No Other Darkness | Sarah Hilary | 2015, Pb 2016 | Headline | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book
Terry Doyle discovers a terrible thing when digging a new vegetable patch in the garden of his not-very-old house. He finds a buried chamber or vault and within it are the decayed remains of two small children, spooned together on a bed, surrounded by tins of food. Terry feels compelled to wait at the entrance to the tomb until DI Marnie Rome arrives. He doesn’t want to leave the children on their own. And when Marnie descends into the pit, she’s faced with one of the most tragic sights of her career as the details of the last days of these children’s lives begin to emerge from the dark.
The opening pages of No Other Darkness are among the most harrowing I’ve read, immediately giving an urgency to the investigation that will follow. This is a street in which a child has disappeared before. People are suspicious, they peer through windows at their neighbours, even more so at strangers, including the police. Not surprisingly, this is a crime that strongly affects local children. Marnie and her DS Noah Jake must use all their skill and delicacy to tease statements out of the street’s parents and children.
In No Other Darkness we meet Marnie Rome and her DS Noah Jake for the second time and it’s very good to be back with them. It is a relief after the traumatic start to spend time with the order and method of Marnie’s investigation, to watch out for clues and lies. I won’t reveal where they lead us as this is a plot that you must watch unwind for yourself. Its ending, though, when it comes, is nigh on perfect.
Marnie is a wonderful creation, extremely real, complex and, what I particularly appreciate, interesting. We know from Someone Else’s Skin that there is trauma in her past and this has even more of an influence here. It’s not laboured, it’s dealt with well. While there is no need to have read Someone Else’s Skin first (although why would you deprive yourself of such a pleasure?), it’s very satisfying here to watch characters and relationships develop and move on. There is much more here about Marnie and Ed – Ed really intrigues me, I like what I’m learning about him – and we also learn more about Noah Jake and his partner Dan as well as his family, especially his brother Sol. The background to No Other Darkness is rich and layered and there’s clearly much that can be explored in future novels.
Sarah Hilary is such a good writer, the dialogue is particularly strong and the third person narrative mixes well with the intermittent first person memories from the past that puzzle and tantalise as the novel goes on. No Other Darkness takes us, and DI Marnie Rome, to some dark places but there’s a real warmth and care in Sarah Hilary’s handling of these difficult themes. It is also extremely difficult to put down. I thought this would be good and I wasn’t disappointed. What a fabulous novel.
Someone Else’s Skin