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The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326980
Date: 14 February 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Lilly Moore is vacationing in Peru, hiking the Inca Trail with her BFF Jesse Robb. She is hoping to forget about the murder of her sister Claudia, a drug addict. Unfortunately, while sightseeing at the temple ruins of Machu Picchu, they hear a heated argument, followed by a scream, and discover a young woman, Trista Deen, lying at the bottom of a stone staircase. With her dying breath, Trista, whose arms are scarred with needle tracks, tells Lilly that Len Wolven is responsible. Because Trista reminds her of Claudia, Lilly is determined to have the wealthy, insane Len punished. However, she and Jesse soon find themselves trapped in a sticky web of drugs, deceit, and murder. If Lilly isn't careful, she'll become another beautiful woman to die or disappear because of the Wolven family.

Hilary Davidson weaves another tale of drugs and deception in the bizarre sequel to her award-winning mystery, The Damage Done. Lilly Moore travels from the dizzying, man-made skyscrapers of New York City to the beautiful, God-made mountains of Peru. The spectacular views and high altitudes will literally take your breath away. Her quest to find a young woman's killer will force her into the clutches of the ultimate dysfunctional family. On numerous occasions, her life is in jeopardy. She finds herself constantly surrounded by deceitful, lying people; it is difficult for both her and the reader to determine who is her friend or foe. Throughout the storyline, I was held in suspense, especially during the nail-biting game of tortuous Russian roulette. However, the novel ended on an unrealistic note that was too "happily ever after" for me. Justice, I felt, had not been properly meted out to those villains who deserved it.

The author, much like her heroine, is an attractive writer of travel guides. She dazzled me with her meticulous descriptions of the natural wonders, the ancient ruins, and the Andean natives of Peru. The exotic, isolated, oftentimes dangerous, locale of Cusco, Peru, made an excellent environment in which to thrust Lilly who already felt isolated because of the deaths of all her family members. The only one left in the world for her to trust is her BFF Jesse Robb.

After reading The Next One to Fall, I would love to visit Peru, even though it is the second largest grower of cocaine in South America, after Columbia, and is famous for on-line gambling. However, there are the numerous cathedrals with their fantastic artwork consisting of elaborate murals, portraits and frescoes. I was most fascinated by Santa Catalina, which is a convent that was converted into an art museum. Also of interest is the architecture; because Peru experiences many earthquakes, windows are constructed in the shapes of trapezoids in lieu of rectangles.

Besides having a unique setting, The Next One to Fall has unique characters. Len Wolven is a psychotic young man who takes many prescription drugs. On top of that, he indulges heavily into alcohol and illegal drugs, chiefly cocaine. On top of that, he partakes of natural hallucinogens that are legal in Peru, such as Ayahuasca. This man is totally messed up. The Next One to Fall is full of drug abusers. After reading it, I won't ever look at an aspirin the same way again. This novel is aptly titled. I couldn't help but wonder who would be the next one to fall literally from a mountain or fall figuratively into a state of suicidal depression. Once again, we learn that money, even billions and billions of dollars, doesn't buy happiness. It only buys more ways to make us unhappy.

I must thank Hilary Davidson for giving readers the gay character of Jesse Robb who is truly unique. Most of the gay men I read about are either bitter, hate-filled atheists or flamboyant, effeminate clowns. It is obvious that Jesse has spent more time reading the Bible than many straight Christians I know. I agree with him wholeheartedly; though there are many parts of the Bible that might be misconstrued or misinterpreted, there are many that are absolutely clear in their intentions. For example, Jesus was very adamant that we love each other. Jesse's encounters with the fanatical Elinor Bargeman were hilarious; I kept waiting for him to lose his cool but he didn't. Looking like a young Gregory Peck, Jesse is handsome, brave and a devoted friend to Lilly. It's no wonder that many people think they're romantically involved.

Overall, The Next One to Fall is a strong sequel to The Damage Done. In fact, I believe I enjoyed the sequel much more, primarily because of its exotic locale and cast of very strange characters. According to Hilary Davidson's personal website, her third, as yet unnamed, novel will once again feature Lilly Moore; this time the amateur sleuth will be solving the disappearance of a tourist at an Acapulco resort.

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