Who out there has got some special plans for Tuesday? Is anybody taking a romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day? Yeah? You got a favorite spot that you know or are you heading into exotic and unfamiliar territory? If the latter, I’d recommend purchasing a travel guide to help you navigate the foreign shores and to make sure you don’t miss any of the best sites and unique opportunities your destination affords. Might I further suggest you trust the knowing expertise of Hilary Davidson who’s written a score or so of those in her career to date? I'd also suggest steering clear of any written by her fictional counterpart Lily Moore – nothing personal, Lily, but I’d rather not travel in your wake.
Moore, the intrepid travel-writing heroine of Davidson’s books just can’t catch a break. Following the devastating events of her debut, in The Damage Done, Lily is in bad need of a good time, or at least a change of scenery, which is why she finds herself in beautiful Peru with her best friend Jesse. Ah, the sights, the sounds, the smells… ugh, something smells like a trail of corpses. S’right, wherever she go, trouble do follow. No sooner does she arrive in Machu Picchu, but she stumbles across a dying woman lying at the bottom of an ancient stone staircase who just has time to tell Lily the name of her killer (who gave her a little push) before expiring.
'Course things are more complicated than Lily merely pointing an accusing finger. Wouldn’t you know it, the official ruling on the woman’s death is ‘accident’. If you know Lily, you know that won’t stand, and if you know Hilary, you know that nothing is gonna be quite what it first appears. That's what I like about Davidson, her gifts for setting and character and narrative ultimately serve her mastery of manipulation. She has spooky insight into her readers' expectations - by page, by scene, by book - and an uncanny knack for dodging and subverting them only to meet and exceed them at the moment of her choosing.
Even as her plots push relentlessly foreword, Davidson deftly drops insights into her characters' make up, their psychological grids are revealed and concealed with terrific finesse, teasing suggestion and sometimes shocking declaration. The dark places she explores near the nexus of sex and violence are finely balanced by Lily herself - who, while certainly not shadow-free, has such an appealing and nearly catching appetite for life. I like my sulky, cynical street cops watching their bodies and spirits slowly feed the grind, but it's a bit of fresh air to encounter someone as open-hearted as Lily in stories this dark without ever feeling like an anachronism (after all, who else, but food and culture and history loving types with a yen to experience everything would be so adept as travel writers?).
With The Next One to Fall Davidson proves her Anthony Award winning debut was no fluke, and further secures her place at the top of any list of fresh new voices in mystery.
Jedidiah Ayres writes fiction and keeps the blog Hardboiled Wonderland.
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