No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary #Review

From the Richard and Judy bestselling author Sarah Hilary. The phenomenal Marnie Rome returns in the outstanding follow up to the critically acclaimed SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN.

Two young boys. Trapped underground in a bunker. Unable to understand why they are there. Desperate for someone to find them. Slowly realising that no-one will…

Five years later, the boys’ bodies are found and the most difficult case of DI Marnie Rome’s career begins. Her only focus is the boys. She has to find out who they are and what happened to them.

For Marnie, there is no other darkness than this…

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Not since Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones have I read a book that has made me cry from the very first page.

The subject matter is brave, and all too real. Two young boys, a troubled mother and a grieving father… not to mention DI Marnie Rome’s past coming back to haunt her in more ways than one.

Sarah Hilary is a special kind of writer. She has the ability to transport you right into the action, using all five senses. Dark places, dark minds and a main character who is fiercely determined, yet vulnerable enough to accept help when needed. She does things right and she commands respect. Her partner, DS Noah Jake, looks up to her and learns from her, giving the two a type of professional relationship not always seen in series crime, where there can be a reliance on quirks and wisecracks to make the pairing work.

In both Someone Else’s Skin, and in this eagerly awaited follow-up, the author is not scared to tackle the sensitive and devastating types of crime that affect so many; yet she delivers it beautifully in her stunning, poetic style. Everything down to the smallest of details is just right, thanks to careful observation and effortlessly perfect turns of phrase.

Heartbreaking and mesmerising. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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Released 30th July. Available for pre-order. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.

Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary #review

Even though I flew through the pages, Sarah Hilary‘s incredibly assured debut, Someone Else’s Skin is a difficult read. Not because it’s not well written (the language and style is quite beautiful and unique, and I put this down to Sarah’s skills as a short story writer, her ability to tell a story using the perfect words in a shorter medium) but because the subject matter – domestic violence – is a difficult one to let into your head.

Hilary has stayed away from graphic violence for the most part leaving it to the reader’s imagination, but many of the scenarios are ones which will stick in your head for a long time after you’ve stopped reading. Each of the main female characters, Ayana, Hope and Simone have experienced very different and all very shocking events – leading them to end up in a womens’ refuge.

It’s the refuge that kicks things off in this story, when a male intruder is stabbed and left for dead – leaving DI Marnie Rome, DS Noah Jake and victim support worker, Ed Belloc to work out what’s gone on. Rome has issues of her own to deal with, having arrived home 5 years earlier to find both of her parents murdered. Her own demon is guilt – for rebelling against them and for not being there to save them – and she addresses this in unconventional ways.

Although a police procedural in the usual sense, this novel is much more of a character piece, highlighting the far reaching effects of domestic violence, and the way that the most seemingly obvious things are not always cut and dried. Each of the characters has something to offer – even Rome’s boss with his recovery from illness, that makes you flip back the pages to see the point where it started. It’s this attention to detail that makes this book stand out.

The ending works perfectly, tying up most of the loose ends, but leaving just enough strands for the sequel; and I’m very much looking forward to reading about what Rome et al will be investigating next.

Oh, and I’d like to offer the author an award: ‘Most innovative use of a kettlebell in crime fiction’ 😉

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Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until February 2014 for this book. I was lucky to receive a proof copy in my Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival goody bag (thank you, Headline)