I reviewed Sarah Hilary’s No Other Darkness here at the beginning of January. I said then that I doubted if I would read a finer crime novel this year and so far that holds true.
So I am really chuffed that Sarah has written a post for this blog, as part of her blog tour, on her protagonist, D.I. Marnie Rome. Marnie is a really interesting character, and it was a genuine thrill to meet her in Sarah’s first book in the series Someone Else’s Skin (winner of the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year). If you haven’t, I’d urge you to read both books.
Meeting Marnie Rome
Sherlock Holmes, Tom Ripley and Clarice Starling all play a part in how I write Marnie Rome. Sherlock got in first, whispering in my ear when I was ten, about the appeal of a hero with hidden depths. Tom Ripley convinced me that a good character could be bad. But it wasn’t until I read The Silence of the Lambs and witnessed Clarice Starling’s unique brand of courage, full of very human cracks, that inspiration really took hold.
Looking back, it all seems terribly logical; all roads led to Marnie Rome. But there was a time when I didn’t know she existed, and a time when I thought she was a straight-die detective without secrets of any kind. Perhaps there was a clue in the way she arrived (in a story that came before Someone Else’s Skin): biker-booted, hiding behind contact lenses. It took a bit of digging to scratch beneath her surface. Marnie doesn’t give up her secrets easily and she has a talent for surprising me, which I hope means she surprises readers, too.
I don’t believe in characters who ‘write themselves’. Sooner or later you have to sit down and write them yourself. But Marnie has a habit of standing at my shoulder as I write, and shaking her head when I get stuff wrong (like the time I was about to give her a third cup of coffee and she pointed out that what she actually wanted was a Peroni). Conan Doyle ended up hating Sherlock Holmes, which doesn’t usually happen unless your character has taken on a life of his or her own.
Marnie can be prickly, single-minded, even cagey. But as she proves in No Other Darkness, she’s also very compassionate, human and unique. Flawed, yes, but in all the right ways. I like to think she and Clarice Starling would get on a storm.
(Sarah Hilary pic courtesy of Guardian newspaper)