Sarah Hilary – Tastes Like Fear

sarahhilary-tasteslikefearYou’ll never be out of Harm’s way

The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.

A runaway who doesn’t want to be found, she only wants to go home.

To the one man who understands her.

Gives her shelter.

Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.

He’s the head of her new family.

He’s Harm.

D.I. Marnie Rome has faced many dangerous criminals but she has never come up against a man like Harm. She thinks that she knows families, their secrets and their fault lines. But as she begins investigating the girl’s disappearance nothing can prepare her for what she’s about to face.

Because when Harm’s family is threatened, everything tastes like fear…

I love DI Marnie Rome and it is always a treat to read her next adventure. Sarah Hilary’s third entry into the series, Tastes Like Fear, builds on the foundations laid in the first two books and builds the overarching story out while delivering a chilling and fascinating mystery to be unraveled in this book. There is an art to delivering a standalone experience while rewarding return readers that is especially important for crime series, which often run really long and need to be accessible at any point for new readers. Sarah Hilary manages this brilliantly with Tastes Like Fear

All of my favourites from the previous book return, not just Marnie and Noah, but Ed Belloc, Noah’s partner Dan and his little brother Sol as well. And of course, Marnie’s foster brother Stephen appears too. What I liked about the development of all these different characters and their relationships, is that there is not just a deepening of the relationships, but a broadening as well; people cross-connect in different ways. The relationships that change the most or are shown the most are Marnie’s relationships—her romantic relationship with Ed, her professional relationship with Noah, and the troubled relationship with Stephen. While I very much enjoyed the former two, it is the latter that had the most fascinating dynamic. Marnie’s gradual realisation over the course of the book that Stephen isn’t a small boy anymore, but an adult whose decisions are perhaps not rational, but with a clear intent, allows her to let him go and keep hold of her anger without guilt. It is a development we don’t often see, with a redemption arc being the more common in these cases, but it is a healthy one for Marnie and it will be interesting to see if and how this will aid her healing.

The story is told from several different points of view. Obviously, we get to look out of Marnie and Noah’s eyes, but there are additional viewpoints, namely Loz, Aimee, and Christie. I loved the points of view from within Harm’s house with Aimee and Christie. They opened a window into the how and the why of their being there, one that was quite illuminating and made their situation even more painful. It was chilling how plausible their choice to go and live with Harm was. Just the chance at shelter and safety and the feeling of being unconditionally loved was enough to draw these vulnerable girls in. No less frightening was the realisation how the appearance of safety can chain someone just as much as violence can. In a way, it made me think back to the first book, Someone Else’s Skin, and the battered women who featured in it, who were just as torn between wanting to flee the abuse and being drawn back by just the slightest shred of seeming affection from their abuser.

What I love about the Marnie Rome books is that the characters are just as important as the mystery is. Hilary develops all of her characters, even those who are only supporting characters or bit players. And the way she does so is often quite elegant and minimalist. Take as an example, the scene where Noah talks to a teen acting as a lookout on the estate. This encounter reveals tons about Noah’s past, both through the memories it evokes in Noah and through his behaviour and body language during the conversation. There is so much character building in this one simple interaction. And not just for Noah, but by extension for his brother as well. In perhaps a less simple and small way, but a very impactful one, Marnie has a very strong and real connection to Loz. Or perhaps we should say that Loz forges this connection to Marnie. Loz makes Marnie think about her own loss and situation and the way she’s dealt with her grief and how she wishes a different outcome for Loz. There were a number of conversations between the two that left me with a lump in my throat.

Reading back over my review, I realise I’ve spoken mostly about the characters and not so much about the plot. This is both because I love the characters so much, but also because the plot is bloody good and I don’t want to spoil anything. The case is very different from previous books, as is the structure of the narrative with its insets from the past, but is completely gripping and immersive. There are the usual twists and turns I’ve come to expect from a Sarah Hilary novel, but the big ones in Tastes Like Fear blew me away. With her third novel Sarah Hilary scores another slam-dunk and has firmly positioned herself on my must-read list. If you want to see what great crime fiction can be, look no further than D.I. Marnie Rome. Excuse me, while I go check whether there is a publication date for book 4 yet…

This book was provided for review by the publisher.