Written by Sarah Hilary — A new Marnie Rome book is always something of an occasion, and the advance proof copy of this one has been on my shelf since the end of last year. When at last it reached the top of the ‘to be reviewed’ pile, I grabbed it with relish.
Here at CFL we’ve been following Sarah Hilary’s progress since her debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin, hit the ground running and nabbed the 2015 Theakston’s Old Peculier Best Crime Novel award in the process. In DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake, she has created one of the best crime-fighting duos since Batman and Robin – albeit in much more insightful, realistic fashion.
Instead of The Joker, Marnie’s bête noire is her foster brother, Stephen Keele. Stephen was just 14 when he murdered Marnie’s parents in cold blood. Six years later he is in adult prison and it appears he still has his step-sister in his thrall. Once more, he has an important part to play in this story…. although, maybe the sands are finally shifting beneath his feet, because this Stephen is not the cocky, self-assured teenager of previous books, though he is just as manipulative.
Rome and Jakes are London detectives investigating a series of seemingly unrelated assaults. The only link they can unearth is that all of the victims were convicted of serious crimes in the past and had been recently released from prison – but none of them can offer any clues as to the identity of their attacker. Then one of the assaults goes a step further and the victim dies – time to step the investigation up a notch.
That’s probably enough to keep some crime writers happy, but not Sarah Hilary. Let’s add an abducted child into the mix. Young Finn is being held by a man he has nicknamed Brady, and he is living a dog’s life. Beaten for minor offences, fed poorly and forced to slave for it, Finn longs to escape – but how? More importantly, how on earth does this strand have any bearing upon what is happening elsewhere?
Oh, and Marnie’s childhood home, the scene of her parents’ murders, has been targeted by young thugs, who viciously assaulted her tenants and put them in hospital. In the process, they unearthed something Marnie has been searching for, in vain, since her parents’ deaths. Meanwhile, Noah’s younger brother, Sol, claims to have left gang culture behind. So how come he keeps changing his phone and disappears for days on end?
Reading a Sarah Hilary book is like trying to eat a plate of spaghetti with a knitting needle – just when you think you’ve got one part sussed, it slips out of your grasp again. In fact, there is so much going on here that you’ll need full concentration to keep things straight in your head. As the action ebbs and flows around them, Marnie and Noah are a solid point of focus. When everything else seems to be in a state of flux, you can rely on these two to get the job done.
Tastes Like Fear was one of my books of the year for 2016 but Quieter Than Killing is a little too complicated for it to reach the dizzying heights of that novel or Someone Else’s Skin. After four outings, I’m ready for some resolution in the uber-complicated relationship between Marnie and Stephen – and the final scenes of this book perhaps offer some hope in that direction. And please, please bring Ed back into the mix – he is too good a character to be left on the sidelines!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars