Damaged Souls. Sandra M. Colbert. Chicago: Windy City Publishers, October 11, 2017,
Trade Paperback, 225 pages.
Reviewed by David Steven Rappoport.
Ultimately, there are two kinds of detective novels: compelling and complacent.
Damaged Souls by Sandra M. Colbert is a heart-pounder. This story of a horrible crime
and its impact is a highly enjoyable read. It will keep you on the beach compulsively
turning the pages long past the protection of your SPF lotion.
Damaged Souls is the second novel in the Kate Harrison detective series, and it is far
better crafted than the first. After many years on the Phoenix police force, Kate is
haunted by a particularly dark crime, the murder of an infant, and as a result has left her
job. She has relocated to the northern Illinois town of Harley, where she is on a Chicago
commuter train when a man is discreetly murdered. Although she doesn’t know the
victim, he knows her; in fact, he’s left multiple messages on her cell phone. Thus, the
murders begin in this gnarled tale of a crime wrongly then correctly solved. It is the sort
of depraved saga that even a Jacobean theatergoer would appreciate—pitiless revenge,
drug-induced insanity, pervasive corruption, sexual enslavement, and desperate fear,
among other tragic delights—and the emotional slashes that result from all these that
cannot be forgotten or removed. No one in this novel has been spared a damaged soul.
Colbert is on her way to mastering the crime genre. The prose is lean and driven, the plot
is forceful, and transitions in time and place are handled with ease. The characters are
well-delineated and distinct. There is, perhaps, one formal element of the book that might
trouble the purist. That is the resolution of a romantic subplot, which, though written
convincingly, continues long past the resolution of the crime. But this is a relatively
minor matter and may even be enjoyable for the reader who reads crime fiction for
character as much as plot.
Damaged Souls is a deliciously dark crime novel that any reader who enjoys this genre
will savor. I look forward to the next book in the series—and the one after that.