If a mysterious murder, an exotic locale and a heroine obsessed with justice sound to you like the ingredients of a great crime novel, then NEXT ONE TO FALL by Hilary Davidson is the book for you.
In the Lost City of the Incas in Peru, travel writer Lily Moore finds a dying woman who names her killer with her last breath. From that premise Davidson spins a tightly wound tale that will keep you guessing to the end.
Like Lily Moore, author Davidson is a travel journalist. While she shares some similarities with her fictional character, Davidson says there are also definite differences.
“Lily’s life is much more glamorous than mine,” Davidson says. “We’ve traveled to many of the same places, but while I enjoyed visiting Spain, she actually pulled up stakes and moved there. We both write travel guidebooks and magazine articles, and we both love vintage clothing. We also love old movies, but Lily is more obsessed with them than I am.”
In the novel, the evidence refutes what Lily heard from the dead woman, but she just can’t accept the official ruling of accidental death. Instead, Lily hunts down the dead woman’s wealthy traveling companion, who is linked to a series of dead and missing women. That hunt leads Lily to more exotic locations but, while the novel is indeed atmospheric, Davidson doesn’t think that’s due to just the foreign places it features.
“Much of the atmosphere has to do with the mood of the character, and finding what resonates with her,” Davidson says. “There’s a scene in THE NEXT ONE TO FALL where Lily is standing in a church overlooking the central plaza in the city of Cusco. Lily notices some very old grave markers that are set into the plaza. Loss and death are very much on her mind, so that’s what she sees. There’s so much you could write about a setting, objectively speaking, so what guides me is how the setting is affecting my characters.”
Davidson shows us a character obsessed with getting justice for the missing women, and she pursues that justice without regard for the consequences. This intense and emotional theme might surprise readers who were already familiar with Davidson from her eighteen nonfiction books. But she says that writing fiction and nonfiction are completely different experiences.
“The nonfiction books I’ve written are mostly guidebooks, which are very information-heavy, and structure and organization are key,” Davidson says. “The main challenge there was how to present that information in a way that would be entertaining. With a novel or short story, I’m obsessed with the characters and try to really get inside their heads. More than anything, I want to know what makes them do the things they do, especially when they make a bad choice. I sometimes make jokes about “method writing”, which is similar to method acting, in that you really get lost in the character’s mind. But I genuinely do get wrapped up in my characters’ lives, especially while I’m writing a first draft of a novel.”
Despite her focus on character, Davidson does admit that in her Lily Moore work, the location is extremely important.
“I wanted to choose a place that was unfamiliar to Lily, partly because it makes her more vulnerable to be in a completely foreign setting. Also, I fell in love with Peru when I visited the country. I spent three weeks there, and I saw Machu Picchu, the Inca city that the Spanish never found, as well as the Sacred Valley, the Inca capital city of Cusco, the modern capital of Lima… so many beautiful places I wanted to explore in the book.”
Like any great mystery setting, Davidson says that Peru is both very beautiful and a dangerous place: The Inca sites have huge steep staircases where people die in falls; the thin air of the Andes mountains can cause altitude sickness; and visitors may be the targets of pickpockets and worse.
The first Lily Moore book, THE DAMAGE DONE, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and a Crimespree award, so it’s no surprise that Lily will return in a third novel next year. If you like to get in on the ground floor of a great new series, it’s not too late to make friends with Lily Moore in THE NEXT ONE TO FALL.
Hilary Davidson won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel for THE DAMAGE DONE. The book also earned a Crimespree Award and was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis and Macavity awards. Hilary’s widely acclaimed short stories have been featured in publications from Ellery Queen to Thuglit, and in many anthologies. A Toronto-born travel journalist and the author of eighteen nonfiction books, she has lived in New York City since October 2001.
To learn more about Hilary, please visit her website.