REVIEW: Evil in All Its Disguises

Evil in All Its Disguises by Hilary Davidson
Forge (352 pages)
March 5, 2013

Rating:  9 (Excellent!)

When travel writer Lily Moore signs on for an all-expenses-paid press trip to Acapulco, Mexico, she expects to spend a few days seeing the sights and being pampered in a ritzy hotel. She does not, however, expect for said ritzy hotel to be owned by her ex-fiancé. Or for fellow travel journalist Skye McDermott to vanish in the middle of dinner, just moments after dropping hints to Lily about a new exposé on which she’s working – an exposé that may or may not be about said ex-fiancé.  And yet…

Before Skye went missing, it was Lily’s plan to decamp to a new hotel ASAP. But since neither her fellow travelers nor the hotel staff will lift a finger to help her find her friend and the police in Mexico are notoriously corrupt, she decides that before she can leave, she must first endeavor to locate Skye herself. That task isn’t as simple as it sounds, though – particularly since it seems Lily’s been lured down to Acapulco under false pretenses and is now essentially a prisoner.

Evil in All Its Disguises is the third of Hilary Davidson’s Lily Moore novels, and it’s her best to date. A twisty, turny tale, full of cons within cons and feints within feints, Davidson’s latest is so compulsively readable, the pages practically turn themselves. Every time you think you've got it all figured out, the story takes another left turn and deposits you back at square one.  And Davidson’s cinematic storytelling style coupled with her prose – at once elegant and refined, yet still lush, vivid, and approachable – only adds to this book’s rather considerable charms.

Most people think of hotels as homes away from home; places of safety and refuge, where at the end of the day, you can lock your door and let your guard down, secure in the knowledge that you’re on friendly soil. In Evil in All Its Disguises, Davidson beautifully illustrates – and then mercilessly exploits – that concept, exploring what it means for one’s sanctuary to become a cell – and a claustrophobic one, at that.  The clouds are low, the air is close, and the hotel in which she’s being held captive is not only isolated, it’s practically deserted, all of which conspire to make it feel as though Lily's trapped in a twisted Hitchcockian nightmare.

Davidson tells this tale with a glorious economy of characters, which helps her to achieve two things.  First, it lends the book an air of intimacy and intensity, making the whole thing feel a bit like a locked-room mystery.  And second, it causes the reader to wonder whether he or she is truly watching a conspiracy unfold, or is instead witnessing Lily’s Poe-like descent into madness.  Because Lily is traveling alone and therefore lacks a trusted ally to ground her and lend her perspective, the reader has no way of knowing whether Lily’s single-minded obsession with Skye’s disappearance is warranted, or is just bugnuts insane. Lily’s suspicions are so elaborate, and she’s so intent on solving a mystery whose existence nobody else is even willing to grant, that you genuinely start to consider the possibility she’s delusional.  And while that’s not great for Lily, it definitely makes for entertaining reading. 

Do yourself a favor and add this one to the TBR pile, and stat.