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One Small Sacrifice
Shadows of New York # 1
BY Hilary Davidson

Thomas & Mercer
June 1, 2019/ ISBN 9781542042116

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

One Small Sacrifice by Hilary Davidson is a procedural mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very last chapter. Each thread of the detailed plot unveils one surprising revelation after another. With the compelling characters, this story contrasts how good people can go astray with horrible people that have no conscience.

The early chapters set the pace for the rest of the book with war photographer Alex Traynor getting away with murdering his good friend Cori Stanton. At least that’s what New York Police Detective Sheryn Sterling believes. Alex has PTSD due to his harrowing work in war zones around the world. Unable to remember what happened the night Cori fell from a rooftop, it is believed he pushed her to her death. Yet, because of a lack of evidence, he was released.

“I wanted to incorporate into the story some of what I went through. My first job, more than twenty years ago, straight out of college, had workplace violence. A man tried to murder everyone in the office at the Veterans Government Department in Toronto. There were people who were not getting enough help that included this one man in particular. He was homeless with a mental illness that was not properly treated. This person was very angry at their counselor and made death threats for months. One day he came and started a massive fire that destroyed three floors of the office building. It was a horrifying scene. There is this lost time in which I do not recall what exactly happened. I had this weird fragmental memory and unforgettable feelings.”

When Alex’s fiancée, Dr. Emily Teare, a talented and beloved local doctor, suddenly goes missing, Sheryn suspects Alex of misdeeds. Initially, she was out to prove Traynor murdered again, but as the investigation into Emily’s disappearance deepens, Sheryn and her new partner find themselves going back over the previous case as well. It’s possible that there’s a darker story, and that Alex isn’t the only one with secrets. Slowly she discards her tunnel vision and personal bias and starts relooking at the evidence that includes opioid addiction and illegal prescriptions.

My intention, in the beginning, was to have Sheryn fall into the mindset to have the facts fit into her conception. She had it while on the hunt and when she had the suspect in her sight. I put in this book quote by Alex’s lawyer to show just that: “She’d going to shoehorn every shred of evidence to fit her theory and incriminate you.” I think that police work is sometimes like a scientist where they have a theory and go in that direction. But I hope the readers saw she had a flexible enough mind where she could take in new information and reset her thinking. Some have told me that they recognized that Sheryn grew and changed. She broadens her perspective. She is a tremendous advocate for the victims and is determined in the pursuit of justice.”

It is also a love story between the two main characters, Alex and Emily, and how much they will sacrifice for each other. Alex, a photographer who made a name for himself taking pictures in war torn countries such as Iraq and Syria, witnessed multiple horrors. While photographing the harrowing scenes, Alex was kidnapped in Syria. During the rescue operation by his army friend Maclean, Alex was shot in his leg. Taken to a medical center for treatment of his injuries, he met Emily, a neurosurgeon who volunteers with Doctors Without Borders. She removes the bullet from his leg, and their relationship builds from there into a romance that leads to their engagement.

What makes this a good thriller are the ingredients that Davidson puts into this story: Twists, turns, and surprises that make the novel really suspenseful. The story is so well crafted that it’s difficult to know who the guilty party is. Is there a connection between the death of Stanton and the disappearance of Teare? Davidson drops details throughout the narrative that keeps the reader off balance, unsure, and on the edge of their seat.


Reviewed 2019