Anthony Award-winner Hilary Davidson weaves a thrilling story of paranoia, vengeance, and murder.
When travel writer Lily Moore joins a group of journalists for an all-expenses-paid press junket to Acapulco, she expects sun, sand, and margaritas. Instead, she finds that the Mexican city, once the playground of Hollywood stars, is a place of faded glamour and rising crime. Even the luxurious Hotel Cerón, isolated from the rest of the town, seems disturbing to her, with its grand, empty rooms, ever-watchful staff, and armed guards patrolling the grounds.
Lily isn’t the only one who suspects something rotten under the hotel’s opulent facade. Skye McDermott, another journalist on the trip, asks Lily for help with an article she’s working on about fraud and corruption in the hotel industry. Skye claims she’s eager to write a piece of real journalism rather than the fluff she’s known for. But she also lets slip that she’s deeply upset at a lover who jilted her, and she plans to exact her revenge by exposing his company’s illegal activities.
After Skye disappears suddenly, Lily suspects her friend is in grave danger. But the hotel’s staff insists that everything is fine and refuses to contact the police. Only after Lily tries—and fails—to leave the Hotel Cerón does she discover the truth: the journalists are prisoners in a gilded cage.
Too late, Lily realizes that she has been maneuvered into the role of bait in a vicious, vengeful plot. Faced with unthinkable choices, Lily must summon all her strength to survive, confront the past she’s still running from, and save other lives.
In Davidson's creepy third outing for travel writer Lily Moore (after 2012's The Next One to Fall), Lily checks into Acapulco's Hotel Cer n just as a snake coils itself around her foot. Her discovery that the hotel is owned by Pantheon Worldwide, her ex-fianc Martin Sklar's company, is another ominous sign. The nearly deserted hotel begins to feel more like prison than a resort, particularly after fellow writer Skye McDermott, who was behaving oddly, disappears. Meanwhile, Martin's right-hand man, Gavin Stroud, who's in charge of the Cer n, and tour organizer Denny Chiu promise to shift Lily to a non-Pantheon hotel, but the move is always postponed. Eventually, Lily discovers that she's bait in a trap, but unsure who's the hunter and who's the prey or whether she can trust anyone. Smoothly sinister characters and a creepy Poe-like atmosphere keep the pages turning, though a ragged climax and an overlong denouement disappoint.