Hilary Davidson is the award-winning author of the Lily Moore series—The Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, and Evil in All Its Disguises—the bestselling Shadows of New York series—One Small Sacrifice and Don’t Look Down—and the standalone novels Blood Always Tells and Her Last Breath. She is also the author of some 50 short stories. Her fiction has won two Anthony Awards, a Derringer Award, and a host of other accolades. Toronto born and raised, she moved to New York City in October 2001. She is also the author of 18 nonfiction books.
Her Last Breath
When her beloved sister Caroline dies suddenly, Deirdre is heartbroken. However, her sorrow turns to bone-chilling confusion when she receives a message Caroline sent days earlier warning that her death would be no accident. Long used to being a pariah to her family, Deirdre covers her tattoos and heads to Manhattan for her sister’s funeral.
Paranoid and armed with just enough information to make her dangerous, Deirdre digs into the disturbing secrets buried with Caroline. But as she gets closer to the truth, she realizes that her own life may be at risk…and that there may be more than one killer in the family.
A fast-paced, expertly plotted mystery about the depths of the secrets we keep hidden from ourselves—and those we love. Thoughtfully plotted and skilfully told, I really enjoyed and empathized with the flawed characters, especially Theo. Addictive and emotional.
Author’s Corner – Interview with Hilary Davidson
My brothers’ nickname for me is “Beast.” When people hear that, they’re usually shocked, because I love vintage dresses and red lipstick and people equate that with traditional femininity. But my brothers grew up studying martial arts with me and they know the truth. Beast is pretty accurate.
What was the very first thing—ever—that you remember writing?
When I was eight, I won a short-story writing contest run by Scholastic. My story was called “Ametafear’s Tomb” and it was about a disastrous archaeological expedition in Egypt. Spoiler alert: I think everyone dies at the end.
As a thriller author, what scares you? Do you ever find yourself scared by what you’ve written, or is it usually external things?
I’m not afraid of some traditionally scary things. I love snakes and spiders and I’ll happily wander into a graveyard at midnight. I once convinced my husband to come swimming with me and some sharks — let’s just say he’s never doing that again. But I find the idea of not being able to trust yourself terrifying, whether that takes the form of an unreliable memory, poisonous influences around you that affect your thinking, or an inability to tell fact from fiction. Her Last Breath includes a lot of psychological abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting in families and romantic relationships. To me, that’s far more frightening than the physical danger in the book.
Who is your favorite crime hero or detective?
Sara Parestsky’s V.I. Warshawski has been my favorite since I met her when I was in high school. She’s got such a good heart but she’s also as kickass as they come.
What are some of the book(s) that you’ve read and loved recently?
I got an early read of Susan Elia MacNeal’s The Hollywood Spy, and it is fabulous. I also loved Ivy Pochoda’s These Women, which was an Edgar Award finalist, and Linwood Barclay’s latest, Find You First. Thanks to the pandemic, I finally got into my crazy TBR pile and discovered gems like Alexia Gordon’s Murder in G Major, which won a 2016 Lefty Award and The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino.
If you could invite five people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Normally I’d list a crew of fabulous writers starting with Oscar Wilde, but thanks to the pandemic I’m going to say my three nieces—to whom Her Last Breath is dedicated—and my parents. Not that we’d kick Oscar out if he showed up!
Writing Her Last Breath
Let’s talk about your book Her Last Breath. Can you tell my readers a little about it?
Her Last Breath is about a woman named Deirdre who gets a message from her sister, Caroline, while she’s at her sister’s funeral. Caroline died suddenly—and accidentally—so when Deirdre reads that Caroline felt she was in danger from her husband, it turns her life upside down.
Caroline also reveals that her wealthy husband killed his first wife, which makes Deirdre question everything about her sister, because what kind of person would marry a man like that? The search for the truth forces Deirdre to unearth a lot of family skeletons, and to face her own demons.
How did you first meet your main characters Deirdre and Theo? Did they appear to you fully formed, or did they grow and evolve as you wrote?
Deirdre was fully formed in my head from the start—I could hear her sarcastic voice clearly, and I understood exactly where she was coming from. She’s keeping secrets from the reader but her grief for her sister is genuine, and that grounded the character. Theo was so much trickier! When I first wrote a chapter from his perspective, I did it as an experiment, because I worried that I’d be giving too much of the plot away. But Theo is such a complicated character. On the surface, it looks like he has it all, but in reality he’s a badly damaged person who has no one he can trust. He really grew and evolved over the course of the story.
Describe Her Last Breath in three words.
Secrets can kill.
What do you think readers will love about Her Last Breath?
I think the mystery keeps people reading but by the end of the book, what will stay with them are the themes of redemption and reconciliation. Deirdre has so many regrets about not being closer to Caroline and not being there for her sister, and it seems impossible to reconcile with a character who’s dead… but by the last chapter, Deirdre really understands her sister, and that gives her a surprising amount of closure. People have told me that the last chapter made them cry, and I have to confess that I cried while I was writing it.
What was your favorite part of writing this book?
The third draft! That’s how long it takes me to fully understand all the characters and their motivations, the plot, the subplots. First drafts are always brutal for me, because I change my mind about so many things; the second draft is all about pulling a coherent story out of that mess. The third draft is where it all comes together. That’s been true for all of my books.
What’s Next For You?
I’m always working on a new book, but I don’t expect to finish this one soon. I’ve been writing short stories lately, and you’ll be seeing those in print soon. My favorite, “Weed Man,” will be in the 80th anniversary issue of Ellery Queen, on newsstands this August. I’m also planning to bring out a new collection of short stories, maybe even later this year.
Get In Touch
Hilary loves connecting with readers. You can get in touch with her at: