Author – Sarah Hilary
Published – 7 April 2016
Genre – Crime fiction
This is the third in the ‘Marnie Rome’ series and it really feels like Sarah Hilary has hit her stride. This book opens around six months after the events of No Other Darkness and is set in the shadow of Battersea Power station.
The first hundred or so pages were real page-turners as the different threads of the story were introduced – the mysterious girl who causes a car crash, the beleaguered pensioner on the housing estate, the homeless girl given safe haven, and more. As with the previous books the narrative follows a number of different characters and as each one was introduced I just wanted to know more about each of them.
The investigation to trace the girl who caused the crash and the subsequent discovery of a dead girl lead Rome and her DS, Noah Jake, into a world populated by teenagers struggling to find their identity. Neglected by their parents – whether rich or poor – they are all trying to survive as best they can while they find their place in the world. The south London streets are brought to life with Hilary’s flare for description and this is a London of the homeless, the damaged, the lost.
One thing that Hilary excels at is the characterisation of her lead detective. Like Aector McAvoy in David Marks‘ series, Marnie Rome is one of a newer style of fictional detective – one who is smart, thoughtful and compassionate. These are a welcome relief from the clichéd hard-drinking, tortured loner who acts first and thinks later. This is also crime fiction with a social conscience and Hilary effectively uses the story to highlight issues but without the reader feeling that they are bing lectured at or to.
The story is skilfully written to keep the reader guessing (well, it kept me guessing) and there is more than one moment of revelation that took me by surprise. The threads weave together and characters’ paths cross but not necessarily in the ways you might anticipate.
I’m sure that if you picked the series up here you wouldn’t feel that you were missing out but it really is worth going back and picking up the preceding titles. There is a longer story arc which deals with the murder of Rome’s parents and the killer, Stephen Keele, and the tension always ramps up when he makes an appearance – you need the background to appreciate his significance!
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view on Jackie’s blog NeverImitate.