Hilary Davidson’s new novel is part mystery, part psychological study. Each main character is damaged and flawed. Alex Traynor, who spent 16 years photographing war zones, suffers from PTSD. He met his fiancé, Emily Teare, who worked with Doctors Without Borders, when she treated his leg wound. When Emily was in college, her parents died after their car was hit by a drunk driver. She has never fully recovered from that loss. Cori Stanton, part of their group, was abused by her father and frequently threatens to kill herself. It’s Cori’s death that sets into motion a situation which places Emily in jeopardy.
Sheryn Sterling, an NYPD detective, investigated Cori’s death which was ruled an accident. Since Alex was on the roof with Cori before she died, Sheryn still believes he had something to do with her death. So when Emily goes missing, and Alex fails to report her absence, Sheryn has Alex in her sights. Alex has an explanation for not notifying the police: Emily left on a coffee table in their apartment her engagement ring, along with a note saying she was leaving. But since the note was typed, Sheryn sticks with her premise: Alex killed Cori and now has killed his fiancé.
Not only must Alex battle his PSTD and the police, but also Cori’s father, Kevin, a veterinarian. At Cori’s funeral, Kevin attacked Alex, blaming him for his daughter’s death. Since Alex can’t remember what happened on that rooftop, he can’t forgive himself, either. But when he finds threatening letters that Kevin sent to Emily, he has to investigate. The confrontation at the animal clinic does not go well, with both men becoming physical. But when video shows that Kevin threw the first punch, Sheryn, much to her dismay, can’t charge Alex.
Alex has other reasons for not being honest with the police. He found prescriptions that Emily had written for pain killers and worries that she was doing something illegal and might lose her medical license. When he confronted Emily, she told him that he needed to trust that she was doing nothing wrong. But Alex worries that Emily had gotten into something that places her in danger.
Davidson tells the story from each character’s perspective and we soon hear from Emily. She has indeed been abducted. Her prison is a cage with a dirt floor. Her captor periodically leaves water and energy bars. But she soon stops eating and drinking when she realizes she’s being drugged. She hallucinates about her parents and Alex and loses hope that she will be rescued.
Davidson has crafted an intriguing story, taking us into the minds and hearts of her characters. The title, One Small Sacrifice, could apply to anyone in this story. Everyone has something to hide, everyone has someone to protect. But good intentions are never enough when lies win out over the truth.
One Small Sacrifice
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