Sarah Hilary

Quieter than Killing – Sarah Hilary

Title – Quieter than Killing

Author – Sarah Hilary

Published – 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the fourth in the ‘Marnie Rome’ series and it’s a series that’s getting better and better.

Coinciding with ‘The Beast From The East’ (well, for me anyway) this is set in a grim and icy London. Marnie and Noah have been investigating what they believe to be vigilante attacks – several people who served prison sentences some years ago have been the subject of violent assaults. When the latest attack results in the death of the victim their efforts are redoubled but there is initially little evidence to go on. Investigating the victims and the original crimes opens up a whole host of further complications.

At the same time an incident at Marnie’s former childhood home blurs the boundaries between her work and personal life, and she is someone who likes to compartmentalise. DS Kennedy from ‘Trident’ is investigating the attack and believes that it’s linked to a local gang of kids. This also introduces a potential connection to her foster brother – someone who manages to insinuate himself into many of her investigations.

As the book progresses we meet another character – Finn, a young boy being held captive by ‘Brady’, with echoes of some of the aspects of the previous book in the series. It takes a while but eventually the connection to the investigations becomes clear and the role that Finn is playing is one that tugs at Marnie’s heart strings.

Noah has his own problems when he can’t find his younger brother, Sol, and he starts to receive threats – something that he should speak to DS Kennedy about but will he risk Sol being brought to the attention of colleagues? It makes it sound like there’s a lot going on but the book and the different threads don’t feel in any way disjointed.

The early parts of the book are a masterclass in how to give a reader new to your series enough information about the background and avoid an obvious device like a quick explanatory chat between two characters. Much of the book’s subject matter is centred around gangs and people bringing pressure to bear on others to act against their will; this type of social observation is typical of this series. What feels different about this book is the progress in the storyline between Marnie and her foster brother (although we’re left on a huge cliff hanger) and I wonder if the reason I didn’t love the earlier books as much as other people is connected to this thread. I’m a great one for having resolution in books! Although resolution appears to be some way off, the exchanges brought their relationship and the family dynamic into better focus. Marnie is also a great thinker – I’ve felt in the past that the character has spent too much time dwelling on issues and mulling them over – this book felt different, as if there was less angst.

Clever plotting, effortless writing and convincing characters – this is a great crime read with a social conscience.

Thank you to the library for lending me the copy. You can see another point of view on Cleo’s blog .

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Crime fiction I’m looking forward to reading in 2018

This is a personal look at the books I’m looking forward to reading next year. There are a few debuts, a few series that I really should catch up on and the climax to one specific series that I just can’t wait for!

First on the list must be Turn a Blind Eye by Vicky Newham which is due to be published on 5 April 2018. I first met Vicky not long after I started blogging and we have been friends since. When I first met people as a blogger I seemed unusual in being someone who was only interested in reading books with no desire to become a writer myself. Over the intervening years I’ve seen many of these bloggers become published authors (people like Sarah Ward, James Law, Steph Broadribb) and it’s been a long wait for Vicky! The good news is that she will be published by HQ books (part of Harper Collins) so she should get lots of publicity and support. They’ve already done a great job on the cover! 

The book does sound intriguing too “When the head teacher of Mile End High School is found brutally murdered, DI Maya Rahman is called in to the East End community – an area buzzing with energy, yet divided by its own multiculturalism. Maya must battle ghosts from her past and navigate East London’s cultural tensions to find the perpetrator before they kill again.”. As a fan of police procedurals this is right up my street and Vicky is bringing in an extra dimension with a Bangladeshi female detective and a Tower Hamlets setting.

Not only did HQ by the rights to two books but TV rights sold to Playground Entertainment so fingers crossed that this develops into something we get to see on screen too.

Next on the list is another debut – this is Strangers on a Bridge by Louise Mangos and is due to be published in August 2018 by HQ Digital, again part of Harper Collins. Louise is another debut author that I’ve met at a number of crime fiction events. Despite having an agent she made her ‘pitch’ to HQ via a tweet when they were asking for authors to do just that and following the tweet they made contact with Louise and she subsequently signed to them. Who says social media is all bad?

A psychological thriller the blurb is ‘While running near her home in Switzerland, English-born Alice stops a man jumping from a notorious suicide bridge. He mistakes Alice’s euphoric relief as budding affection, and he begins to stalk her.’ While the premise sounds intriguing I definitely don’t read enough books set in Switzerland so I’m looking forward to a bit of armchair-tourism too.

I didn’t post a roundup of my reading highlights  for 2017 – there were a couple of reasons for this. First my blog was pretty neglected in the first half of the year with a house move coinciding with a period at work that was both busy and stressful. I’ve done about the same amount of reading as I normally would but it’s been too time-consuming to get all the reviews posted on my blog. But I also felt that there weren’t any absolutely ‘five-star’ standout books in what I’d read. I did ask around on Facebook for some suggestions of what I might have missed and I’ve also had a look at many of the other ‘best of 2017’ lists. Taking all of this into account and scouring the lists on Crime Time I made sure to ask for Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke for Christmas and I’m pleased to say that Santa did his stuff. The only hold up may be the fact that as a hardback I shan’t want to take it to work on the train as I like to keep my books in pristine condition!

I’ve always tried to read books in the correct series order and if I have started a series from the beginning I don’t want to skip a book and miss something important. There are a couple of series that I’ve got behind on and I really need to catch up. I feel a particular affinity to these as I read and reviewed the debuts on my blog. Firstly there’s Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome series. I’ve read the first three books in the series but missed out on the fourth and can see some reviewers have already received copies of the fifth book, so I need to get myself the two missing titles and squeeze them in to my reading next year.

1. Someone Else’s Skin (2014)
2. No Other Darkness (2015)
3. Tastes Like Fear (2016)
4. Quieter Than Killing (2017)
5. Come and Find Me (2018)

Another series that I have followed from the beginning is David Mark and his Aector McAvoy series. I miss reading about Aector and I must catch up. More for the shopping list…

1. The Dark Winter (2012)
2. Original Skin (2013)
3. Sorrow Bound (2014)
4. Taking Pity (2015)
4.5. A Bad Death (2015)
5. Dead Pretty (2016)
5.5. Fire of Lies (2016)
6. Cruel Mercy (2017)
7. Scorched Earth (2018)

There is a third set of books to add to this and I did make an exception and read some of this series out of order. It’s the Nic Costa series by David Hewson. When David stopped writing this series set in Italy I didn’t feel any pressure to fill in any gaps but with a new book due out in 2018 I shall have to get my skates on to catch up. I have posted reviews on my blog for The Fallen Angel which was the last Nic Costa novel and Carnival for the Dead which was a spin off from the series. You can read more about David’s announcement on his blog.

There is also a series coming to an end which although I shall be sad to see it finish I am REALLY looking forward to reading the final instalment. This is the Frieda Klein series from Nicci French. I wasn’t sure how a move from standalones to a series of eight books would work but I shouldn’t have worried. The series has been excellent – one you really should read from the start to get the most out of the books. But July will see the final book published and I shall be rushing to read it because I would hate to see a spoiler!

 1. Blue Monday (2011)
2. Tuesday’sGone (2012)
3. Waiting for Wednesday (2013)
4. Thursday’s Children (2014)
5. Friday on My Mind (2015)
6. Saturday Requiem (2016)
aka Dark Saturday
7. Sunday Morning Coming Down (2017)
aka Sunday Silence
8. Day of the Dead (2018)

So what have ai missed? What books are your must haves or must reads for the next year?

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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