Tastes Like Fear | Sarah Hilary | 2016 (7 April) | Headline | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book
One girl is missing, the police have been searching for her for weeks, while another one runs in front of a car, causing a fatal accident. The girl, though, survives and she runs, bloody with words written on her arms.
Aimee lives in a house of runaways, protected by Harm, a man who seeks out lost girls, dresses them in a uniform, gives them food of sorts, puts a roof over their heads. But Aimee knows that there are some things even worse than life on the streets and some men are worse than devils.
As DI Marnie Rome and her DS Noah Jake investigate the missing girls, they enter the desperate world of homelessness, while also discovering a little of what drives these girls to run. One housing estate in particular catches their attention, ruled by a gang of teenagers, the elderly confined by fear and worse in their flats. But both Marnie and Noah have experience of living alongside trouble and delinquency and they are able to see below the surface. Nothing is quite as it seems. And when a body turns up in a penthouse development at Battersea Power Station, it’s soon clear that more will follow.
Tastes Like Fear is the third of Sarah Hilary’s DI Marnie Rome novels and yet again the author proves herself to be among the leaders of contemporary British crime fiction. In fact, I would argue that no more proving is to be done. Sarah Hilary has now established herself as one of the very best, so much so that when a new novel comes along it goes straight to the top of my reading list. As with the previous novels, Sarah Hilary takes a theme, in this case homelessness, and turns it on its head. Tastes Like Fear is such an original novel, full of surprises, distinguished by its brilliant writing and the author’s insight into her characters, both good and evil, their behaviour and their situations. Each of these novels can be read as stand alones – Tastes Like Fear is no different.
The novel moves between Marnie and Noah and the dark world inhabited by Aimee and the others in Harm’s house. Aimee’s narrative, and that of the other inhabitants, is starkly frightening and disturbing as the true nature of Harm is revealed. But Harm is no ordinary villain. It’s a fascinating portrait of a hell house and the people forced to live in it. The depiction of the housing estate is especially well done. The investigation itself takes Marnie and Noah in all sorts of unexpected directions.
I love spending time with Marnie and Noah and I enjoy the glimpses into their homelife. Both feel like very real, genuine people. Marnie’s past continues to haunt her and here it takes another significant step.
Tastes Like Fear is an intense, gripping read, often dark and in places very emotional. The themes of homelessness and teenage despair are investigated with great insight and care. The mystery itself – or mysteries, as this is a wonderfully complex story – is clever and constantly surprising. It all feels personal, for Marnie and Noah, for the people inside Harm’s house, for the people living on the estate, for the people with sins to hide, and for us. With no doubt at all, Tastes Like Fear will be one of my top crime fiction reads of 2016. The quality of the writing alone makes it stand out. Fabulous!