Synopses & Reviews
New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava joins the Doubleday list with her best novel yet.
On Pensacola Beach, the Coast Guard prepares for a Category 5 hurricane that has entered the Gulf of Mexico. When the air crew patrols the waterways, they spot a huge fishing cooler about a mile offshore. Drug traffickers have been known to dump coolers with smuggled product to avoid detection and pay fishermen to retrieve them. But when the crew open this cooler, they're shocked by what they find: body parts tightly wrapped in plastic.
Though she is putting herself in the projected path of the hurricane, Special Agent Maggie O'Dell is sent to investigate. Eventually, she's able to trace the torso in the cooler back to a man who mysteriously disappeared weeks earlier after a hurricane hit Port St. Lucie, Florida. Only Port St. Lucie is on the Atlantic side. How did his body end up six hundred miles away in the Gulf of Mexico?
Cliffhanger chapters, behind-the-scenes forensic details, colorful characters, and satisfying twists have become the trademarks of Kava's psychological thrillers. In Damaged, she ratchets up the suspense a notch by sending Maggie into the eye of an impending monster hurricane to track down a killer.
From the Hardcover edition.
While the Coast Guard is preparing Pensacola Beach for a severe hurricane, they find an oversized fishing cooler filled with body parts tightly wrapped in plastic floating offshore. Special Agent Maggie O’Dell is sent to investigate, despite the fact that she is putting herself in the projected path of the hurricane. She’s able to trace the torso in the cooler back to a man who mysteriously disappeared weeks earlier after a hurricane hit the Atlantic coast of Florida. How did his body end up six hundred miles away in the Gulf of Mexico? Using her signature keen instincts and fearless investigating, O’Dell discovers Florida’s seedy underworld and the shady characters who inhabit it. Damaged is Alex Kava’s most terrifying thriller yet.
About the Author
Alex Kava’s two stand-alone novels and seven novels featuring FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell have been published in more than twenty countries, appearing on the bestseller lists in Britain, Australia, Poland, Germany, and Italy. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. Alex divides her time between Omaha, Nebraska and Pensacola, Florida.
Reading Group Guide
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Damaged, the eighth installment of Alex Kava’s spine-chilling Maggie O’Dell series.
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?
(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit: www.readinggroupcenter.com.)