December 1991 was a terrible month for spy novelists. By New Year’s Eve, the Cold War was over and suddenly we were without a tangible enemy. Russia still has its issues, but they aren’t referred to as “commies” the way the heroine of Damage Control does at one point. If it weren’t for the highly advanced technology used, it would have been easy to see this book taking place during the height of the Cold War – not 20 years after it ended.
The story has several plot lines that eventually intertwine. Dr. Olivia Corrigan is part of a top-secret branch of the National Security Administration that investigates supernatural phenomena and legends. Here she’s in search of the truth behind a legend of an Irish princess and a rock or stone of some kind that has superpowers, maybe of the Fountain of Youth variety. Research has taken her to the Arctic Circle and a Viking ship frozen in the ice. However, when one of her researchers is kidnapped, a simple scientific expedition turns out to be a whole lot more.
Sebastian Fontenot is a member of what is best described as a mercenary group, but without the negative connotations. He doesn’t always follow the rules, but gets the job done and doesn’t cause unnecessary harm. The scientist kidnapped also happens to be one of his closest friends and a paternal figure, so of course he and his group are out to find him. Much to his surprise, the investigation brings him to his ex-wife Olivia. As they work together to find their mutual friend, the situation complicates, bringing in Russian conspiracies, the mafia in Chechnya, ancient Nordic trade routes, and a few crazy Russians looking for revenge.
The book is super complicated. A whole hell of a lot is going on, and to be honest I couldn’t follow it most of the time. There are a lot of characters, a lot of political groups, a lot of countries, and a lot of acronyms that are never explained. Clearly the author knows what she’s talking about. She has a military background, and it shows. But I, a student of International Relations and History, had a hard time keeping up with her. She didn’t slow down for a second to explain things that aren’t general knowledge. This certainly made for a fast paced story but it also meant I had to resign myself to not knowing everything that’s happening.
That said, if she had just given a bit more background and explanation, this would have been a really great, complex, multi-faceted romantic suspense. You have to give Ms. Fetzer props for tying in so many different things that, eventually, did make sense. It was well written and dynamic, fast paced and exciting. Olivia and Sebastian had good chemistry and a good relationship, but I wished it had taken more of a role earlier in the novel.
While I wouldn’t classify this book as paranormal, there are certainly some supernatural aspects to it. It definitely requires a bit of suspension of disbelief — not just about the Irish princess/sorceress legend, but also some of the international dynamics. I don’t think Russia would have attacked the U.S. with biological weapons a few years ago, which is something the plot hinges on. (Maybe this level of disbelief stems from my academic background — I can’t imagine the average person would care too much about this.) But overall, despite my criticism, it was a good story, and I recommend Damage Control — even if it’s a qualified recommendation.