Following the death of her addict sister, Lily Moore is in Peru for a working holiday. Like her creator, Toronto-born author Hilary Davidson, Lily is a travel writer, and that background pays off in Davidson’s sophomore thriller. The details and local flavour Davidson provides rarely overwhelm the story, but offer readers glimpses into the urban rivalry between Cusco and Lima, snapshots of hawkers selling knock-off wares, and an evocation of Machu Picchu that is full of awe, grandeur, and mystery.
While ascending the storied site, a woman falls to her death; Lily is the only one to hear the woman’s last words, placing the blame for her demise on her travel companion. The accused, Len Wolven, has a drug problem, more than one dead woman in his past, and enough money to buy the best kind of defence. Despite signs pointing to Wolven as the killer, there are other suspects. Wolven’s obsequious business agent and predatory bodyguard both have reasons to murder for their boss, and even Wolven’s very pregnant sister is not free from suspicion.
It takes a certain kind of determination and grit to be an amateur sleuth, and Lily Moore has both to spare. She has faced a lot of tragedy for one life: her mother’s suicide, her father’s murder, and her sister’s overdose chief among them. In her second novel, Davidson has placed Lily in a situation designed to push all her emotional buttons. Yet despite threats, kidnapping, and assault, with every clue she finds, she digs in deeper.
However, navigating the steps of Machu Picchu safely is nothing compared to swimming in the shark-infested Wolven family waters. The novel provides a couple of nice twists before its climax, but it stretches credulity that Lily would be allowed to walk away relatively unscathed at the end of this book, moxie or no.