Novel: Damage Time by Colin Harvey

I like Angry Robot books. There’s something appealing about their fusion of comforting, mass-market packaging and elbowy, in-your-face 21st century attitude. It’s probably because of this that I picked up Damage Time (2010) by Colin Harvey, an author with whom I’m otherwise unfamiliar. I understand he passed away just this summer; it’s a shame we won’t get to see more of his energetic authorial voice.

Damage Time is a gritty, near-future police procedural about Detective Pete Shah, a New York City cop who specializes in analyzing the recorded memories of homicide victims in order to identify and track down the perpetrators. Shah, a 70-year-old on the last legs of his career, stumbles into a frame when he encounters an attractive prostitute named Aurora, and wakes up the prime suspect in a murder case. Shah’s investigation puts him on the trail of a brutal criminal whose M.O. involves cruelly stealing the memories of his victims.

Like Angry Robot, Damage Time  is an interesting blend of both old-school and contemporary sensibilities. It mixes a nostalgic-feeling, big city gumshoe mystery with sharp-eyed, gritty near-future world-building. In Shah and Aurora, Harvey presents an odd and unique relationship, and the prose crackles along briskly. That said, while the novel reads quickly enough at the sentence level, it’s perhaps a bit inelegant structurally, and definitely overlong; it felt to me like the story could have resolved itself more quickly than it does. But overall, a fun, agreeable read.

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