The Ones Who Didn’t Get Away by Hilary Davidson

Though no stranger to those familiar with the world of crime fiction short stories, where she had been publishing successfully since 2007, Hilary Davidson announced herself to the world at large in 2010 with her full-length debut, The Damage Done. The book went on to rack up a ton of accolades and make countless best of the year lists, including mine, and with good reason. Tomorrow will see the release of Hilary’s follow up, The Next One to Fall, along with my review of it. Today, however, Hilary has stopped by to talk about the inspiration behind The Next One to Fall.

Hilary Davidson

Hilary at Machu Picchu in the Cusco Region of Peru

My second novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, is being released on Valentine’s Day — an ironic date, given that the book is anything but romantic. At the center of the story is a man who grew up in a wealthy, powerful family; his wives and girlfriends have a tendency to die or disappear in exotic places.

While I was writing the book, I occasionally wondered if people would think that idea too far-fetched. But at the same time, I was keenly aware of stories about women who’d been killed — or who had vanished — while traveling. There were three women in particular whose cases resonated with me, and I ended up mentioning them in the book.

One is Julie Ward, a wildlife photographer who was murdered in Kenya in 1988. The authorities, not wanting to disrupt their tourist trade, tried to pretend her death was a suicide, as if Ward had decided to hack herself apart with a machete. When that explanation was shown to be patently false, the authorities then blamed her death on wild animals. To this day, no one has been convicted of the crime, even though private investigators and Ward’s family have built a substantial case against a Kenyan man. Ward’s death was a terrible reminder that, in parts of the world that are dependent on their tourist trade, the desire to maintain the status quo can outweigh the desire for justice.

The other two women I mention are Natalee Holloway, the 18-year-old who disappeared in Aruba in 2005, and Stephany Flores Ramírez, a young woman who was murdered in Peru in 2010. Both Holloway and Flores were victims of the same man, a student from Holland named Joran van der Sloot. He was only 17 when Holloway vanished; while he was detained in that case, he hasn’t been convicted. He has confessed to, and was convicted of, Flores’ murder, and is now serving a 28-year sentence in Peru. It is believed that Holloway is deceased — on January 12, 2012, an Alabama judge declared her legally dead — but because Van der Sloot is believed to have sold other young women into sexual slavery, that possibility has been explored as well. Vander der Sloot has confessed, at different times, to different scenarios involving Holloway’s death or abduction, but he has retracted each statement.

The Ones Who Didn’t Get Away by Hilary DavidsonI didn’t want to explore any of these cases in fiction — the story in THE NEXT ONE TO FALL doesn’t mirror any real-life case — but they were in my mind as I wrote. When I’ve traveled in South America, I’ve seen small shrines marking spots beside roads and highways, often at hairpin turns; they are put there by friends and family of people who’ve died in accidents, to warn others. Ward, Holloway and Flores are like warning beacons who forced me to keep in mind how vulnerable travelers can be, especially young female travelers. That’s something that I’ve never wanted to think about when I’ve been on the road, especially not while traveling alone.

The last thing I would want is for anyone to read about the dark side of travel and feel as if they shouldn’t explore the world. Travel does involve some risks, and those risks are well worth taking. The real danger is in not knowing whom to trust.

HIlary Davidson’s first short story was published by Thuglit in June 2007. It was called “Anniversary,” and it went on to be included in the anthology A Prisoner of Memory and 24 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. Since then Hilary has published stories in Beat to a Pulp, Crimespree, A Twist of Noir, Crime Factory, Spinetingler, Needle, The Rose & Thorn, and The Feral Pages. She’s also written nearly 20 non-fiction travel books. The Next One to Fall is the sequel to her debut novel, The Damage Done. To learn more about Hilary, visit her website.


  • David Cranmer (@CashLaramie)

    December 3, 2012 - 8:13 PM

    I followed the Holloway case very closely. Sad that cases like this and Ward will continue to go on.

    Fine post, Hilary.

  • Elizabeth A. White

    February 13, 2012 - 6:25 PM

    My mother is a couple of days into a two week trip to Israel, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was nervous about it especially with the recent sabre-rattling from Iran. Still, it’s something she’s wanted to do for years, so…

  • Hilary Davidson

    February 13, 2012 - 4:07 PM

    Thanks so much to Elizabeth for featuring my post today, and to everyone who has stopped by! I’m grateful for your interest in the post and in the book.

    Colleen, thanks for asking about the author photo! It was taken at Machu Picchu in Peru (which is also where The Next One to Fall begins). The other photo in the post, the one of the little shrine, was also taken in Peru.

  • Charles Wingfield

    February 13, 2012 - 3:24 PM

    Safety while traveling is something people should definitely pay more attention to. Unfortunately, there are some places I’d love to visit that I wouldn’t even feel comfortable going these days, like Egypt. At least I get to visit cool places by reading books like yours. Looking forward to it.

  • Colleen Collins

    February 13, 2012 - 3:04 PM

    Justice can be difficult to obtain when tracking a killer in America, but it’s even more difficult to detect killers internationally when solving a homicide is obscured for economic and political reasons.

    Enjoyed the interview. Lovely author photo (did I miss where it was taken?).

  • Steve Weddle

    February 13, 2012 - 1:59 PM


  • L.J. Sellers

    February 13, 2012 - 10:54 AM

    Hilary, I’ve often thought of those murdered women too, and I can see why you chose that subject to focus on. I’m glad you’re still traveling (and writing!), and I’m looking forward to reading this one.

  • Sabrina Ogden

    February 13, 2012 - 10:28 AM

    Wonderful post, Hilary. I’ve refused to travel out of the country for fear that I would vanish (it’s a real fear of mine for some reason), but as I’ve grown older and have started traveling more around the US… I’m starting to feel the urge to stretch my wings. Your most recent trip is a place I’ve always wanted to visit and I hope I can mark it off my list one day.

    Looking forward to the review, Elizabeth. It’ll be spectacular, as always.