Sarah Hilary – Someone Else’s Skin

sarahhilary-someoneelsesskinDetective Inspector Marnie Rome. Dependable; fierce; brilliant at her job; a rising star in the ranks. Everyone knows how Marnie fought to come back from the murder of her parents, but very few know what is going on below the surface. Because Marnie has secrets she won’t share with anyone.

But then so does everyone. Certainly those in the women’s shelter Marnie and Detective Sergeant Noah Jake visit on that fateful day. The day when they arrive to interview a resident, only to find one of the women’s husbands, who shouldn’t have been there, lying stabbed on the floor.

As Marnie and Noah investigate the crime further, events begin to spiral and the violence escalates. Everyone is keeping secrets, some for survival and some, they suspect, to disguise who they really are under their skin.

Now, if Marnie is going to find the truth she will have to face her own demons head on. Because the time has come for secrets to be revealed…

I love a good police procedural, especially if its main character is female. That’s why, when Someone Else’s Skin arrived at my house, I was immediately intrigued by the blurb. And the book was every bit as interesting and riveting as promised, but where it surprised me was the fact that this is as much a psychological thriller as it is an exciting police procedural. Sarah Hilary’s début was chilling in some instances, but it was also quite engrossing and I found myself drawn into our characters live and the case at the heart of the book more and more as the pages flew by. 

The heart of the novel is DI Marnie Rome. She’s is an amazing character, fiercely professional and driven in her work, but at the same time somewhat fragile and still trying to cope with the murder of her parents and her feelings for their murderer. Hilary slowly peels back the layers of protection around Marnie’s deepest-held secrets, some secrets she’s even held from herself and so creates a portrayed of a complex, flawed, and sympathetic character. I loved Marnie and I hope she’ll feature in more books in the future, because there are many questions about her past I’d like to see answered. And I’d love to see where her budding relationship with Ed Belloc goes.

Marnie of course doesn’t solve crime on her own she has two Detective Sergeants she works with, Noah Jake and Ron Carling. I absolutely loved Noah, especially because he is such a lovely bloke and he feels a little like the rookie to Marnie’s experienced competence. Noah is gay and of half-Jamaican descent and as such has to deal with prejudice on two counts, both from the people they investigate and from his co-workers. We mostly see this behaviour from Ron Carling though in a way that drove me bonkers. Carling’s snide remarks and completely rude and inappropriate questions were awful and felt only too true-to-life. In a way much of the treatment Noah encounters from Carling reminded me of the issues @EverydaySexism speaks about, in a slightly different, but just as pernicious, way. They are joined by Ed Belloc from Victim Support, and a friend of Marnie’s, who is brought in as a safe and trusted case worker for the women in the shelter where they need to investigate.

Hilary does a wonderful job of portraying what abuse does to a person, that there are many ways of being a victim and many different outcomes of abuse. No one’s story is the same and all the women in the shelter have their own story, bear different scars, mentally and physically, and have different triggers caused by their abuse. They have emerged damaged from a relationship – which doesn’t necessarily mean they are broken or beyond healing – and all of them react a different way. From brave, strident Ayana, to muddled Mab, manipulative Shelley, and survivor Simone to doll-like, fragile Hope, they each cope differently with what their abuse has made of them and how to find their way back to themselves.

Without discussing them too much, for fear of giving away spoilers, the actual perpetrator is not only a surprise, but also a very, very scary individual and they truly gave me chills once Hilary revealed more of their psyche. The plot of the book is very well constructed with plausible alternate suspects and some tricky reveals that were very well done. All of it delivered in competent prose that didn’t distract from the action in the novel and drew me in closer in the more introspective scenes in the book.

Someone Else’s Skin was a fantastic read and introduced characters I hope to see more of in the future. Sarah Hilary is a talented author writing about a tough topic with sensitivity, but without flinching away from discomfort. If you love British police procedurals then Someone Else’s Skin is a must-read for 2014!

This book was provided for review by the publisher.