetic and chauvinistic supervisor -- and Liz's handling of him and his pettiness bring a certain something to the story.
This is my first Alex Kava novel and I particularly liked her strong women characters. One thing that struck me was how Kava delved into the dynamics between Maggie O'Dell and her direct supervisor FBI Assistant Director Raymond Kunze and (2) the pettiness and power tripping demonstrated by Liz Bailey's direct supervisor towards the competent rescue diver. Both women respond the only possible way -- they take it on the chin and win my sympathy. I love that both Maggie and Liz prove themselves through their competence and work ethic. It was those small moments that made the book stand out to me.
Despite my focus on the work politics that the two lead women face, Damaged is a detective thriller first and foremost. Kava carefully crafts the story so that the action and clues build on each other to give us a fast-paced and complex thriller. If you're looking for a detective or crime thriller with strong characters and an interesting plot line, Damaged will surely satisfy.
ISBN-10: 0385531990 - Hardcover
Publisher: Doubleday (July 13, 2010), 272 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Posted June 17, 2010
I've never read a Maggie O'Dell novel before. I intend to read more. The book features profiler Maggie O'Dell and Coast Guard Swimmer Liz Bailey. The two women successfully challenge stereotypes in their respective careers. The impact of a hurricane and the mystery of floating body parts provides the setting for this compelling thriller.
Alex Kava puts together a blood stirring story. It was difficult to put this down and for those of us who read multiple books simultaneously it was even worse. The characters were both likeable and believable. I particularly enjoyed Liz's father and his reaction to retirement. I guess due to my own life state, I found that very interesting. The action was sufficient and the plot complicated enough to hold your unwavering attention.
I highly recommend the book.
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Posted May 31, 2010
Hurricane Isaac has not reached the Florida peninsular yet, but impacts the waves in the Gulf. Off of Pensacola, Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Wilson orders AST 3 Liz Bailey to investigate what looks like a floating fisherman's cooler. Although she is allowed to decline the dive as her mission is to rescue people not artifacts, she dives into the rough water. She completes the dangerous mission; inside the large container is a human foot.
FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell is sent to the Gulf to investigate the foot; Department of Homeland Security deputy director Charlie Wurth joins her while a forensics team matches the limb to missing Vince Coffland, who disappeared from Port St. Lucie during a hurricane. At the same time O'Dell works the foot case, her boyfriend, Colonel Benjamin Platt is also in Florida investigating a deadly bacteria killing soldiers in hospitals. The cases collide at the funeral parlor owned by O'Dell's brother-in-law Scott Larsen whom Joe Black pays to preserve harvested body parts.
This is a terrific law enforcement thriller in which the scenes of the sea rescues occurs while a hurricane is bearing down (mindful if Irwin Allen TV movies) on the coast supersedes the actions of the heroine and her two investigative hunks. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Bailey dives into the water and never slows down, as she and her teammates steal the show. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating confrontation with Hurricane Isaac and a body parts harvester as the entreating thriller ends with a strong stunning twist.
Posted January 7, 2011
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Posted October 25, 2011
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Posted February 5, 2011
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Posted March 17, 2011
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Posted May 15, 2012
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