Book Review: No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

Within seconds of finishing Someone Elses’s Skin I contacted Sarah Hilary to say there had to be a sequel. She replied that at that very moment she was in the middle of writing the follow-up. And here we are: No Other Darkness, the second in the DI Marnie Rome series.

Marnie Rome – the DI with a particularly troubled past. Unlike other fictional detectives she doesn’t have addiction problems or a complicated personal life. Far worse. Her parents were murdered by her foster-brother – a sub-plot which rippled throughout book one, plays a significant part in book two, and I suspect will be a theme throughout the entire series.

Within the first chapter it felt good to be back in the company of Rome and her DS Noah Jake. No Other Darkness has them on a cold case: the bodies of two children have been found in a Cold War bunker buried under a new housing estate. Potential suspects include a shady property developer, Doomsday preppers, travellers and a couple of soon-to-be-released child killers.

Marnie and Ed’s relationship has developed since Someone Elses’s Skin and we get a bit more of Noah’s back-story: he has a younger “jailbait brother”, Sol. Ex-boyfriend, now ‘sleazy journo’, Adam Fletcher provides extra background on Marnie’s rebellious youth. Fletcher is ostensibly following a storyline about travellers but he also has something to get off his chest.

Just a couple of days before I started No Other Darkness I’d read a Guardian article about Preppers, Doomers and Boomers and found it fascinating so I particularly liked all the stuff about preppers and panic rooms. Hilary is particularly good on the theme of post-partum psychosis (PPP) which is dealt with in some detail in No Other Darkness, and will ignite painful memories of the real-life case of Charlotte Bevan.

Douglas Cole – gutless Douglas – is a juicy character and I immediately visualised him played by Jason Watkins, the actor who won plaudits for his recent portrayal of Christopher Jefferies. (The TV rights to the Marnie Rome series have been sold so it’s not too much to hope for).

The language of violence imbues the early chapters: torches flood and burn and the floor is “bruised by damp.” Hilary’s clipped, staccato sentences move the plot along at rapid-fire pace but she can be sensitive too: I loved the image of a muffin pouting from its paper cup.

Despite figuring out key aspects of Alison and Esther quite early on there were still a few good twists to come. But I must admit that following all Alison’s doom-layered prophecies of “proper punishments” and “some things should never be forgiven” I expected a far worse outcome from the ending of this book. Given that Hilary provides follow-up details of Case #1 in No Other Darkness I wonder whether we will hear more of Alison in the future?

A minor quibble – and no disrespect to Sarah – but I felt the writing needed tidying up a little. Poor proofreading/editing means that torchlight burns twice in chapter two, as do Marnie’s eyes… As they do again in chapter 22, “Her gaze was steady, burning like one of the lamps.” I have been known to abandon books for lesser reasons. One historical novel ended up at the charity shop unread because everything and everybody started looming: buildings, people, fog… Quibble ends.

No Other Darkness is another page-turner and a fab follow-up to Someone Else’s Skin. Just remember:
“There’s no other darkness than this: what’s inside us.” Alison Oliver.

No Other Darkness is published by Headline on 23rd April 2015

Also reviewed on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24307356-no-other-darkness

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