Damage Control

Damage Control

by Denise Hamilton


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Damage Control by Denise Hamilton

Critically acclaimed author Denise Hamilton weaves an engrossing story of teenage friendship and adult betrayal, featuring a high-powered public relations executive who gets swept up in murder and scandal involving a political family.

Maggie Silver is solidly middle class, with a mortgage to pay and an ill mother to support. She does her best to scramble up the ladder at an exclusive, high-powered PR firm in Southern California, whose clients are movie stars and famous athletes. Now, Maggie is being asked to take on her toughest client yet: Senator Henry Paxton, distinguished statesman from Southern California, who also happens to be the father of Anabelle, Maggie’s former high school best friend.

Senator Paxton’s young, female aide has been found murdered, and it is up to Maggie to run damage control and prevent a scandal. Thrown back into the Paxtons’ glamorous world, Maggie is unexpectedly flooded with memories from the stormy years in high school when her friendship with Anabelle was dramatically severed after a tragedy that neither of them has been able to forget. As Maggie gets further embroiled in the lives of the Paxtons, she realizes that the ties of her old friendship are stronger than she thinks.

Riveting and suspense-filled, Damage Control examines our craving for celebrity and spectacle and how far the bonds of friendship can stretch before they break forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743296748
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 09/06/2011
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.18(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.11(d)

About the Author

Denise Hamilton is a writer-journalist whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Cosmopolitan, and The New York Times and is the author of five acclaimed Eve Diamond crime novels, Prisoner of Memory, Savage Garden, Last Lullaby, Sugar Skull, and The Jasmine Trade, all of which have been Los Angeles Times bestsellers. She is also the editor of and a contributor to the short story anthology Los Angeles Noir, winner of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Award for Best Mystery of 2007. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children. Visit her at www.denisehamilton.com.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Damage Control includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Maggie Silver has a lot on her plate. She is struggling to pay her mortgage, support her ill mother, and climb the career ladder at an exclusive, high-powered PR firm whose clients are tabloid-worthy movie stars and famous athletes. She’s been trained to clean up other people’s messes, but now Maggie is asked to take on her toughest client yet: Senator Henry Paxton. The distinguished statesman from Southern California also happens to be the father of Anabelle, Maggie’s estranged best friend from high school.

When Senator Paxton’s young female aid is murdered, Maggie must run damage control and prevent the scandal from growing—a challenge at any time, but even more so when she realizes the Senator isn’t telling the whole story. Finding herself once again wrapped up in the Paxtons’ glamorous world after all these years, Maggie is unexpectedly flooded with memories—some of them wonderful, others difficult to revisit. She can’t help but dwell on those stormy years in high school when her friendship with Anabelle was dramatically severed after a tragedy that neither of them has been able to forget. As Maggie gets further embroiled in the lives of the Paxtons, she realizes that the ties of her old friendship are stronger and more complicated than she realized. Torn between loyalties to her mother, her love interests, other clients, and the individual members of the Paxton family, Maggie has to decide how much of her own life she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save those she loves.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Damage Control opens with a statement from the main character in which she explains how things are in her dreams, in contrast to how things happen in reality. Why do you think the author decided to open the book this way? What effect did it have on your reading experience?

2. Discuss the significance of the 1993 beach party in the prologue. How does that night develop deeper meaning as new aspects are revealed throughout the narrative? How might the novel have been different if the entire story of the 1993 event had been detailed in the beginning?

3. Maggie describes second chances as “the American way” (p. 13). Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not? In what ways does Maggie’s professional life mirror her personal life?

4. What was your reaction when Senator Henry Paxton recognized Maggie Silver at the end of Chapter 4? Do you think most people would have recognized a former child’s teenage friend in a professional role? Did this raise any suspicions?

5. Maggie is infatuated with perfumes and scents. Why do you think the author choose to give Maggie this heightened sense of smell? Identify some of the scents she picks up on and discuss how her observations contribute to those moments in the narrative.

6. Compare and contrast Maggie’s use of pills with her mother’s smoking and her deceased father’s drinking. How is Maggie’s dependence different? Does this difference make it more acceptable? Why or why not?

7. What do you think makes Maggie more uncomfortable: when Faraday knows things about friends like Anabelle, or when he knows things about her that she thought were secret? Why do you think her employer’s vast intelligence bothers her at times? Use examples from the novel to support your answer.

8. In an already complex damage control case, how does Oliver Goldman of the U.S. Attorney General’s office complicate the situation further? Would you have cooperated with him had you been in Maggie’s place? Why or why not?

9. In addition to the main Paxton case, Maggie must juggle other cases, such as the Holloway au pair case and Salazar rape case. Compare and contrast the different cases and discuss. Did Maggie’s dealings with these additional cases help her in any way with the Paxtons? If so, how?

10. Discuss the complications that resulted from the murder of Anabelle’s husband, Randall. Before the reveal at the novel’s end, who did you think pulled the trigger? Explain how you came to this conclusion and whether or not you were surprised by the revelation.

11. Maggie is often forced to manage conflicting allegiances: Faraday and Blair; the Paxton family and the Blair agency; the law and the case; truth and image. How well do you think she balances these relationships?

12. In addition to all the complexities of her cases, Maggie also balances dating and shopping, conflicts with her mom who has cancer, ghosts from the past, and drug dependency. How did so many simultaneous conflicts affect her as a character? Did you relate to her situation in any way?

13. Anabelle surprises Maggie by saying: “You were always a liar…That’s one thing I admired about you” (p. 311). Were you as surprised at this perspective as Maggie? Discuss whether you agree or disagree with Anabelle’s assessment of Maggie.

14. On page 342, Luke reveals to Maggie what was supposed to happen that summer night in 1993. How does Maggie find a glimmer of comfort in this ultimate betrayal? How did you feel about Luke’s explanation?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Maggie has a strong sense of smell and focuses on scents and the emotions they evoked. How keen is your own sense of smell? Have each member of the group bring in a favorite perfume, candle, or scent. With a blindfold, conduct a smell test to see who can identify which smells. For extra fun, write down how each one makes you feel, and then compare results when everyone has had a chance to sniff.

2. Maggie was faced with a number of difficult decisions in this story that had no real right or wrong answers. Sometimes it was the lesser of two evils or the greater of two goods. Pinpoint one decision Maggie made in the book that you would have made differently and explain your choice. How might the book have been different had that one decision been altered?

3. In the end, Maggie is offered a position as co-vice president at her firm. Imagine you are Maggie’s best friend. What would your advice be? Should she take the exalted position, or escape her exhausting lifestyle? Make the case and convince Maggie to do what you think would be best.

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Damage Control 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bookclubs[dot]barnesandnoble[dot]com/t5/Ransom-Notes-The-BN-Mystery-Blog/The-Spin-Doctors/ba-p/1164690 "I remember reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 sometime in high school and finding the concept of 'firemen' in the future being those who start controlled fires - not primarily those who put out wild ones - a fantastical conceit so far removed from reality that it was difficult to take seriously. How naive I was. Today it seems that the best and brightest from every skill set are scooped up, specialized and privatized before they even finish a formal education and used to reverse engineer pre-determined ideals for their employers. I mean, which is the more lucrative field for a doctor, stitching up the wounded or carving up the healthy for cosmetic results? Which lawyers are most highly paid - those who defend the defenseless against the machine or those who manipulate and exploit the machinery for maximum benefit? At the center of Denise Hamilton's new stand alone mystery, Damage Control is Maggie Silver. She used to be a journalist, but the old grey mare ain't what she used to be, (the journalism trade that is, not Maggie, who's a smart, savvy, sexy young woman who could have the world) and she's followed the money into a job with the most sought-after PR firm in L.A. (possibly the world). She's paying a price for her position though - on call twenty-four-seven and working long, intense hours when she is on the clock, so that despite her obvious assets, her personal life is remarkably sparse. But Maggie and her team are experts at spin, and know how to get out ahead of any scandal, any story threatening the career of a famous actor, athlete, public or private figure with the scratch to retain them. This is where the investigative reporters, and journalism majors of her generation can practice their skills and be duly appreciated and compensated. Who better than a well-schooled journalist to handle a story's facts and circumstances like a basketball (it only bothers her a little bit). Enter Senator Henry Paxton of California and exit Emily Mortimer (no, not that actress) his former aid in charge of (among other things) the senator's personal Twitter feed (I am available for this job if anyone is looking to hire, btw) until her untimely demise and unfortunate circumstances. She'd been discovered murdered in her own hotel room, expired in a state of post coital nudity. Poor Senator Paxton. Just when he didn't need one, a big, fat, juicy scandal drops on him as if from a flock of pigeons. Good thing he's got Maggie's boss on speed-dial. Maggie is asked to take point on this one and reluctantly agrees, unsure of how much her history with the Paxton family is going to help or hinder her career. You see, Maggie and the Senator's daughter Anabelle were best friends as teenagers until that night at the party when. Hamilton has constructed an intricate and finely-balanced thriller that joins all the flavors and worlds of southern California into a heady cocktail of sex, celebrity and consequence. Perhaps the year's final summer read, it's briskly paced and effortlessly consumed. Still, the high-gloss and bright colors of SoCal presented here, are merely a veneer stretched taught over much darker things beneath their surface. Incidentally, Damage Control seems the perfect book to wrap up this particular summer with...
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 2009 in Los Angeles thirtyish middle class Maggie Silver works for Blair Company crisis management firm. Her clients include the rich and famous up and down the Pacific Coast Highway while her job description is insuring the spin favors her firm's affluent customers. The firm's Jack Faraday assigns Maggie and others to work with U. S. Senator Henry Paxton. When she was a teen she was best friends with his daughter Anabelle, but they no longer talk to each other following a tragedy. Maggie wants out but has no choice but to be part of the team as she supports her ailing mom. Paxton's assistant twentyish media director Emily Mortimer was found dead; the senator is the last known person to have seen her at a bar at midnight. This is an exhilarating suspense thriller in which justice is irrelevant as the truth does not matter; only how good the spin is. Character driven by Maggie, as an adult she struggles with her memories of an idyllic time that she begins to wonder how Eden it truly was. Readers will appreciate Damage Control as the wealthy use experts to spin the media to tell the story their way. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Arian rolls around. Avalanche and Narivo stare at each other angrily as Evening and Blown paw eachothers faces playfully.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Preposterous on so many levels. Red herrings abound. Characters are introduced and disappear without explanation.
Humbee More than 1 year ago
I cannot say enough about the writing style of Denise Hamilton. She not only knows the streets of LA, she breathes life into them through her every written word. It's chilling to read her books. Denise has the skill of a fine surgeon, knowing just when and where to place the razor and how to cut to release that last shred of skin between our belief and disbelief. Her hand is quick and so adept we hardly know we've been "had" until it's over and we're shocked to see our heart in our hands. She is a master writer of this genre. I have a feeling Denise is a masterful writer of anything she chooses to put her mind to. I thinks she's spoiled me for reading anyone else in noir fiction, female or male. What I found most exciting about Ms Hamilton's writing in both the novels I read (and her short story "Midnight In Silicon Alley" in her L. A. Noir Collection) was her ability to use an ordinary pace, an simple staccato of words and sentences to lay out the most astounding and dark situations. A clip of interchange between characters that conveyed more than just the words themselves...It was like reading the movements of a cat studying it's prey before pouncing! Glorious and so unusual I wanted to clap and yell, "Yes!!" several times through the books. This kind of writing is intense and so freaking rare! What was new to me about these books among all the books I've read? The dark tone of "voice." The descriptions of the underbelly of the city and the surrounding scruff and side-beaches. The brilliance of too much light at night and used tinsel garishness by day, both literally and figuratively. The "invisible" people that stray and strand along the sidelines of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and LA. Concepts of evil hidden behind the flat, compliant faces of ordinary kids in designer label outfits- -apparently, no drugs applied. How swiftly calm, security and routine can be smashed in a smoky room, in an unknown section of town where you weren't aware that nobody speaks English, and you don't know how to get a ride home. The multi-cultural nature of a city that is a microcosom of our country and where we're headed. I've tried to convey to you how unusual and how brilliant a writer Denise Hamilton really is. "Damage Control" will send ice splints through your veins. "The Jasmine Trade" will change the way you look at Asian children and their parents for a while; at least it changed things for me. I haven't been able to put these books, and Ms Hamilton's short story out of my mind. I keep returning to parts of them long after I've read them. When studying fine arts and art history I learned that one of the tests of a masterpiece is that we can't stop looking at it. We find ourselves continually drawn back into the painting, finding more things of interest and wanting to look at it longer. There is much of this quality in Denise Hamilton's books. They just keep coming back to haunt you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AaronPaulLazar More than 1 year ago
Damage Control is a complex psychological thriller set in current day Los Angeles, peopled with vibrant characters battling fears of survival and loss, tautly stretched loyalties, and well-camouflaged villains. The story begins when Maggie Silver-a young PR rep who's struggling to support her cancer-stricken mother and keep a house with an upside-down mortgage-is assigned to insulate Senator Henry Paxton and his family from the press by spinning the sordid facts of his aide's murder and protecting the family's reputation. After all, the Senator has been tapped for a much higher office, and chances are he'll move upward quickly. The problem is Maggie knew the Senator's family when she was a teenager and was the poor church mouse best friend of rich kid Anabelle Paxton. Years have passed, and in the time since they grew apart, neither has acknowledged or faced the memories of the one horrible night they shared on the beach. Hamilton weaves some interesting themes throughout this complicated novel, including subtly erotic romance, power struggles and cover-ups, and dangerous flirtations with potential killers. The author's style is breezy and smooth, and occasionally she sneaks in some lovely poetic passages, well worth savoring. "At the cemetery, Anabelle threw the first spade of earth on the coffin. The wind shifted and ash fell softly and silently over us all, blanketing the dark soil and clinging greasily to our clothes, reminding us of where we'd come from and where we would all return." (Note: the "ash" here refers to cinders from the wildfires burning nearby) Most intriguing was the author's inclusion of scents into the story. Hamilton's descriptions of the perfumes Maggie loved and remembered was evocative and poetic, and her use of fragrance as a vital clue was brilliant. Her passages reminded me of my own passion for essential oils and their subtle, complex aromas capable of transporting one to places quite foreign and delicious. I discovered after reading the book that Denise Hamilton spends time with fragrance in a professional capacity (she blogs about perfume, for one thing) and this explained the interesting additions.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
By now we are used to novels that take place among the glitterati of Los Angeles. As if it does not have enough of its own, author Denise Hamilton imports a United States Senator who never seems to go to Washington as the centerpiece of her scandal ridden Damage Control. It's a pretty interesting tale of scandal, intrigue, and cover-up. The twist on this one is the young PR woman, Maggie Silver, who wonders how much she can trust her won company as their ethics seem questionable. Will they go to any length to protect a client? Character development is not always the strong point of this novel, but there is enough interest among the intrigue to keep the reader going.