A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Back in July, I wrote about Sarah Hilary’s prize-winning debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin. If you’re into crime fiction, I still strongly recommend it. It’s smart, it has a feisty-but-complicated female lead character, and it is compulsively readable. I bought a copy of the second Marnie Rome novel, No Other Darkness, but it’s taken me until very recently to actually read it. What if it wasn’t as good as the first one? That’s always the fear when starting a new series of novels. If you loved one, what happens if you don’t love the next? Does it dull the brilliance of the first? Do you bother reading the next? Is the whole thing ruined?
I am very relieved to say that No Other Darkness absolutely stands up to Someone Else’s Skin. In fact, the opening pages were almost physically painful to read, they were so well done. I know that sounds like a odd compliment (IT HURT! HOORAY!) but I love my crime novels, and the more believably they’re written, the better they usually are.
Those painful opening pages show us Archie and Fred, two little boys, locked in a dank bunker. The realisation is dawning that no one is coming for them. Honestly, it’s pretty grim to read, but stay with it. The action cuts to several years later, when the door to the bunker – and the boys’ bodies – is discovered by a man turning over the garden of his new-build house. Marnie and her assistant Noah (you’ll remember him from the first novel) are called in to investigate.
Too many crime novels these days descend into serial killer nonsense. Obviously there are very good serial killer novels (hello Val McDermid, you’re great) but many end up on the slightly preposterous side. What I love about both of the Marnie Rome novels so far – and I don’t believe I’m giving anything away here – is that the perpetrators aren’t cartoon psychopaths. They are real people, often normal people living outwardly normal lives, and that is, so often, the reality of even the most awful crimes. Sometimes real life is more horrifying than anything conjured up by the imagination.
So, crime readers of the world, haste ye to your nearest purveyor of books and get both of the Marnie Rome novels published so far. You won’t regret it. Personally, I’m getting impatient for the third to come out (Amazon is suggesting that’ll be April 2016, although I never know how much to trust those dates…).
Sarah Hilary: No Other Darkness (London: Headline, 2015) ISBN 9781472207739, RRP £7.99