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Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary

March 29, 2016

You’ll never be out of Harm’s way

The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.

A runaway who doesn’t want to be found, she only wants to go home.

To the one man who understands her.

Gives her shelter.

Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.

He’s the head of her new family.

He’s Harm.

 D.I. Marnie Rome has faced many dangerous criminals but she has never come up against a man like Harm. She thinks that she knows families, their secrets and their fault lines. But as she begins investigating the girl’s disappearance nothing can prepare her for what she’s about to face.

 Because when Harm’s family is threatened, everything tastes like fear…


Ever since I read Tastes Like Fear, I have been thinking about why I like Sarah Hilary’s books so much. She writes incredibly well, with insight and compassion, but she also writes intelligently, never once talking down to her audience or over explaining. The psychological insight she offers into her characters often make me go back and re-read a passage to see if I have completely understood the totality of what she’s writing. That’s not to say that her books are difficult to read – not at all. They are a delight and sparklingly well written. But there is a complexity to her characters, and sometimes an echo of a theme that hangs in the air long after the book is read.

In Tastes Like Fear, the third DI Marnie Rome crime novel, Hilary really surpasses herself. Tense with fear, redolent with detailed observation and above all, superbly plotted, this is a real winner.

Sarah Hilary is not afraid to expose the dark underbelly of society and here she explores the mind-set of a psychopath whose obsessive control of those he has taken into his care leads to a series of dark and disturbing events. These are young people, barely out of childhood; the dispossessed, the unloved and unwanted who live below the line – outcasts from society, living a life they think they have chosen.

Set around the multi million pound redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, the youngsters live under the radar in conditions that contrast sharply with those who will be living in the finished apartments.

DI Rome and DS Noah Jake are investigating the disappearance of May Beswick. They hear that a teenage girl has been injured in an RTA and the driver of the car claims that she literally walked into the road straight in front of him. The girl has disappeared, but eye witness accounts say that she was a teenage girl and so she could be May. Even more strangely, the girl seems to have writing on her body; something that strikes a chord with Marnie and links the two in a deeply personal way.

As Marnie and Noah Jake investigate, we learn more about Marnie’s foster brother, Stephen, who provides an uncomfortable backdrop to the whole series thus far and whose existence leads us to question whether any family relationships can truly be described as normal.

Their investigation leads them into the world of teenage homelessness and we are afforded a glimpse into the protection offered by the protector, Harm and the way of life for those living under his ‘care’. The description of their lives, and of the people who live on the housing estate that the teenage girl disappears into, draws a sharp contrast between those who have and those who have nothing. Even more harrowing is the total lack of comprehension of May’s parents who simply do not understand why their daughter left.

This is a real tension builder and the darkness and despair become quite terrifying. It’s hard to describe (and I worry a lot that I can’t do justice to this fine novel) but there is tension, fear and yet massive humanity in this brilliant plot.

The characters are very well drawn, the writing superb and the denouement a total surprise.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough – you should read it, buy it and the first two in the Marnie Rome series – Someone Else’s Skin and No Other Darkness. They are superb.

Tastes Like Fear is published by Headline on 7th April 2016

One Comment
  1. Copy in its way to me in US. Huge fan of this series and if Bruce’s writing.


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