Monday, April 28, 2014

Blood Always Tells - Hilary Davidson
First line: "It didn't take Dominique Monaghan long to realize she wasn't cut out for the life of a criminal."

In Hilary Davidson's first foray into stand alones she gives a male the protagonist's role. Desmond Edgars drops everything in Chicago to fly to New York when he receives a bizarrely frantic phone call from his sister, Dominique. She's trying to warn her boyfriend's wife because she believes he's set up an intricate plan to have his wife murdered. Try as she may, she can't convince anyone to listen to her, so Desmond is her last resort. She needs his help. But when Desmond arrives in New York, he finds a different story altogether, and he's determined to unravel the pieces to find the truth.

In her fourth novel, Hilary Davidson has stepped away from her travel-writing series protagonist, Lily Moore, to feature a New York City model and her pilot brother. Even though they aren't traveling in exotic lands, setting still plays a vital role in the story. One of Davidson's established strengths, setting shapes the characters, sets the tone and impacts the plot, while simultaneously taking on symbolic roles. From a crumbling secluded cabin to Manhattan penthouses, readers will be transported to Davidson's world as though they're stepping into the pages themselves.

As with her previous novels, there are various layers to the story. On the surface is a classic mystery, and Davidson's intrigue with classic film noir comes through on this level. In another layer, she examines the timeless conflict of the haves versus the have nots--those with power and money pulling the strings on those without. This layer gives us our white hats and black hats. And then there are also several levels of the novel that connect with family. She adds complexity to her characters through this layer, examining family bonds and dysfuction and how those influence, even define a person. In these layers, Davidson turns more internally with her characters. She illustrates how the characters cope, overcome or succumb to the forces of family in all it's shapes, sizes and colors.

While I've presented the layering as though they're easily defined and broken apart, the reality is there's a elaborate blending of these layers. They exist in a symbiotic relationship that allows the whole book to function beautifully.

Readers may not find all the plot twists to be completely surprising, but the engagement with the novel's characters and their conflicts, as well as an underlying odyssey toward redemption, is what truly drives this story. Davidson may appreciate classic noir, but she's blazing new trails in the genre with each new book.

Blood Always Tells is available in hardcover from Forge (ISBN: 9780765333544). There is also an unabridged audio version (ISBN: 9781629234748), narrated by Kirsten Potter, available from Dreamscape Audio.


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