Sarah Hilary – No Other Darkness

sarahhilary-nootherdarknessTwo 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…

Last year, Sarah Hilary burst onto the British crime writing scene with her debut Someone Else’s Skin. I was blown away by the book, falling in love with its main character, DI Marnie Rome and her main DS, Noah Jake. I’ve been impatiently waiting for the moment that I could read the next book in the series, as I couldn’t wait to spend more time with Marnie and Noah and to see what sort of intricate case Hilary would come up with to follow up her fantastic debut. 

If I was surprised by the psychological depth to her previous novel, instead of the straight police procedural I was expecting, I was just as surprised by No Other Darkness. While I was prepared for the degree to which Hilary explores the psychology of her perpetrators and victims, not to mention her detectives, what took me by surprise in No Other Darkness was how much horror was included in this exploration and how closely elements of the case align or even interfere with some of the issues at work in our protagonists’ lives. Point in case, Clancy who reminds Marnie so much of things and people in a past she’d rather forget.

Hilary spends most of the book on the active case under investigation, yet manages to slip in lots of character development at the same time. We learn more about Marnie and Noah’s home lives with their respective partners and learn more of their families. I loved seeing Noah both with his partner Dan and with his brother Sol, who isn’t exactly the easiest little brother to have, but who provides a window onto Noah’s past, his parents, and the things Noah had to deal with as a youth. Sol’s role in the narrative and Noah’s life is quite illuminating with regard to Noah as a person, but also with regard to how he looks at the case and the people involved in it. I liked how we’re shown that both Noah and Marnie have a support system to go home to, but that this support can take wildly different shapes. Dan lets Noah decompress and get his mind of things by taking him dancing, while Belloc lets Marnie think things through just by listening and giving her the space she needs, while at the same time being there for her.

Marnie is still fiercely driven in her work, because she feels the obligation to try and provide the closure for the families of victims she so sorely lacks in her own life. We learn more of Marnie’s youth, about how she may not have been the easiest teen either, just like Clancy. Her foster brother Stephen remains an enigma, though we do learn more about his background, before he was fostered by Marnie’s parents. Marnie is still haunted by the question why Stephen turned on her parents and it’ll be interesting to see how fast or how slow Hilary will provide Marnie with the answer if at all.

[Edited to add: This next paragraph could be regarded as entering spoiler territory. If you want to remain unspoiled, best skip over until the last paragraph!]

The case at the heart of the book is an awful one — murder is always awful, but this one hit harder than most, due to its victims. Two small bodies are found in an abandoned, hidden bunker, two little boys left alone to die. Just the idea chills my heart. Yet it was hard to feel only antipathy towards their killer, who was suffering from a postpartum psychosis (PPP), which is like the more evil version of postpartum depression. Hilary shows us the horror and fear this mother and her family went through, especially as it seems she was ill-served by her doctors and the authorities, who didn’t identify the severity of her affliction. Hilary creates this sense of empathy, or perhaps more appropriately pity, through chapters from this woman’s point of view. At the same time these chapters are filled with misdirection and sleight of hand, much like the rest of the narrative. Hilary is very skilled at providing the reader with clues that can be put together in several different ways while still making sense, which often means the reader ultimately comes to the wrong conclusion. The focus of the case changes around midway through the book, when things escalate quickly and what had been a cold case becomes a race against the clock.

With No Other Darkness Sarah Hilary proves she’s here to stay and that Someone Else’s Skin wasn’t just a one-off success. Marnie Rome is one of my favourite DI’s out there and she’s surrounded by equally interesting people. No Other Darkness delivers a dark, complex, and disquieting narrative that grips the reader and never lets go. Lovers of police procedurals and psychological thrillers alike will find something in this book to satisfy their cravings. I’m already hungry for my next serving of DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake. Highly recommended.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.