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Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary

Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary’s London is full of shadows, darkness, underground places where people can vanish; places full of people, estates, tower blocks, all with blind spots and corners around which people disappear. A young girl running away from something, or someone, causes a car crash. Another girl is missing. Around a table, three well behaved young girls eat dinner served by a slightly older girl, presided over by a man. His name is Harm. On an estate an elderly woman watches warily from her window, noting names and times of the kids outside running riot. What links these people?

This is the third DI Marnie Rome book and if you are a fan of the others in the series you won’t be disappointed. Hilary’s customary intelligence and storytelling verve are in full force. It’s amazing how chilling words on a page can be. There’s a smashing twist that I genuinely didn’t see coming, oh, and tantalising snippets woven in about Stephen Keele, the killer of Rome’s parents, whose story we MUST learn one day.

I can’t say more for fear of spoilers, so I’ll leave you with this:

“The kitchen reeked of wax. Fourteen candles burning but they didn’t make it brighter, just dragged in more of the darkness. Greedily, the way his pain pulled at her, at everything.”

Smash Lits with Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary has created a brilliant detective series featuring DI Marnie Rome. She recently won the 2015 Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year for her debut, Someone Else’s Skin, and today marks the paperback publication of her equally dark, twisty and engaging follow-up, No Other Darkness. Obviously it’s time to ask her the really tricky questions. Drum roll please…

1) What was the last text you sent?

To a friend, telling her I hoped the wind wouldn’t play merry hell with her bell tents. It’s a long story.

2) Does your mother play golf? (Question provided by Michael Richardson)

Once, but it was crazy golf outside a Welsh tearoom and only to keep peace between me and my siblings.

3) Who is your unlikely crush?

Norman Bates. I have my reasons.

4) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon kicks tofu’s arse. Then they team up to beat the crap out of quinoa. Because that’s bacon’s duty, and tofu does as he’s told.

You make me laugh with your quinoa hate 🙂

5) Your writing is music, what style is it?

Psycho shower scene meets Panic at the Disco. Everyone mosh-pitting until they drip with sweat and drop to the floor.

6) Can you make up a poem about tinned peaches? (winks to those in the know)

The end of the world comes in cans
With blue labels and tastes of pink
Served on a plastic fork.
(Or, to answer your question more succinctly, no I can’t.)
(Ooh, you can. I think that’s rather chilling.)

7) Have you ever had a nickname?

Tiger. Sadly not after the girl from the Double Deckers.

8) What makes the wind blow?

Something to do with the sun and atmospheric pressure. Plays merry hell with my mate’s bell tents.

9) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

No. It would spoil too many great crime stories where the killer thinks he’s been very clever incinerating a corpse near a fire-place.

10) What’s your favourite thing from childhood that you’ve still got?

My bloodymindedness.

11) Have you ever written an angry letter to a magazine or “news” paper?

Yes. I once explained to Mslexia why being snooty about fan fiction was a bloody silly idea. They published the letter, too. I think I might become an angry letter writer in my old age.

12) Have you ever woken up laughing?

Not recently.

13) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I never watched it. I watched The Sullivans. John was my favourite in that. And I do love Kylie.

14) Who is your fave TV crime fighter?

Patrick Jane. His hair curls like the sea coming in and his smile is a sunset smiting the sand.

(grin)

15) What’s your favourite sweet?

Peppermint creams. Not the kind covered in chocolate. The plain kind, in the waxy wrappers.

16) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Lorrie Moore?

I would attempt a sandwich layer loaf, which my mum used to make in the 80s. You take a loaf of Hovis wheatgerm bread, unsliced, which you cut into three horizontal sections before adding three different fillings and slapping it back together again. Then you slice it like you normally would and–wowzer, you’ve got three layers of fillings in one slice. My mum used to smear peanut butter on the top crust. It’s retro, and a bit cheeky.

17) What was your favourite book as a child?

The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon. A book of short stories. My favourite was a wonderfully nasty one called The Lady’s Room.

18) What would you do if you were invisible for the day?

Sneak into Battersea Power Station and rearrange all the geegaws in the showroom flats. Then I’d nick Sting’s lute for a laugh.

19) What’s your favourite swear?

Oh fuck buckets.

20) What question should I have asked you?

Am I a good liar?

Ha! Thank you so much for taking part in Smash Lits. I wish you more and more success. 

Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin is published on the 27th of this month (by Headline) and it’s a stonkingly good read. I don’t usually read crime fiction, but I do enjoy watching TV detective shows, as does Sarah. (I know this because we have tweeted each other about our love of “Cho time” in The Mentalist, and our admiration for Luther.) Reading S.E.S I was immediately struck by how much like a television drama the novel seemed. I could “see” the story unfold. It has to be made into a TV show, surely?

Marnie Rome and her partner, DS Noah Jake, visit a women’s refuge in the hope of getting one of the women to testify against her brothers. Whilst there, a man is stabbed by his wife in front of several of the residents. As the officers investigate the stabbing, three of the women go missing.

At the same time, Marnie Rome’s backstory is woven in – her parent’s were murdered five years ago, and Rome regularly visits their murderer.

What follows is an intriguing tale where Hilary continually confounds expectations. Rome is allowed weakness, she makes mistakes, gets angry, and has complex emotions. Her relationships with Noah, and victim support worker, Ed Belloc, are well drawn. It’s a novel where nothing is quite as it seems. Hilary is unafraid of exploring darkness and some big issues, but never at the expense of story. It’s all very page-turny, even if I did find some of the violence unpalatable. It’s a well written, pacey, engaging novel, and I really want to know more about Marnie et al and am looking forward to book two. In the meantime, I had a few questions for Sarah which she agreed to answer for me:

Q. You’re an excellent short story writer, how difficult was it to expand into writing novels? Any words of advice for writers hoping to transition from short story writing to novel writing?

A. Thank you, that’s very kind. I enjoy writing short stories but boy, do I find them hard to get right. I think I’m better suited to writing novels; my stories seem to bend towards the shape of a novel more easily. So, in terms of advice, I’d say go with the shape of the story and see where it takes you.

Q. Where did you write? Any routine/ritual etc?

A. I’m very guilty about the fact that I bought a lovely writing desk when I moved house, and haven’t sat there once. I write in cafes. I like the white noise, and the coffee. I make sure I write for at least two hours before I allow myself a break. It’s the only way I can be sure to get it done.

Q. When you started writing did you know you were creating a series?

A. Always. It’s such a gift to be able to spend time with the same characters.

Q. How far ahead have you plotted in terms of story arc?

A. I try to have ideas for the next book along, whenever I’m writing something new. Not plotting, as such, but nuggets.

Q. Have you written book 2 yet?

A. First draft, yes. I’m about to embark on the second draft so wish me luck.

Q. Would you like to see it made into a TV series? And if so, any idea on who would make a good Marnie Rome?

A. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? A friend suggested Karen Gillan for Marnie, but I’m not sure. I do know that I’d love Ashley Walters to play Noah Jake.

Q. What is your fave tv detective series?

A. Currently? The Bridge. I love Saga and Martin so much it hurts.

Q. Who is your fave tv detective?

A. Saga Norén.

Q. What about crime novels – any favourites?

A. Everything ever written by Fred Vargas. Also, The Collector by John Fowles, and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

Q. You write about domestic violence & female genital mutilation – was it always your intention to try to highlight these issues?

A. No. I started out to write a book about secrets, and deceit. The characters I created each had different secrets, and some of those secrets were very dark. But I do want to talk about issues which have been side-lined by society, especially the ones that make us uncomfortable. There’s too much silence born of discomfort, I think. I’d like to make a bit of noise around those issues, because they matter so much.

Q. Did you do much research?

A. Enough to be sure of my facts, but not so much that it strays into non-fiction or gets in the way of the storytelling.

Q. The book is pretty harrowing with some deeply unpleasant violence. How easy was it to switch off and go and cook tea etc?

A. I don’t cook, which helps..! Writing Someone Else’s Skin did stir up a lot of unsettling emotions in me, but I think that’s part of being a writer, isn’t it? Keeping faith with the dark and the light… The chip of ice in our souls, as Graham Greene called it. I’m not very good at switching off; the next story is always percolating in my head. Probably very unhealthy although my editor would approve.

Thank you Sarah. I wish you and Marnie much success.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on Someone Else’s Skin you can preorder here. I’m sure all fans of crime fiction will be delighted to discover such an intriguing new detective.