Review: The Damage Done by PJ Parrish
The Damage Done by PJ Parrish is the 12th book in the Louis Kincaid Mystery series.
Louis Kincaid has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Having left the Michigan State Police force under a cloud in the mid-1980s, he’s been doing alright as a private investigator down in Florida, but the distance is hard on his relationships with his lover, Joe, and his daughter, Lily. So when he’s given the chance several years later to not only return to the state but also to take up his badge again as a member of an elite homicide squad, he’s equal parts excited and suspicious—especially since the invitation comes at the behest of the man who was responsible for driving him away in the first place.
Mark Steele has pulled a lot of strings to form his cold case squad, modeled after similar successful recent experiments in other cities. He’s handpicked four cops and an FBI liaison to work for him. While Louis is pleased to see at least one familiar, friendly face in the group, he’s also wary as to why Steele has brought them all together.
As their initial slate of cold cases is suddenly preempted by the high-profile murder of a prominent mega-church minister—a case that Steele has gone to great lengths to snag for his team—pressures and tempers rise, leading almost inevitably to a confrontation that reveals more about Louis than his captain:
“You stole those years from me,” Louis said. “You stole my career from me. And you didn’t even do it because you thought I was a dirty cop or had screwed up so bad I wasn’t redeemable.”
Louis drew a hard breath. “You did it because you lost control of a case and cops got killed and you needed someone to blame.”
Steele was silent for a moment, then said, “If that’s how you feel, why did you agree to work on my team?”
Louis reached into his pocket, pulled out his badge and held it up. “Because this is more important to me than you are.”
Silence waited. Louis waited, his heart and head pounding.
Steele gave him a tight nod. “Good,” he said. “Make sure you keep it that way. Goodnight, Louis.”
As Louis tries to reconcile his feelings for Steele with his feelings about resuming his career, he finds that his captain is perhaps more devious than even he was prepared for, especially when his cases begin to show alarming connections. Worse, his present-day investigations are unearthing painful childhood memories that force him to confront a past he thought he’d long left behind.
This complexity and depth of emotion really set apart The Damage Done from most of the police procedurals out there. I was genuinely moved by this tale, and only partly because I’m the mother of young boys myself. I was also struck by how well rendered the setting is. The book really brings to life the Michigan of the 1990s, portraying the often bleak beauty of its vast expanse, from the sparsely populated rural upstate to the alternating wealth and poverty of its more urban areas—and especially Detroit:
Thirty-some stories of rust-red brick and limestone, with a couple of Aztec—no, Indian figures—carved into the stone façade. Way up top, [Louis] could make out a needle-like spire and an American flag that was big enough to be seen from Canada. He looked around at the other nearby buildings. He’d forgotten how rich Detroit was in Gothic and Renaissance architecture, how distinctively jagged the city’s skyline was. Each building had its own character—intricate marble work, swanky gilded entrances, gargoyles and stone lion heads. Blight had eaten the fringe neighborhoods to the point that they resembled an apocalyptic movie set. But downtown, here amid these beautiful old buildings, Detroit was still breathing. Gasping maybe, but breathing.
The 12th Louis Kincaid Mystery is not only a love letter to the state of Michigan but also the perfect jumping on point for new readers like myself. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be putting PJ Parrish on your must-read list of authors of crime novels that are both intelligently crafted and emotionally compelling. As a bonus, the technological accuracy of the 1990s setting is a great reminder of how far we’ve come as a society, and it’s a really nice touch that the technophile in me absolutely loved.