(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAR 31, 2007)
Robert Dugoni’s second novel, Damage Control, is another strong book about attorneys, this time with a strong female lead. Seattle attorney Dana Hill’s life is a difficult one--dealing with an annoying law partner boss, raising a three-year-old child while maintaining her career and dealing with unreliable husband and his desire to improve on his less stellar law career. However, her life gets even more challenging when she is forced to face three challenges, the murder of her brother from an apparent robbery gone wrong, the malignant lump in her breast and the lack of trust in her husband.
Once Dana Hill learns of her brother’s death, she is bothered by the nature of his murder. She is also concerned about what was bothering her brother just before his death when he had called her to meet later to talk about a problem he had. She, along with Seattle homicide detective Michael Logan, are not convinced that the murder was random. Dana realizes that, although she is probably the person that is the closest to her brother, she really doesn’t know that much about his private life. She meets Brian Griffin, an old neighborhood friend, at her brother’s funeral. Griffin had apparently convinced her brother to leave his previous law firm job to teach law at the same college as Griffin. Dana learns a little more from Brian, but neither of them are aware of any significant love interests that become even more curious when Dana finds a unique earring under her brother’s rented cabin that she was not even aware he used. In trying to learn more about her brother to find a lead into why he was robbed and murdered, Dana determines that the earring was made by Hawaiian artist William Welles. Dana travels to Hawaii to meet Welles and ultimately learns much from Welles, including who the likely person was that Welles made the earring for and who likely had spent time with her brother.
With this information, Dana quickly returns to Seattle to work with Detective Logan in tracking down the people responsible for her brother’s death. The suspense also builds as they both realize that other people are following Dana and several people are killed along the way. Dugoni also includes a few other twists, and as in The Jury Master, ties in some politicians, such as Washington State Senator Robert Meyers, a Presidential hopeful who takes extreme measures to assure his success.
As in The Jury Master, Dugoni’s strength continues to be in presenting believable and interesting characters, both the main characters such as Dana Hill, her husband Grant and detective Michael Logan, but also the lesser known, but key characters such as artist William Welles. At first, I thought the scenes with Welles were over-written and included too much detail, but these scenes are critical to the rest of the book and Welles is certainly a character that stays with you as I can still picture him a week or so after having finished the book.
I read Damage Control shortly after The Jury Master and found both to be very enjoyable, but Damage Control is probably a slightly better book. In both books, Dugoni does not write typical legal thrillers, but rather writes about suspenseful situations from the perspective of a lawyer, which he is and for which he is probably most familiar. Although in Damage Control he is writing from the perspective of a woman, her reactions seem a bit more believable than David Sloane in The Jury Master. Damage Control is also a bit less complex and confusing and overall just a better written book. Of course, in both books, typical of most suspense books, both lead characters do things that you would not think the typical attorney would do. Nonetheless, the books are believable enough and overall very enjoyable. I would certainly want to read about characters from both books in the future. In a February 2007 interview with Bookreporter.com, Dugoni does mention that he is working on a new book with David Sloane and Charles Jenkins of The Jury Master and discusses the possibility of bringing back Dana Hill from Damage Control in a future book.
- Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Damage Control at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAR 31, 2007)
California defense attorney David Sloane is extremely successful at manipulating juries to win his cases for his clients even when those clients are not all that likeable such as the obnoxious Paul Abbott, of Abbott Security. Sloane wins what appears to be an unwinable case for Abbott Security, his 15th consecutive, but he doesn’t really feel good about it as the plaintiffs are more likeable and suffered real harm from apparent poor and sloppy hiring processes of Abbott Security. However, these thoughts are soon put on hold as Sloane is pulled into a complex conspiracy ultimately involving the West Virginia police, the CIA and even the President of the United States.
Although Sloane is the main character of the book and the story is often told from his perspective, several other key characters are introduced that at first appear to not have any relationship with each other. West Virginia police detective Tom “Mole” Molia’s investigation of an apparent suicide of Joe Branick, a White House aide, and close friend of the President, leads to him crossing paths with Assistant U.S. Attorney River Jones. Jones works for the President’s Chief of Staff, General Parker Madsen. Madsen wants Jones to limit and control the investigation of Branick’s suicide and that just doesn’t sit well with the inquisitive and distrusting Molia.
Branick’s death also leads CIA agent Alex Hart to Charles Jenkins, a retired CIA Agent, who lives in western Washington State. Hart, at the request of Jenkins in the event of his death, delivers a package containing a file that Jenkins thought Branick would have destroyed 30 years ago when they last worked together, along with Hart’s father, in Mexico. Shortly after Alex Hart’s arrival, both are forced to leave quickly as unknown assassins are apparently trying to get the file or silence Jenkins. Although Jenkins doesn’t reveal how, he does mention that the file ties Branick and him to David Sloane, and they both set off for California in search of Sloane.
Soon after winning the Abbott Security case and faced with even more unwanted work for the security firm, David Sloane’s life changes quickly when he returns home to find Melda, his close friend and the person who helps manage his apartment building, murdered apparently when she was in the way of intruders trying to find something of Sloane’s. He doesn’t know why this has happened, but he thinks it may have something to do with the package and phone message left by Joe Branick, especially once Sloane reads that Branick committed suicide shortly after leaving the message for Sloane. Sloane doesn’t know of any past connection to Branick but decides he must go to the east coast to look into Branick’s apparent suicide.
Suspense and plot twists continue as Sloane meets with Detective Molia, relatives of Joe Branick and even ultimately the President in his attempts to determine why everyone is so interested in him and what Branick sent him. Dugoni keeps the pace moving, the story interesting and the excitement building in this very interesting and readable book.
Dugoni’s strength, beyond creating a complex story with interwoven plots, is in presenting believable and interesting characters, both ones to like and ones to hate. The favorites of course are Sloane and Molia, but many other lesser characters are well thought out and presented.
The Jury Master is the first novel written by Robert Dugoni and his second book published. (Dugoni co-wrote the non-fiction The Cyanide Canary with Joseph Hilldorfer.) After working for 17 years as a civil litigator, in 1999, Dugoni decided to return to writing. (He has an undergraduate degree in journalism.) This book is a very good start and he is not limiting himself to the typical legal thriller. Actually, some readers expecting a typical legal thriller could be disappointed, but Dugoni’s style should make this an enjoyable read for all. I’m looking forward to his next book, Damage Control, which fortunately for me, is the book I’ve just started.
- Amazon readers rating: from 52 reviews
(back to top)
Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- The Jury Master (March 2006)
- Damage Control (February 2007)
- Wrongful Death (April 2009)
- Bodily Harm (April 2010)
- The Cyanide Canary (2004) (with Joseph Hilldorfer)
(back to top)
- Official website for Robert Dugoni
- BookReporter interview with Robert Dugoni
- Washington Post review of The Cyanide Canary
- Al Nye The Lawyer Guy review of The Jury Master
- Mystery Reader review of Damage Control
(back to top)
About the Author:
Robert Dugoni was born the middle child in a family of ten children and has been writing his entire life. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a degree in journalism and clerked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times before obtaining his doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.
He has practiced as a civil litigator in San Francisco and Seattle for seventeen years. In 1999 he left the full-time practice of law to return to writing.
He lives with his wife and two children in the Pacific Northwest.