Sarah Hilary

Tastes Like Fear – Sarah Hilary

Title – Tastes Like Fear91d+hP7-FEL

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.

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No Other Darkness – Sarah Hilary

Title – No Other Darkness1610902_794199083999514_6199522383764769589_n

Author – Sarah Hilary

Published – 23 April 2015

Genre – Crime fiction

It’s only since I’ve started blogging about books and paid more attention to the comparisons between debuts and second novels that I’ve realised that not every brilliant debut leads to an equally good second book. I have to confess that there are a few follow-up titles that I haven’t even been able to bring myself to review – they fell so far short of the promise of their predecessor. Hilary’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, won numerous plaudits and was picked as a title in the WH Smith Richard and Judy Book Club for Autumn 2014, so book two has a lot to live up to! Fortunately it certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem and I have to say that if anything I prefer this book to her debut.

In her debut she tackled the issue of domestic violence and she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics here, with the discovery of the bodies of two small boys in a underground bunker as the opening the book. It’s around 6 months since the end of Someone Else’s Skin so there’s not a great deal to fill in and not too much time covering previous events. There are one or two references and probably the right balance to get someone new to the series up to speed.

Marnie Rome is working with her able assistant Noah Jake again. Although not strictly in their patch Rome is called to the discovery of the two boys’ bodies because of a connection with a previous missing child case in the area. The boys have been found in an underground bunker in the garden of a new build house. (As someone who has lived in several new builds this doesn’t really worry me – I am certain there is no room for a bunker in our garden!!) The deaths are mysterious with no obvious cause and there is no clue to their identity, they haven’t even been reported as missing.

As the police undertake the investigation there are a number of different strands and plotlines that are woven together and a few moments where the reader is taken by surprise (well I was). Hilary makes a great job of keeping up the pace and keeping all the threads moving along. As with her debut the story is predominantly told from Rome’s point of view, to a lesser extent Jake’s and there are some more mysterious contributions. With a little less backstory than in the debut the author has taken the opportunity to develop both the characters of Rome and Jake.

The aspect of Hilary’s writing that sets her apart from most others in the genre is the part that emotions play. The books are character-led and Rome, with her traumatic past, seems to torture herself with the crimes and the empathy she has with those involved. The subject matter is necessarily dark and it is steeped in grief and anger. There are some lighter moments, such as Jake’s relationship with his brother, but not the sort of black humour that might lift the mood. In her descriptions Hilary even seems to have emotions taking physical form – especially in the gripping climax. I have to say that it’s probably this emotional quality that stops me rating the book more highly – I would prefer to be able to make my own emotional connection with the events and characters, but I know that this exploration of the characters is one many readers like.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view on Pamreader’s blog.

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Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

Title – Someone Else’s Skin

Author – Sarah Hilary

Published – 27 Feb 2014

Genre – Crime fiction

This is one of a handful of British crime debuts which is getting a lot of love on social media sites (alongside Luca Veste’s Dead Gone and Eva Dolan’s Long Way Home).

The main protagonist is DI Marnie Rome – a strong and solitary figure but a brilliant detective. Rome is accompanied by DS Noah Jake when they visit a woman’s refuge to try to secure a statement from a young Muslim woman whom they believe has been injured by her own family. They suspect that the young woman’s brother was responsible for an attack with a scimitar which has severed a man’s arm and need her help in making a case against him. On their arrival at the shelter, however, they walk into the middle of a stabbing – with the husband of one of the women bleeding on the dayroom floor. This unexpected attack gives the plot an additional thread as the detectives try to get to the bottom of the stabbing as well as pursuing the original case they were assigned. Hilary then takes the story in some surprising directions as the plot unfolds.

Like any detective worth their salt, Rome has her share of secrets and has herself suffered loss, in fact she’s seen at close quarters the effect of murder on those left behind. Her background circumstances explain her unwillingness to open up to others, but also provide her sense of purpose and make her unrelenting in her work. Jake is also an unconventional choice of character for a detective and he and Rome make an unusual team.

This is a well-written debut with a strong female lead. As well as delivering a satisfying police procedural the author also brings issues of domestic violence, in all its forms, to the fore.

You can see another point of view on the blog One Word at a Time.  Thank you to Headline for my review copy.

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