Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Damaged by Pamela Callow

How far are you willing to go to forget your past?

Haunted by the death of her sister, and wounded by her ex-fiance's accusations, Kate Lange throws herself into her new career at a high-powered law firm.

When the grandmother of a lonely private school student seeks her counsel, Kate thinks it's just another custody case. Until the teen is brutally murdered. And it isn't only Kate who wonders if her legal advice led to the girl's death.

How far are you willing to go to redeem yourself?

Put on notice by Randall Barrett, the firm's charismatic managing partner, Kate must fight for her career, for her reputation -- and for redemption.

Unwilling to live with the damage she has caused, Kate pursues the case on her own and unearths some chilling facts.

Facts that lead straight to the heart of a legal conspiracy. Facts that lead Kate directly into the surgically-skilled hands of the Body Butcher.


Please note that this review contains some spoilers.

I received this book for review. I’m a big fan of the thriller, and especially the medical thrillers. I do believe I’ve read every Robin Cook and Michael Palmer book out there. So when I went onto Callow’s website to look for information, and she was compared to Robin Cook? I was all about it.

This is a debut novel, and it reads as such. There are a lot of really good things about it, and a lot of things that need improvement. Ethan (a police detective) and Kate (an attorney) were engaged to be married, when a coworker of Ethan’s told a very private "secret" of Kate’s in a very public forum. A coworker that Ethan had an affair with and dumped for Kate. Did Ethan stand up for Kate and get mad at the coworker? Hell no. He got pissed off at Kate and treated her like crap. Until she gave back his ring. Now they find themselves thrown together 6 months later, pulled in by a case which involves them both.

Here’s where Callow made a grave error. Throughout the book, the reader has the impression that Ethan is the hero of the book, and that he and Kate will get back together. Not a problem, except that Ethan treats Kate like shit throughout the whole book. It’s the old, “You’re such a lowlife”, “I want to get back together with you” dilemma. I would have been fine with it if I’d known that Kate and Ethan would not end up together. But I didn’t understand that, and so was ticked off at Ethan for his treatment of Kate, and was ticked off at the author for making such an asshole be Kate’s true love. This lasted until almost the last chapter.

Also appearing is Kate’s boss, Randall. They give each other the looks and it’s obvious that Randall wants her, but although she gets little tingles all over, she resists. Making me think that since Kate was supposed to end up with Ethan, she was also slutty.

For her part, Kate was about as wishy-washy as could be. She felt strongly in her convictions, but the second that anyone suggested alternate outcomes to her on her case, she bought into them. She questioned all her assumptions about each person she encountered if anyone made an opposing remark. I have no problem with people looking deep and changing their core assumptions, but it wasn’t presented that way. Not only was she wishy-washy in her professional life, but she came across as wishy-washy in her personal life as well; unable to choose between Ethan and Randall.

Now, on to the actual story. When a grandmother comes to her seeking custody of her granddaughter, Kate brushes her off thinking that she has no grounds. Then the granddaughter is murdered. Turns out that she was the daughter of a prominent judge. So Kate starts digging. The lead detective? Yup. Ethan. Along the way, they lead 2 completely parallel investigations, very rarely intersecting unless Ethan wants something from Kate. At which point, he insults her and then asks her to break attorney-client privilege, or unethically slip him notes from her case files. And she’s willing to do it! Kate's investigation into the death of this young girl coincides with a case that she is co-defending for her firm involving a tissue bank.

OK. I’ve said there were things I did like, and let me spell those out. First, the setting. It’s set in Halifax – an interesting place, and an unusual one for a book. Callow brings aspects of the city into the book and it definitely worked for me. Also, the legal investigation (as opposed to the police one) was done well, I thought. Kate seemed to be doing the right things (until she went off on her own in a dangerous situation: TSTL Alert!). She did manage to avoid the TSTL, but just barely. Several times she should have contacted Ethan, but because he’d just treated her like crap, she decided against it. I can understand and appreciate that. So why didn’t she contact a member of his investigative team?

The police procedural is not as well done as I would have liked. I never truly got a sense of a team working on serial murders. The police procedural came across as very superficial to me. I couldn’t see how they came to some of the conclusions that they did. It felt like, “Hey that dude is a blonde and we’re looking for a blonde! Must be him!” They jumped to conclusions about everyone they investigated. I could feel Callow trying so hard to bring this team to life for me, but it lost something in the translation.

As for the actual whodunit and why? That was the medical thriller part, and it was a sound premise. As a former medical professional, I liked how she incorporated an actual disease into the story, and actual medical research rather than completely far-fetched ideas. I thought that was the best part of the book. Unfortunately, the threads of all the stories ran parallel without intersecting for too long, so I didn’t really care how they meshed by the time they did. I’m hopeful that since this is a debut novel, Callow can fix some of these plot twists and mesh her storylines a little more intricately in her subsequent books.

Anyway, by the end of the book, when Ethan declares his love for Kate and she turns him down, I was annoyed that I’d been led on for the whole book. Even though I didn’t care for Ethan, I’d been waiting for him to redeem himself, but he just came off as a somewhat ineffective cop who was a major asshole.

Kate is the lead in what is to be a series of books, and her boss Randall seems to be the next choice for hero material. Even though there were a number of holes in this book, I think there is enough good stuff here and enough room for growth that I’ll be willing to give her one more try.


  1. The whole Ethan thing would bother me but now that I know he's not the hero, it might be ok. I think I'll wait for the next one in the series and see how that goes. Thanks for the review. :)

  2. Exactly, Les. If I'd known going in, I wouldn't have had wrong expectations. And I think that colored everything else about the book for me - situations where I'd usually have been more forgiving, I wasn't.


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