Rebecca James' Sweet Damage thrills and surprises

Photo Credit - Alpha Reader

Rebecca James' is an Australian novelist and publishing-industry celebrity whose difficult-to-pigeonhole first novel, Beautiful Malice, became a publishing sensation and her life the thing that all writers dream of. That novel was the subject of a bidding war, and the publishing rights were eventually sold in 52 countries!

Her second book, Sweet Damage, has slipped onto the scene much more quietly, but it is a terrific read, and in many ways superior to that first sensation. It is a taut psychological thriller that slips occasionally into classic whodunit territory in its tale of Anna London, a frail, agoraphobic heiress whose life is slowly falling apart as she comes to terms with her horrific past.

As well as being immensely readable, Sweet Damage is also a fun homage to so many of the characters in film and literature who have inhabited this space of borderline insanity. I think of the films of Hitchcock and the novel Rebecca, particularly as the action in this book place takes place in an enormous mansion in Sydney's Manly, and its rooms, corridors and attics are all an intrinsic part of the storyline.

James' characters seem so quintessentially Australian to me that I wonder what other countries must make of them. Our hero is a laconic surfer boy intent on frittering  away his 20s with a series of hot girlfriendsa and hopeless jobs. He is a thoroughly believable character - indeed, I know several people I think she based him on. It is this character - Tim Ellison - who falls into the orbit of the frail and creepy Anna, and who is himself haunted by spectres that may or may not be of supernatural origin. He is on the rebound from Lilla, a sexy and sassy Manly girl who has her eye on the bigger prize and has dumped him because he doesn't earn enough money.

There is romance, inevitably and wonderfully, and also some sex, which leaves Sweet Damage in the same equivocal space as Beautiful Malice - is this adult fiction or YA? Most probably it is that new breed, "New Adult," but I am happy for Rebecca or her publisher to put me right here. This tension works, I think, very well as a narrative device. Like the book's young characters, we are never very certain what territory we are inhabiting. Is there more or less than meets the eye here?

I gave away several copies of Rebecca's first novel, and in every case the readers came back to me raving about the exciting plot and pacy story. They are all hanging out to read Sweet Damage, so she's doing something right to satisfy her fans.

If you are looking for some escapist reading with a thrilling plotline, you will absolutely love Sweet Damage. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.


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