Fresh Meat: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson is a standalone thriller where backstabbing, double crossing, and shifting alliances lead to kidnapping (available April 8, 2014).

Hilary Davidson’s new standalone thriller, Blood Always Tells, is a twisty, turny tale of jealousy, greed, betrayal, and loss. I’ve long been a fan of Davidson’s work; her prose is graceful and intelligent, her plots are tight, and her characters are fully realized. What I love most about her writing, though, is that if you look closely, her books always have a deeper meaning – a message that transcends the mystery. Yes, Blood Always Tells is a story about power and powerlessness, about selfishness and selflessness, about desperate people doing desperate things. Underneath it all, though, it’s also a meditation on fate and free will, on nature and nurture, and on whether it’s possible to overcome genetics and circumstance.

The protagonists – Dominique, Desmond, and Polly – go through life being told that their path is set, their future pre-determined. That who they were as children is who they’ll always be:

“You got quite the rap sheet,” Reich added. “Robbery, burglary, vagrancy.”

“You left out loitering.”

Reich’s face tightened like a screw. “You think this is a big joke, huh?”

Desmond was suddenly light-headed, and something swam at the edge of his vision. He remembered Dr. Torres’s warnings and swallowed hard. “What can I say, detective? I made a lot of mistakes when I was a kid. But I turned my life around after that.”

“You’ve managed not to get arrested for anything since you were fourteen,” Reich said slowly. “That’s not the same as turning your life around. …”

They can’t outrun their pasts, nor can they escape the sins of their relatives:

“I’m not threatening you. Gary dies in either case. That’s not a threat. The only question is what you’re going to choose. Because I believe you’re quite capable of murder.”

“You’re wrong.”

“I know all about you, Calendar Girl,” he added.

“You obviously don’t know the first thing about me.”

“I’ve looked you up.”

“Have you been Googling me out here?”

“We’re so far from civilization, there’s no Internet service. But I’ve already read about you. I know all about your mother.”

Dominique clenched her hands into fists. The metal chain of the cuffs rattled. “You don’t know a thing about her.”

“I only know what the newspapers said. But I also know that blood always tells. Your mother was a murderer. You’re capable of killing a man just like she did.”

Who they are is in their DNA, and there’s no changing that – or so those who wish to control them would lead them to believe.  As it turns out, though, that’s simply not true, and over the course of Blood Always Tells, Davidson’s characters set out to prove – to themselves as well as to others – that while the past matters, it’s not all that matters:

“Trin’s never cared about me sleeping with other women. She doesn’t want to be with me. She only married me because her father told her she had to be married by thirty. He arranged the whole thing.” He rubbed his temples with his fingers. “She’s an evil person. I know she had a screwed-up childhood. Her father was a crazy control freak, and she was never allowed to see her mother. That would mess anyone up. But at some point, you have to be more than a collection of all the rotten things that ever happened to you.”

And then what’s more, they do possess the ability to change their respective lots in life:

“What’ll you say to Val if he calls again?”

That stopped her short. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe you should think on that a bit.” He looked thoughtful. “I don’t want to get preachy, Polly, but you know I’m an older brother, so it comes naturally to me. Here’s the thing. Most people go through life without making decisions. They wonder why things happen to them, why they’ve got no power to change. The thing is, they do have the power, they just don’t choose to use it.”

“You’re telling me to stand up to Val?”

“Not exactly. This might not be the best day for that change to happen. But you need to root yourself somehow. You can’t let yourself go through life letting people hit you. Do you know who Marcus Aurelius was? He had this saying—okay, he had a lot of aphorisms, but this one’s the best. ‘Do every act of your life as if it were your last.”

The decision to alter one’s course is never an easy one, and where a person ends up may not be any better than where he or she was headed; as Dominique, Desmond, and Polly can attest, not all roads lead to sunshine and rainbows. If Blood Always Tells is any indication, though, Hilary Davidson believes there’s something to be said for seizing control of the wheel and throwing the map out the window – destiny be damned.

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Katrina Niidas Holm loves mysteries. She lives in Maine with her husband, fabulously talented pulp writer Chris F. Holm, and a noisy, noisy cat. She writes reviews for Crimespree Magazine and The Maine Suspect, and you can find her on Twitter.

Read all Katrina Niidas Holm’s posts for Criminal Element.


  1. Linda Rodriguez

    I have been waiting eagerly for this book, and by the sound of your insightful review, Katrina, it’s even better than I was hoping for.

  2. Katrina Niidas Holm

    Thanks so much, Linda! I predict you’ll love it.

  3. David Cranmer

    Thanks, Katrina! Sharp review for a writer I admire a great deal. [b][/b]

  4. Katrina Niidas Holm

    Thank you!


    I’m not threatening you. Gary dies in either case. That’s not a threat. The only question is what you’re going to choose. Because I believe you’re quite capable of murder.

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