Written by Sarah Hilary — Once upon a time, in a plush London duplex, lived a kind, handsome man, his beautiful, loving wife, and lovely, obedient, neat and tidy daughters. Sounds like a fairy story? It is, and as Marnie Rose and Noah Jake get deep into their latest investigation, it becomes clear that what is happening here is more akin to Stephen King than Hans Christian Andersen.
But I’m leaping ahead of myself. The tale begins two years ago, when a homeless girl is huddled in a London doorway, sheltering from the rain and from the covert antagonism of the commuters who pass her by each day. She is close to the end of her tether when a kindly soul stops and takes an interest, offering her warmth and safety – no strings attached. But, as we all know, nothing comes for free especially in the shady world of crime fiction.
Skip to the present, and Rome and Jake are called to the scene of a bad road accident in Battersea. Four people are in hospital, two critical, and one of the drivers insists he collided with the other vehicle after he swerved to avoid hitting a running teenage girl. He describes her as wearing little more than a shirt, barefoot, covered in dark scratches and obviously in some distress. Trouble is, the girl is nowhere to be found.
Teenager May Beswick has been missing for 12 weeks, vanished without trace. Could it be her? The disappearance has been preying on Noah’s mind and he is hopeful, but those hopes are soon dashed. A detailed description of the road runaway makes it sound unlikely – but maybe the two girls could be connected?
The story hopscotches around a range of viewpoints and we are soon following a different strand. Meet Aimee, confined to bed on the mezzanine floor of an unfinished duplex apartment in a stalled development, cared for by the enigmatic Harm. He lives a strange existence, is a collector of waifs and strays and indisputably head of his raggle taggle ‘family’. A force to be reckoned with, Harm is a man not to be crossed; the people he ‘cares’ for have learned to sense his every mood – and fear his anger.
Prepare to be sucked into a dark, twisted and disturbing world, inhabited by some seriously scary characters. As the tension ratchets up, so does the pressure on Marnie and Noah. This is a case destined to stretch their combined talents to the very limit.
The concept of family, and its many connotations and combinations, creates a rich hunting ground for this talented author. Fans of Sarah Hilary will already be familiar with Noah’s trouble-magnet younger brother Sol, while Marnie will forever be haunted by the terror wrought on her family by the boy they fostered. Both have parts to play here and, I’m sure, will in books to come, because Hilary is adept at finely balancing things to make the lives of the central characters just as important as the cases they pursue.
Tastes Like Fear is the much-aniticipated return of the Met’s finest, and number three in a compelling series that has garnered praise from all quarters. This is the work of an author who has found her narrative stride, confident in her characters – but not averse to throwing the odd spanner in the works too. I devoured this book over a couple of days, and found myself blinking in surprise when another well-disguised right hook of a plot twist caught me completely unawares.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars