REVIEW: The Next One to Fall

The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson
Forge, February 2012

Rating: 9/10

Travel writer Lily Moore and her best friend, photographer Jesse Robb, traveled to Peru to see the sights, hike the Inca Trail, and shake off the dark cloud that’s been trailing Lily ever since tragedy rocked her world just three months prior.  It seems a carefree vacation is not the cards for the pair, however, for when they reach Machu Picchu, they happen across a woman clinging to life in the ruins.  Jesse runs to get help, but the woman’s beyond saving, and before she passes, she tells Lily the name of her killer and implores her to share this information with the police.

The local authorities conduct a brief investigation and ultimately rule the death an accident, but Lily’s convinced there’s more to the story.  Jesse begs her to let the matter drop, but Lily refuses, and before long, the two find themselves ensnared in a web the likes of which they may never escape – a web of violence, lies, money, and murder.

The Next One to Fall is the sequel to author Hilary Davidson’s stellar debut, The Damage Done, and it’s quite simply a fantastic read.  Equal parts action-adventure thriller and classic paranoia tale (with a touch of Peruvian travelogue thrown in for good measure), Davidson’s latest is an intelligent, atmospheric, heart-stopping tour-de-force, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.  The prose is graceful, the pace is electric, and the mystery will keep you guessing until the very end.

The book has a timeless quality to it that, when coupled with the exotic locale and the story’s quiet air of menace, puts me in mind of Katherine Neville’s The Eight, and Davidson’s plot is positively Hitchcockian; rife with staircases, trains, mistaken identities, and charming sociopaths, everybody’s lying about something and everyone’s got an agenda, making it impossible for Lily (or the reader) to determine who – if anyone – can be trusted.

What I find most impressive about this book, though, is the way Davidson uses the fact of the mystery, itself, as a plot device.  The Lily we meet at the start of this book is a ghost of her former self; unable to come to grips with all that’s happened to her, she’s drifting through life on autopilot, keeping everything and everyone at arm’s length.  But while the events of The Damage Done served to tear Lily down, that which transpires over the course of The Next One to Fall is what builds her back up, and in that sense, this book is as much an origin story as it is a mystery.