‘Tastes Like Fear’ by Sarah Hilary (@sarah_hilary) – A superb story full of twists and tension

A young girl has gone missing, her family living in a daze, waiting for news, any news which can bring her home to them. Her face haunts DS Noah Jake, his desire to provide answers for her parents and her younger sister keeping him on edge.

When the team are called to the scene of a road traffic collision near to now decommissioned Battersea Power station, news of a young girl who may have been the cause of the accident gives them a moment of hope that they may find May Beswick. As they interview the drivers at the hospital, little do they know how close their investigations will bring them to finding the truth of May’s disappearance or how twisted and complicated their search for the mystery girl will become.

This is a complex and intriguing story, with no one quite what they appear to be. The story takes a bitter turn when a body is discovered in one of the penthouse apartments currently being built in the old power station, and another in the run down Garrett estate. They are still seeking the mystery girl from the crash site, but neither matches her description, although one of the two bears a disturbing similarity to something seen by one of the drivers.

Amongst the action we are taken into another world, one of an unconventional family, led by Harm, a man who seems determined to protect the girls in his care, as long as they stay exactly that, young girls. Just who this man is and what his connection is to the missing girl is something that Marnie and Noah need to find out and fast before any more girls die.

Set against the backdrop of an ever changing south London landscape, it is a stark contrast to the world that Harm is trying to create, one in which everything stays the same. Help comes from an unlikely and not wholly trustworthy source, and the team finally gets a break in the case, one, that with a certain amount of distraction on the Garrett estate, has a vital clue literally landing at Noah’s feet. With a key witness disappearing and the Beswick’s younger daughter now missing, the need to unearth the truth has never been greater.

The pace of the story is fast, the action and dialogue both carrying the reader along as they strive to understand just what is happening with not a moment in the story which feels unnecessary. It is full of misdirection, and even though I like to think myself highly suspicious by nature and can usually see the answer coming, the plot twists, one near the middle and another right at the end, were so cleverly crafted that even with near perfect vision (for my advancing years) I didn’t see them coming until they nearly hit me in the face.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed. The narrative is crisp and the tension finely balanced. There is also the hint that Marnie’s foster brother is set to become even more of a sinister presence in her life, as he manages to make it clear to her that he is no longer the young child whose motives for murdering her parents she cannot understand.

The characterisations are strong enough to allow someone unfamiliar with the series to understand the dynamics, although do not dominate. The story is believable and the plight of the many homeless on the streets of London not trivialised or glamorised in any way, Sarah Hilary achieving just the right balance of solid story telling amidst the social commentary. It is also refreshing with Marnie Rome, to find a female protagonist who, although she has a less than everyday past, is not dominated by it, managing perfectly normal and healthy personal relationships and demonstrating clear leadership, intelligence and ultimately compassion, something often lacking when creating a strong female role.

A definite 5 star read for me.

TLFTastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary – Amazon UK

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