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  • Damaged
  • Written by Alex Kava
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  • Written by Alex Kava
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On Sale: July 13, 2010
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-385-53200-6
Published by : Anchor Knopf
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

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.


BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Alex Kava's Stranded.

Excerpt

SATURDAY, August 22


Chapter 1


Pensacola Bay 

Pensacola, Florida


Elizabeth Bailey didn't like what she saw. Even now,after their H-65 helicopter came down into a hover less than two hundred feetabove the rolling Gulf, the object in the water still looked like a containerand certainly not a capsized boat. There were no thrashing arms or legs. Nobobbing heads. No one needing to be rescued, as far as she could see. YetLieutenant Commander Wilson, their aircrew pilot, insisted they check it out.What he really meant was that Liz would check it out.

A Coast Guard veteran at only twenty-seven years old, AST3 Liz Bailey knew she had chalked up more rescues in two days over NewOrleans after Hurricane Katrina than Wilson had in his entire two-year career.Liz had dropped onto rickety apartment balconies, scraped her knees on wind-batteredroofs, and waded through debris-filled water that smelled of raw sewage.

She dared not mention any of this. It didn't matter how many search and rescues she'd performed, because at the moment she was thenewbie at Air Station Mobile, and she'd need to prove herself all over again.To add insult to injury, within her first week someone had decorated thewomen's locker room by plastering downloaded photos of her from a 2005 issue ofPeople magazine. Her superiors insisted that the feature article would be good PR for the Coast Guard, especially when other military and government agencieswere taking a beating over their response to Katrina. But in an organizationwhere attention to individual and ego could jeopardize team missions, herunwanted notoriety threatened to be the kiss of death for her career. Fouryears later, it still followed her around like a curse.

By comparison, what Wilson was asking probably seemedtame. So what if the floating container might be a fisherman's cooler washed overboard?  What was the harm in checking it out? Except that rescue swimmers were trained to risk their lives in order to save otherlives, not to retrieve inanimate objects. In fact, there was an unwritten ruleabout it. After several swimmers who were asked to haul up bales of drugstested positive for drug use, apparently from their intimate contact in thewater, it was decided the risk to the rescue team was too great. Wilson musthave missed that memo.

Besides, rescue swimmers could also elect not to deploy.In other words, she could tell Lieutenant Commander less-than-a-thousand-flight-hoursWilson that "hell no," she wasn't jumping into the rough waters forsome fisherman's discarded catch of the day.

Wilson turned in his seat to look at her. From the tiltof his square chin he reminded her of a boxer daring a punch. The glint in hiseyes pinned her down, his helmet's visor slid up for greater impact. He didn'tneed to say out loud what his body language said for him: "So, Bailey, areyou a prima donna or are you a team player?"

Liz wasn't stupid. She knew that as one of less than adozen women rescue swimmers, she was a rare breed. She was used to having toconstantly prove herself. She recognized the stakes in the water as well asthose in the helicopter. These were the men she'd have to trust to pull herback up when she dangled by a cable seventy feet below, out in the open, overangry seas, sometimes spinning in the wind.

Liz had learned early on that she was expected to performa number of complicated balancing acts. While it was necessary to be fiercelyindependent and capable of working alone, she also understood what thevulnerabilities were. Her life was ultimately in the hands of the crew above.Today and next week and the week after next, it would be these guys. And untilthey felt like she had truly proven herself, she would continue to be "therescue swimmer" instead of "our rescue swimmer."

Liz kept her hesitation to herself, avoided Wilson's eyes, and pretended to be more interested in checking out the water below. Shesimply listened. Inside her helmet, via the ICS (internal communicationsystem), Wilson started relaying their strategy, telling his copilot,Lieutenant Junior Grade Tommy Ellis, and their flight mechanic, AST3 PeteKesnick, to prepare for a direct deployment using the RS (rescue swimmer) andthe basket. He was already reducing their position from two hundred feet toeighty feet.

"Might just be an empty fishing cooler,"Kesnick said.

Liz watched him out of the corner of her eyes. Kesnick didn'tlike this, either. The senior member of the aircrew, Kesnick had a tannedweathered face with crinkle lines at his eyes and mouth that never changed,never telegraphed whether he was angry or pleased.

"Or it might be cocaine," Ellis countered."They found fifty kilos washed ashore someplace in Texas."

"McFaddin Beach," Wilson filled in."Sealed and wrapped in thick plastic. Someone missed a drop-off orpanicked and tossed it. Could be what we have here."

"Then shouldn't we radio it in and leave it for acutter to pick up?" Kesnick said as he glanced at Liz. She could tell hewas trying to let her know that he'd back her if she elected not to deploy.

Wilson noticed the glance. "It's up to you, Bailey.What do you want to do?"

She still didn't meet his eyes, didn't want to give himthe satisfaction of seeing even a hint of her reluctance.

"We should use the medevac board instead of thebasket," she said. "It'll be easier to slide it under the containerand strap it down."

Knowing he was surprised by her response, she simplyremoved her flight helmet, cutting off communication. If Ellis or Kesnick had something to say about her, she dared them to say it after her attempt atnonchalance.

She fingered strands of her hair back under her surf capand strapped on her lightweight Seda helmet. She attached the gunner's belt to her harness, positioned the quick strop over her shoulders, made sure to keep the friction slide close to the hoist hook. Finished, she moved to the door ofthe helicopter, squatted in position, and waited for Kesnick's signal.

She couldn't avoid looking at him. They had done thisroutine at least half a dozen times since she started at the air station. She suspected that Pete Kesnick treated her no differently than he had beentreating rescue swimmers for the last fifteen years of his career as a Coastieflight mechanic and hoist operator. Even now, he didn't second-guess her,though his steel-blue eyes studied her a second longer than usual before heflipped down his visor.

He tapped her on the chest, the signal for"ready"-two gloved fingers practically at her collarbone. Probablynot the same tap he used with male rescue swimmers. Liz didn't mind. It was a small thing, done out of respect more than anything else.

She released the gunner's belt, gave Kesnick a thumbs-upto tell him she was ready. She maintained control over the quick strop as hehoisted her clear of the deck. Then he stopped. Liz readjusted herself as thecable pulled tight. She turned and gave Kesnick another thumbs-up and descendedinto the rolling waters.

Without a survivor in the water Liz quickly assessed thesituation. The container was huge. By Liz's estimates, at least forty incheslong and twenty inches wide and deep. She recognized the battered whitestainless steel as a commercial-grade marine cooler. A frayed tie-down floatedfrom its handle bracket. Frayed, not cut. So maybe its owner hadn't intended toditch it, after all. She grabbed the tie-down, which was made of bright yellow-and-bluestrands twisted into a half-inch-thick rope, and looped it through her harnessto keep the cooler from bobbing away in the rotor wash of the helicopter.

She signaled Kesnick: her left arm raised, her right armcrossing over her head and touching her left elbow. She was ready for them todeploy the medevac board.

The bobbing container fought against her, pushing andpulling with each wave, not able to go any farther than the rope attached to herbelt allowed. It took two attempts but within fifteen minutes Liz had thefishing cooler attached to the medevac board. She cinched the restraints tight,hooked it to the cable, and raised her arm again, giving a thumbs-up.

No records broken, but by the time Kesnick hoisted herback into the helicopter, she could tell her crew was pleased. Not impressed,but pleased. It was a small step.

Lieutenant Commander Wilson still looked impatient. Lizbarely caught her breath, but yanked off her Seda helmet, exchanging it for herflight helmet with the communications gear inside. She caught Wilson in the middle of instructing Kesnick to open the latch.

"Shouldn't we wait?" Kesnick tried being thediplomat.

"It's not locked. Just take a peek."

Liz slid out of the way and to the side of the cabin,unbuckling the rest of her gear. She didn't want any part of this. As far asshe was concerned, her job was finished.

Kesnick paused and at first she thought he would refuse.He moved to her side and pushed back his visor, avoiding her eyes. The child-safetylatch slid back without effort but he had to use the palm of his hand to shovethe snap lock free. Liz saw him draw in a deep breath before he flung open thelid.

The first thing Liz noticed was the fish-measuring rulermolded into the lid. It seemed an odd thing to notice but later it would stickin her mind. A fetid smell escaped but it wasn't rotten fish. More like openinga Dumpster.

Inside she could see what looked like thick plastic wrapencasing several oblong objects, one large and four smaller. Not the squarebundles that might be cocaine.

"Well?" Wilson asked, trying to glance over his shoulder.

Kesnick poked at one of the smaller bundles with a glovedfinger. It flipped over. The plastic was more transparent on this side andsuddenly the content was unmistakable.

His eyes met Liz's and now the ever calm, poker-facedKesnick looked panicked.

"I think it's a foot," he said.

"What?"

"I think it's a goddamn human foot."


From the Hardcover edition.
Alex Kava

About Alex Kava

Alex Kava - Damaged

Photo © Deborah Groh Carlin

Alex Kava is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Maggie O’Dell series. Her thirteen books, including two stand-alone novels, have been published in more than twenty countries, appearing on bestseller lists in Britain, Australia, Poland, Germany, and Italy. She is the recipient of the Mari Sandoz Award and a member of International Thriller Writers. She divides her time between Omaha, Nebraska, and Pensacola, Florida.
Praise

Praise

“Read this gripping, can’t-put-it-down thriller.  O’Dell could be Reacher’s long lost twin.” —Lee Child

“Rip-roaring action that only builds in intensity with every page. . . . A true thriller!” —Tess Gerritsen

“Contains all the hard-core thrills her readers expect.” —Palm Beach Post
 
“This intense thriller builds to an eye-popping revelation that will leave fans eager for the sequel.” —Publishers Weekly 

“This action-packed thriller... will appeal to the adrenaline junkies.” —Booklist
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

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.

About the Guide

There’s no rest for the weary—or for the wicked, for that matter. FBI Special Agent Maggie O’Dell, criminal profiler, has no sooner washed the blood from her hair after busting a serial killer holed up in his torture chamber, when her phone rings and she’s off and running on her next terrifying adventure. This time, she’s teamed up with Homeland Security’s deputy director, Charlie Wurth. Their destination: the dead bull's-eye of a monster hurricane. A fishing cooler full of carefully packaged, severed body parts has been retrieved from the Gulf of Mexico by Coast Guard rescue swimmer Liz Bailey, and now the investigative team must race to unravel the mystery of the grisly find before Hurricane Isaac wreaks catastrophic damage on the Florida Panhandle.
 
Meanwhile, Maggie’s suitor, Colonel Benjamin Platt, fresh from Afghanistan, rushes to Florida as well, summoned to trace the source of an unidentified killer bacteria that is laying waste to wounded soldiers with frightening speed. And Liz Bailey’s spineless brother-in-law is hob-nobbing with a smooth-talking stranger who peddles body parts for the surgical conference circuit, and seems to have some unorthodox sourcing techniques. As the brutal, category five hurricane bears down on them all, Maggie O’Dell must connect the dots before any more bodies are dismembered.
 
Chock-full of Alex Kava’s trademark cliffhangers, hairpin twists, witty banter, macabre forensic details and fascinatingly offbeat characters, Damaged delivers a suspense tour de force that cries out for an immediate sequel.

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. Kava divides her time between Omaha, Nebraska, and Pensacola, Florida.

Discussion Guides

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.)

Suggested Readings

Alex Kava, A Perfect Evil; Split Second; The Soul Catcher; At the Stroke of Madness; A Necessary Evil; Exposed; Black Friday; Lee Child, 61 Hours; Worth Dying For; Persuader; The Enemy; The Hard Way; One Shot; Gone Tomorrow; Bad Luck and Trouble

  • Damaged by Alex Kava
  • May 24, 2011
  • Fiction - Suspense
  • Anchor
  • $7.99
  • 9780307474599

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