Monday, February 10, 2020

"Don't Look Down"

Hilary Davidson is the bestselling author of One Small Sacrifice. Toronto-born but based in New York, she’s also the author of the Lily Moore series, the standalone thriller Blood Always Tells, and the short-story collection The Black Widow Club. Her work has won two Anthony Awards and a Derringer Award.

Davidson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Don’t Look Down, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He slipped out of his shoes, padding down the hallway in sock feet, and glanced at his watch. Four o’clock. He wanted to strip off his suit, but he knew he’d have to head back to work in twenty minutes if he didn’t want to lose his job. He had to move fast. The door to Jo’s office was ajar. He pushed it open and stepped inside.

Jo was an extremely organized person, and her office was spartan. There were boxes filled with makeup samples—an occupational hazard, Jo always joked—but otherwise just a desk, a chair, and a bookcase. Jo had never bothered to decorate her office much beyond adding a series of framed photographs of her icons: Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden, Madam C. J. Walker, Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Lisa Price, Marcia Kilgore. Cal wouldn’t have recognized any of them without the little nameplates attached. There were no pictures of friends or family ... or of him. Cal didn’t let that fact ruffle him. Jo got to see his mug every morning and night.

He woke the desktop computer and entered Jo’s password. The screen shook as it rejected it. He tried again, wondering if he’d screwed it up. He hadn’t; Jo had already changed it.

It was a small detail, but it felt ominous. Jo kept a plastic figurine of a crow on her desk, and its eyes seemed to gleam knowingly. She changed it because of the video, Cal realized. Whatever the hell that was on her screen, she didn’t want me to be able to find it.
I think I’ve taken the Page 69 Test for each of my books, so I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by how one page can capture the essence of a book! Don’t Look Down has four point-of-view characters, and at first glance, Cal McGarran—the perspective character here—seems the most straightforward. Cal doesn’t know it yet, but his girlfriend, Jo Greaver, is being blackmailed, and the reader has already seen her shoot a man. Cal has been living with Jo for months, but she hasn’t let him in on her secrets. The truth is she doesn’t trust him… which isn’t a comment on Cal’s character so much as a comment of Jo’s reluctance to trust anyone at all.

What’s interesting about Cal is that he’s upset enough about something he saw on Jo’s computer screen that he’s still obsessing about it. Cal comes across as happy-go-lucky—he’s an attractive guy born into a well-off family—but as we see here, Cal is also a man who will sneak home when he knows his girlfriend isn’t there to spy on her. He’s got a dark side, too, even if it’s not fully in view yet.
Learn more about the book and the author at the official Hilary Davidson site.

The Page 69 Test: One Small Sacrifice.

--Marshal Zeringue