I have been a massive fan of D.I. Marnie Rome since she first featured in Someone Else’s Skin, the first book in Sarah Hilary’s award winning police procedural series.
Never Be Broken, the 6th in this outstanding series has just been published in paperback and you can read my review here. If you haven’t read these books, I’d urge you to do so. They are tremendous and you will benefit from getting to know the characters in this series by starting from the beginning.
Whilst some may argue that Marnie, whilst compassionate, is also prickly and single-minded, everyone who knows these books will tell you how quickly they fell in love with the character of D.S. Noah Jake, Marnie’s partner.
I was really fortunate to secure an exclusive interview with D.S. Jake, brokered through his author, Sarah Hilary and I am re-running it for the paperback release. I hope this will take you some way into knowing his character a little better, and if you don’t know him already that this interview will whet your appetite for getting to know him.
So, let’s get on with the interview.
What was your life like growing up, Noah?
Looking back, I want to say lucky. I knew I was loved. Mum and Dad were around a lot, which is more than some of my friends had. But since Sol died, I’m having a real problem reconnecting to the good stuff. I’m remembering much more of the darkness in the house, growing up. Things like Mum’s illness, and Dad’s struggle to protect us from it. I wish I could catch hold of the good memories again, things like meals together, messing about in the garden with Dad, playing with Sol. It’s tough right now.
When did you come out to your mum and dad and how did they react?
I was nineteen, but I really wish I’d had the courage to come out when I was younger because that wasn’t the best time for us as a family. Sol had started hanging out with a local gang, we didn’t know how deep that would go, but it was making us all edgy. Mum and Dad were cool about it, about me, but Sol had a real problem. I was meant to be the good brother, the one who followed the rules. Being gay didn’t fit with that. Then I made it worse by joining the police. He didn’t speak to me for a long time after that. I’d betrayed him, was how he saw. One of my main regrets right now is how much time we wasted not talking back then.
What made you want to join the police force?
He’d hate to hear it, but Sol was a big part of the reason. And guilt, too. I’d been the look out for his gang, more than once. Told myself I was looking out for my kid brother but that’s no excuse, I know. I could see how it was headed, and it felt like I had two choices: go under like Sol, or go over to the other side. Try to make a difference, to make it better. Safer. Like I said, Sol struggled to forgive me for choosing the other side.
How did you meet Dan and is he your first serious relationship?
We met at uni and, yes, my first serious relationship. It didn’t start out that way, but we got there pretty fast. You know how I first knew it was serious—for keeps? When we started arguing. Dan struggles with my career choice, the same as Sol. On a good day, he thinks the police are corrupt. But he understands why I need to do this job. Which’s just as well, since there are times when I doubt I could keep doing it without his understanding.
What’s it like, working with Marnie? Would you say you are friends?
I wanted to work with DI Rome, right from the start. Not just because her solve rate was through the roof, but because she had something you don’t see often enough in this job: real empathy for the people we’re trying to help. I didn’t know why at first, then I found out about her foster brother, Stephen, and what he’d done, and it clicked. I’ve seen her working crime scenes — really bad ones — and of course she’s thorough and careful, but it’s more than that. She’s not stopped caring. A lot of us have to stop caring, to stay sane. This latest investigation, into knife crime and gangs, I knew it would feel personal for me but I didn’t expect it to feel that way for Marnie. But it does, because that’s who she is. She makes every part of this job feel personal, that’s how she gets it done. I’d call her a friend, yes. I hope she’d say the same about me.
I’m sorry for your loss. Now that Sol has gone, do you think you will ever stop blaming yourself?
Thanks. I don’t know, I’m not ready to think about that. I guess on a good day, I look at what’s happening right now with Marnie and Stephen — after all this time, six years since he killed her family — and I let myself hope I might get to a better place. But right now, it feels too raw. Blaming myself is part of grieving; it feels right.
You’ve not had an easy time of it from in the last year or so. Are you re-thinking your career?
I’d be lying if I said no. Not just because of Sol but the whole atmosphere in London, post-referendum … No question this rise in knife crime is linked to that — you can taste the hostility in the city, especially if you’re black. But where would I go, if I left the police? I’d be scared of what I might do, the way I feel right now. Okay, that’s more than I admitted to Occupational Health and Welfare … But honesty is a good sign, right? Progress, of sorts. Hey, maybe I’m getting better.
My thanks to Sarah Hilary for facilitating this interview.
Here’s a bit about the book, which Mick Herron describes as: ‘Deeply contemporary, painfully real, heartbreakingly good’
Children are dying on London’s streets. Frankie Reece, stabbed through the heart, outside a corner shop. Others
recruited from care homes, picked up and exploited; passed like gifts between gangs. They are London’s lost.
Then Raphaela Belsham is killed. She’s thirteen years old, her father is a man of influence, from a smart part of town.
And she’s white. Suddenly, the establishment is taking notice.
DS Noah Jake is determined to handle Raphaela’s case and Frankie’s too. But he’s facing his own turmoil, and it’s becoming an obsession. DI Marnie Rome is worried, and she needs Noah on side. Because more children are disappearing, more are being killed by the day and the swelling tide of violence needs to be stemmed before it’s too late.
NEVER BE BROKEN is a stunning, intelligent and gripping novel which explores how the act of witness alters us and reveals what lies beneath the veneer of a glittering city.
Sarah’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and was a World Book Night selection. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it was a Silver Falchion and Macavity Award finalist in the US. No Other Darkness, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award. Her DI Marnie Rome series continued with Tastes Like Fear (longlisted for Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2017) and Quieter Than Killing (Observer’s Thriller of the Month). Come and Find Me was published in 2018, with Never Be Broken in May 2019.