Review: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (April 15, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0765333546
  • Source: Publisher

Dominique Monaghan is involved with a married man. Gary Cowan is a former boxer with a history of sketchy behavior. She knows his marriage to socialite Trin Lytton-Jones is a farce and comes up with an elaborate plan to drug him so she can get him to admit it on tape. Instead she gets mixed up in a kidnapping scheme, trapped in an isolated home with no means of escaping. Out of desperation, she calls upon the only person upon which she can truly depend: her brother Desmond.

Desmond has played the role of father to Dominique since their mother was convicted of killing their father many years ago. Desmond is used to Dominique’s out of control behavior,  yet this time something in her voices raises a red flag and he rushes to her rescue.

Upon arriving, Desmond is met with a completely unexpected scene. In order to find out what happened to his sister, he must wade through the deception surrounding Cowan and his marriage. In doing so, he uncovers a slew of lies and attempted murders, all in the name of family fortune.  This situation also forces Desmond to reflect upon his past and sacrifices made to protect  him and his sister.

Blood Always Tells is Davidson’s first standalone novel. As a fan of her previous novels (The Damage Done, The Next One To Fall, and Evil in all its Disguises) and her short story collection, The Black Widow Club, I can honestly say that this novel is her best ever. It is quite a feat to state this because her work is so tremendous; she excels at taking her readers through a labyrinth of plot twists and turns, all ending in a completely surprising conclusion. 

This is replicated in Blood Always Tells.  At the onset of the novel, the reader assumes Dominique will be the main protagonist. Instead, out of the blue, comes her brother Desmond to take over in this role. I was taken aback initially but was genuinely enraptured by Desmond’s character.

A former army chopper pilot, Desmond has carried the weight of family secrets for many years. He has great feelings of guilt and remorse for what transpired. Instead of allowing it to get him down, he does his best to be the most supportive big brother Dominique can have. Unfortunately, the passage of time does nothing to alleviate these feelings of guilt and they weigh heavily on him, even now, decades later.

Davidson used Desmond’s character as a counter-weight against another family with a less than typically family life. Desmond shines through as a bright light what could have potentially been a dark and chilling storyline.  That’s not to say he doesn’t have his faults; he has plenty. It is the integrity of his character that allows him to rise up and overcome his difficult past. Characters like this are a characteristic of Davidson’s writing; in each she takes you on a wild journey, introducing you to the worst members of society with that one character that serves as a ray of hope amidst all the chaos and depravity.

Honestly, my raves about this novel could go on and on.  There are so many facets of  it that I found outstanding, from the character development to the webs of deceit.  I intentionally strung out my read of this novel for I simply didn’t want it to end.  This is a must read of fans of mystery/thrillers with strongly developed characters, prepared to embark upon a thrill ride of a read. Highly, highly recommended!

Note: I do consider the author to be a good friend of mine. I, among many, many others, are thanked in her acknowledgements. That said, this in no way influenced my review of this book.

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Review: Drift by Jon McGoran

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; 1 edition (July 9, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0765334704
  • Source: Publisher

Doyle Carrick, a narcotics investigator for the Philadelphia police, loses both his mother and his step-father in a matter of weeks. The emotional turmoil sends him spiraling out of control and Doyle finds himself on a twenty-day suspension.  No other plans in mind, Doyle heads to the house he has inherited in rural Pennsylvania. Surrounded by farmland, it seems as though Doyle has found the perfect oasis from his life in Philadelphia. When he meets Nola Watkins, an organic farmer next door, he learns life in this small town isn’t as idyllic as it seems; a large development company is pressuring residents to sell their property.  Nola, desperate to cultivate her crops, has refused despite endless anonymous phone calls and threatening texts. Doyle soon realizes that crime has its way of following him and, despite his suspension, commences an investigation into the mysterious corporation.

Doyle’s pace quickens when suspicious heroin overdoses, one deadly, hit far too close to those around him. Then, dozens of citizens are suddenly struck with strange, flu-like symptoms.  Doyle can’t avoid the possibility that all of these incidents are connected somehow, the commonality being the strange tented field adjacent to his parents’ home. Risking his career and his life, Doyle dives headfirst into an unauthorized investigation that reveals a reality far deadlier than he could have ever fathomed.

McGoran has created in Drift a novel that melds the tone and feel of a thriller with the true-to-life world of genetically-alterned food. I guarantee you will think twice before picking up a random piece of fruit or vegetable after reading this novel. That said, the “lesson” the author has embedded in this novel doesn’t outweigh or overpower the intense plot and storyline.

On the surface, there isn’t much to like about Doyle’s character.  He obviously has very little regard for authority, given his suspension and refusal lay low until his punishment is over.  That said, there is a soft-side to his tough man facade, a vulnerable man dealing with the loss of the last two people that meant anything to him.  Additionally, after losing his mother and step-father, he has come to appreciate the quiet calm of country life and the livelihood that farming has given to residents of the small Pennsylvania town.  Although this quiet peaceful life is no longer an option for his loved ones, he can guarantee it to those that live on after they do.

If you are looking for a thriller with bit of “social” substance, a message, I highly recommend this one!  Thank you to TLC book tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour! Please be sure to check out the other stops in the tour!

Frightful Friday: Evil in All Its Disguises by Hilary Davidson

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. This week’s featured title is Evil in All Its Disguises by Hilary Davidson:

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (March 5, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 076533352X
  • Source: Publisher

Travel writer Lily Moore and a group of other journalists go on an all-expense-paid trip to Acapulco, Mexico. It isn’t long after she arrives that Lily realizes the paradise she is expecting is instead replaced by death and doom. The hotel they are staying in, the Hotel Cerón, is remote and far from the rest of town. Despite the hotel’s supposed popularity there don’t seem to be many guests and the armed guards and extremely watchful staff are disconcerting.

Another journalist on the trip, Skye McDermott, picks up on the ominous feel of the hotel. She asks Lily for her help on writing an article, eluding to revenge. Shortly after she speaks these words she goes missing. Lily informs the hotel staff who don’t seem to be concerned about Skye’s disappearance. They insist that she’s checked out of the hotel but Lily is hesitant to believe them. It is when she herself attempts to leave the hotel that she realizes that she is prisoner, involved in something much more than just the fraud and corruption that Skye alluded to.  Lily must confront her painful past and summon all her inner strength in order to escape, saving not only her life but the life of others as well.

Evil in All Its Disguises is the third in the Lily Moore series. While it’s not necessary to read the series in order, it is best to in order to truly grasp the history of pain and loss dealt to young Lily. This is by far my favorite of the series, only because Davidson is so visual and detailed in her writing that she has the reader questioning Lily’s sanity. Is she truly bait in a plot for revenge or is her past with the hotel’s owner tainting her feelings and observations about what is transpiring? Additionally, while the actions that transpire take place in the span of a few days, the intensity in the plot makes it feel as though a lifetime has passed since Lily has walked through the doors of the hotel.

Davidson excels at creating a protagonist that is both incredibly strong but also has a weak, vulnerable side.  The truly rewarding part of this series as a whole is Lily’s ability to rise above her painful past to rise above and overcome the challenges dealt to her. Lily Moore has come to be one of my favorite female main characters in thriller fiction, one that I continue to root for as long as Davidson continues to write about her. What stands out for me about Davidson as an author is that, with each book, she continues to impress me with her talent, proving to be an author I can rely upon to truly entertain me with her writing. I know each time I pick up one of her novels that I will be transported to a truly breathtaking setting, captivated by a truly intense plot. If you are looking for a truly addictive thriller series with a incredibly genuine protagonist, this is the series for you. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 076533233
  • Source: Publisher

November 9, 1938 is a well-known date in world history. Also known as Kristallnacht, a night of terror for Jews living in Germany, the night Nazi’s unleash a new sort of terror. Dr. Franz Adler, a renowned surgeon, is desperate to find a place of safety for his family, especially after his brother is found lynched. So, with his daughter, his recently widowed sister-in-law, and friend they find refuge in the unlikeliest of places, Shanghai. The cost of leaving Germany is a hefty ones. Luckily for them, Nazi’s want to rid Germany of Jews so they are granted permission to leave the country they called home.

In Shanghai, Franz finds work at a refugee hospital. The doctors there feel truly privileged to have a doctor of his skill, willing to assist. There he meets Soon Yi “Sunny” Mah, a young nurse that has devoted her time to aiding the injured refuges. The safety they hoped for isn’t guaranteed in Shanghai, however.  As the Chinese city becomes the last source of hope for thousands of European Jews, the Japanese Imperial army storms through China, taking control of Shanghai.

The chemistry between Franz and Sunny is strong but the situation brewing around is a damper to any sort of romantic relationship. As Franz struggles to survive in this political minefield, the Hippocratic Oath he took as a doctor is constantly on his mind when he’s asked to save the life of the enemy. He’s torn between doing what is right, as a doctor, and what the repercussions will be if those near and dear to him find out he was aiding the enemy.

The Far Side of the Sky is a truly remarkable political thriller, focusing on a period of history that, while is very familiar to many of us, has aspects that were not known to many. This reviewer was aware of the horrible tragedies that took place during Kristallnacht but had no knowledge of Shanghai serving as a refuge for European Jews.

The extent of Kalla’s research into these events is truly compelling. The detail he uses to express these historical facts is tremendous. One can almost forget that this took place over seventy years ago for the world Kalla creates makes the reader feel immersed in the terror experienced by the main characters.

This is not to say that the subject matter of this novel is dreary and depressing. There is a great deal of passion and determination at the hands of Franz. He emotion he feels for his daughter and his tormented family is real, vivid. The care and generosity shown by the Chinese and European Jews, both in similar circumstances, is heartwarming.

The page count of this novel may be overwhelming for many, but in my opinion shortening this book would take away from the important historical facts that need to be retold, building of characters that need to slowly evolve, not rushed.

The Far Side of the Sky is a truly rewarding novel of hope, perseverance, forcing the reader to contemplate how they would react, put in the same situations in which Franz was forced to deal.  Highly, highly recommended.

Check back later today for a post about my opportunity to meet to meet Daniel Kalla at an event at my favorite independent bookstore!

Review: The Next One To Fall by Hilary Davidson

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (February 14, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0765326981
  • Source: Publisher

Three months after the events of The Damage Done, travel writer Lily Moore is still grieving the loss of her sister. Her best friend, photographer Jesse Robb, convinces her to join him on a trip to Peru. Lily reluctantly agrees. Not long after their arrival, Jesse and Lily are visiting Machu Picchu, the famous Lost City of the Incas, when they find a woman, at the brink of death, laying at the base of an ancient stone staircase.  With her last breaths, she tells Lily the name of the man who killed her.

When the local police arrive and begin their investigation, the evidence they uncover doesn’t match what Lily experienced. They are prepared to rule it out as a suicide, the woman a drug addict. Unable to accept this, partially due to her own experience with a drug addict in her family, Lily begins her own investigation, hunting down the woman’s travel companion. In doing so, she reveals a history of series of dead or missing women, all tied to this man.  She soon discovers the police aren’t the only individuals who would like this “crime” swept under the carpet, and both she and Jesse embark upon an incredibly dangerous journey to seek justice for these women.

Davidson’s own experience as a travel writer shines through in her beautifully detailed writing. The setting is painted so vividly for the reader, even the most mundane details and sites sound exquisite.  As with her previous book, The Next One to Fall is an incredibly exciting, pulse-pounding book,  led by an incredibly strong and unrelenting female character. The grief Lily experiences is fuel for the passion she has in seeking justice for the victims of this dangerous man.  Full of unexpected twists and turns, ending with the reader hoping (and expecting) more, this is a novel and an author you can’t afford to miss out on. Highly recommended!

Following are some pictures the author took on her own visit to Peru during her research for this book. Absolutely breathtaking!