Last year I reviewed the first novel by Sarah Hilary, Someone Else’s Skin and said at the time that I would
look forward to the second in the series, especially if a growing awareness on the part of the reader of the characters and their history means that [their] back stories can take rather more of a back seat.
Well, now we have Hilary’s second novel concerning DI Marnie Rome and her Sergeant, Noah Jake, No Other Darkness and although my concerns have not been completely addressed at least in this instance the traumas that lie in Rome’s background have been more subtly associated with the central plot and as a result don’t seem to take over the narrative in quite such an intrusive manner.
No Other Darkness, like its predecessor, addresses a question that should be of greater social concern than it is. In Someone Else’s Skin it was the issue of domestic violence, in this second novel it is the damage that can be done, not only to the sufferer but to the entire family, by post-partum psychosis, a more extreme version of post-natal depression which results in
hallucinations, paranoia, voices enticing [the sufferer] to murder, telling them that their baby is evil, or else it’s the new messiah and everyone around it wants to harm it. Sometimes they believe the baby has supernatural healing powers and can survive anything.
The bodies of two small boys have been found in a bunker beneath a garden on a new housing estate. Forensic evidence suggests that they have been there for four or five years and yet there is nothing in the records to tie them to any missing persons case. Until DI Rome’s team can identify the bodies they are at a loss as to how to proceed.
To facilitate the investigation the family to whom the house belongs has been moved out into temporary accommodation. They have understandably been unsettled by the discovery but it seems that they are more troubled by the change of residence than the situation warrants. Their fourteen year old foster son, Clancy, has always been disturbed but now the whole family seem on edge and when the teenager disappears along with Carmen and Tommy, the two younger children, the police have to question whether or not history is about to repeat itself in more ways than one. Have the children been abducted by the same person who was responsible for the earlier deaths or is Clancy, who is the same age as, and from a similar background to, the teenager who killed DI Rome’s parents, set on taking revenge against a world be feels has deserted him by murdering his foster siblings?
As in the first novel, the solution, when all is resolved, is unexpected and it would seem that it is because it doesn’t fit with the norms as perceived by society that Hilary has explored this subject. She appears to be particularly interested in those damaged people who slip through society’s net because their profiles differ from what we have been taught to expect. There is little enough support for those who are most easily spotted. Those whose suffering goes unnoticed until they are pushed over the edge are the individuals this author is concerned about. It is an approach that sets Hilary apart from other new crime writers and marks her out as someone to watch in the future.