If travel writer Lily Moore didn’t understand that reality after her adventures in the first two books in author Hilary Davidson’s award-winning series, The Damage Done and The Next One to Fall, the situation in which she finds herself in the series’ third entry, Evil in All Its Disguises, will make it painfully, unquestionably clear.
Initially Lily’s latest assignment, an all-expenses-paid trip to the upscale Hotel Cerón in Acapulco with a small group of fellow travel writers, seems like the perfect getaway. A fan of all things from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Lily is excited to be headed to the place many of that era’s biggest stars made their personal playground. Upon arrival at the beautiful, if extremely remote resort, Lily meets up for a drink with Skye McDermott, one of the other writers on the trip.
Lily finds herself slightly concerned by Skye’s behavior, which swings from acting upset and on the verge of tears to raging about getting vengeance on an ex-boyfriend via a devastating exposé about his business practices. Lily’s concerns shift into high gear, however, when Skye excuses herself from the table for a moment…and never returns. Even more concerning, Lily can’t get the hotel staff to take Skye’s disappearance seriously, even though she points out that Skye left all her personal belongings, including passport and medication, behind.
It isn’t until Lily learns that the Hotel Cerón is owned by the Pantheon Group, a company headed by her ex-fiancé and shady real-estate tycoon Martin Sklar, however, that Lily begins to suspect she’s been lured to Mexico under false pretenses. When hotel manager, and Sklar’s right-hand man, Gavin Stroud cites the danger and high crime levels in the city and flat-out refuses to let Lily leave the hotel one evening, Lily finally understands that Skye isn’t the only one in serious trouble.
In her previous two adventures with Lily, author Hilary Davidson made extensive use of setting on a large scale–Spain, New York City, Peru–but Evil in All Its Disguises does a complete 180 in that regard. While Lily is still technically somewhere exotic, almost the entirety of the book takes place within the confines of the Hotel Cerón, making Evil just one small step above a locked room mystery. The cast of characters is also kept deliberately small, the better to cast suspicion and doubt on those to whom Lily is closest, both literally and figuratively. The result is a story that unfolds with a creeping claustrophobia and rising sense of menace and paranoia.
Lily is already carrying around some pretty heavy emotional baggage as a result of her family history and the events of the prior books in the series, which makes the dance Davidson does with Lily’s investigation into Skye’s disappearance vs Lily’s self-doubt that something sinister has actually happened all the more exquisite–are Lily’s suspicions justified, or is she overreacting based on her skewed personal perspective? One thing that’s not in question, however, is that Lily is damned if she’s going to sit around and do nothing. Head on a swivel and unwilling to trust anyone, Lily dives headlong into a morass of deception, double-crosses and danger, determined to get to the bottom of things, one way or another.
It’s hard enough to write a decent book, but to write one that strips away all plot crutches and “big ticket” diversions and relies on nothing more than the interactions of a handful of key players in a confined location takes serious skill, something Davidson once again demonstrates she has in abundance.
Evil in All Its Disguises is available from Forge Books (ISBN:978-0765333520).