I’m absolutely delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Sarah Hillary’s brand new DI Marnie Rome thriller, Quieter Than Killing. I have an extract from the opening scenes to share with you today and keep reading if you want to know my thoughts on the book. First though, here’s what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.
Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.
Praise for Sarah Hilary and the DI Marnie Rome Series
‘It’s dark, brilliant, and tightens like a noose. Sarah Hilary is downright dangerous.’ – Mick Herron
‘Tremendous’ – Ian Rankin
‘Sarah Hilary is brilliant. I put everything else aside when I have one of her books in the house’ Alex Marwood
‘An impressive debut… The book’s central theme is domestic violence, which Hilary handles unflinchingly with force and passion. DI Rome is an appealing creation’ The Times
‘She writes deftly, unobtrusively, subtly drawing her reader into the cold, wet world of London… and her characters are freshly drawn.’ Observer
Quieter Than Killing
Six years ago
He’s washing the car – slapping water, sloppy. She’s in the kitchen, cutting. Not meat and not bread, something that chunks under the knife. Carrots, or onions. The sounds soak up through the house to where Stephen is sitting in the room with the red wall.
Her room. The shelf over the bed is full of her things. Books and pictures, and the dark blue box with its snarl of bracelets. His favourite is the horseshoe charm, silver, curved like a half-finished heart. He wears it under the sleeve of his pyjamas, in bed. They said they’d put her things away into the attic if he wanted but he said no, he didn’t mind. He likes looking at her things; it makes him feel safe. He sleeps with her books weighted around him like stones.
She painted the red wall herself. He can see the places she had to stop and stand on a chair to finish, stretching her arm to reach the ceiling’s right angles. She was angry when she did it; the paint’s too thick and too thin and where it’s too thick it’s full of tiny holes where air bubbles burst.
She’s not been here in years, but it’s her room.
Marnie Rome’s room.
He finds the shape of her in the bed at night and it’s his shape, narrow. He wriggles down into it, imagining a trench dug in the mattress, a place to lie low. Her eyes tracked these same shadows across the ceiling, and watched the sun crouch outside the cracked window.
The crack’s at the top corner, in the shape of a hand. He measures it most weeks, to see if it’s grown. Stands on a chair and reaches until he’s touching the tips of his fingers to it. The last time, it drew blood. He climbed down and stood looking at his red fingers, like hers after she’d painted the wall. The fingers tasted rusty, old. He shut them up in a fist and set its side to the window, thinking about punching, thinking of the noise it would make and the feet that would come running, arms open, mouths lopsided, words worrying at him. Just thinking it makes him tired.
He’s lonely. If it wasn’t for her here with him, he’d have gone crazy by now.
He says her name when he’s held down by her books, the horseshoe charm biting at the inside of his wrist. They have the same wrists, thin and square. They’re the same shape, lying together in the narrow bed, counting the holes in the red wall, all the places pricked by her anger. Not just anger. Sadness, too. She was lonely here, like him. Hurting, the way he hurts.
A slop of water from outside.
He’s making the car shine.
From the kitchen, the smell of onions frying in butter.
She’s making a casserole.
Stephen had never eaten a casserole until he came here, when he was eight years old. Now he’s fourteen, ‘a growing boy’. In the other place it was all scraps and mouldy sandwiches made with whatever was left in the fridge. Here, they won’t stop feeding him. Proper food, she calls it. ‘Let’s get a proper meal inside you,’ as if she can see his emptiness. He’s so empty it hurts.
Food doesn’t help, stretching his stomach until he has to get rid of it to make more room for her, for Marnie. Food just gets in the way.
He’s whistling as he washes the car.
Stephen can hear water running onto the drive. He used to help when he first came here, when he was scared and wanting to please. He’s not scared now. Not of them, not of anything, thanks to her.
He counts the holes in the red wall, starting over.
From the kitchen—
The yellow smell of onions frying, and the slow chunking of the knife.
‘Upgrades . . . Another circle of hell successfully breached.’ Tim Welland gave up the struggle with his phone and set it aside. ‘DS Jake, take a seat.’
Noah did as he was told, puzzling over what had prompted this meeting. First thing in the morning wasn’t Welland’s style any more than it was his, but here he was in the OCU Commander’s office at 7.55 a.m. without a cup of coffee in sight and Welland looking like a double espresso wouldn’t even scratch the surface of his mood.
‘You and DI Rome make a good team.’ He treated Noah to his heaviest stare. ‘That’s the station gossip. But the trouble with station gossip is I wouldn’t stuff my wet shoes with most of it. I want to hear it from you.’
‘We make a good team, sir.’
An easy answer because it was the truth, but where was Welland going with this? Christ, he wasn’t about to hand out a secondment, was he? It was too early in the morning for dodging bullets and Noah liked his job, wanted to keep working with Marnie Rome and the major incident team. Ambition dictated that he took any leg-up on offer, but Welland’s face wasn’t saying leg-up.
On his desk was a sheet of paper, an incident report. Noah wasn’t equal to the task of reading it upside down while maintaining eye contact.
‘She’s got your back, and you’ve got hers.’ Deep lines were scored either side of Welland’s nose, as if he’d paid to have censure tattooed in place. ‘You’ve found out things about her you didn’t know a year ago. Is that a fair statement?’
‘I . . . Yes, sir.’
‘From the station’s self-appointed agony aunt.’ Touching the taut skin under his eye. ‘DC Tanner.’
This was a disciplinary? Debbie Tanner had pushed her luck, one piece of well-meaning gossip too many. ‘Not just from her.’
‘Remind me to dig out my thermal underwear.’
‘If DI Rome’s sharing secrets then hell must be icing over.’
‘Not . . . secrets. But we did speak a little, about what happened six years ago. Not much, but—’
‘Enough for you to know why I don’t want her anywhere near a case involving this address.’ Welland put his thumb on the incident report and pushed it across the desk. ‘Yes?’
At last. They were getting somewhere. Okay, maybe nowhere good, but—
Noah read the report, his throat tightening. Definitely nowhere good. ‘Yes, sir.’
‘Our victims are in the hospital, not the morgue. Robbery gone wrong. Not a major incident, and not homicide. So. We let Trident take this one.’
‘That makes sense.’ Noah kept his eyes on the paperwork.
Six years ago, Welland had been the first officer on the scene. At Marnie’s old address, her family home. This new crime—
Robbery and assault, two victims in hospital. Alan and Louise Kettridge. Her tenants, Noah guessed. The assault had taken place while he was sleeping with Dan curled at his back, around 1.30 a.m. It’d happened in the house where her parents were killed by her foster brother, Stephen Keele.
‘Trident have their eye on a local gang, kids. This has their thumbprints all over it, apparently.’ Welland sat back, rubbing at his face. ‘If we’re lucky, literally their thumbprints. But even without the kick-and-run gods smiling on us, we leave this to Trident. They’ve got the contacts, plus some private mediation outfit falling over itself to get the local community onside.’ When he dropped his hands, his face held the shadow of their shape. ‘DS Kennedy’s heading up the Trident team. He’ll keep me posted. And I’ll keep DI Rome posted, on a need-to-know basis.’
How would he quantify that? This house, what had happened there six years ago . . .
Marnie’s need to know wasn’t going to fit Trident’s boxes, or not neatly.
Welland reached across the desk for the report. ‘You’ve got her back.’
He nodded a dismissal at Noah. ‘I’m glad of it.’
Oh. My. Word… What a thrilling opening, don’t you agree? Now the book is released on Thursday 9th March but I was lucky enough to lay my hands on a sneaky review copy last month. Here are my thoughts…
In nearly every early review I have seen of Quieter Than Killing, the reviewer has said how they believe that this is probably the best book in the series to date. That is quite a claim as if you have read any of the first three books you will know just how strong a series this is. From the award winning debut, Someone Else’s Skin, through to the latest book in the series, Tastes Like Fear, Sarah Hilary has created a wonderfully enduring and incredibly likeable heroine in Marnie Rome and her perfect partner in crime fighting Noah Jake, and her books have captivated me and many other readers alike. This one was no exception and yes, I’d say the plaudit of best one yet is thoroughly deserved.
Now I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but it is fair to say that at the end of Tastes Like Fear I was left with no doubt whatsoever that Marnie’s foster brother, Stephen, was set to cause her further upset. Not content with turning her life upside down when he was a teenager, he seems determined to now undermine everything she thought she knew about her past. And with her childhood home being burgled and echoes of their turbulent past coming to light through the case Marnie is currently working on, it seems that this time he may well succeed.
The live case Marnie is working on is a perplexing one. A series of attacks which makes victims of some less than sympathetic characters; the kinds of people that the police would perhaps rather be arresting than protecting. But when one of the attacks goes a step too far, and another of the early victims and a potential suspect go missing, there is a heightened sense of jeopardy and tension. From that point onward the pace, while not quite frenetic, never shows any hint of slowing. Throw in Marnie and Noah’s personal battles which are being waged and fought throughout and you have a real edge of your seat thriller on your hands.
The characterisations are as strong as always, with Hilary throwing in a lot of suspicion and misdirection. When you are dealing with violent victims of equally violent offenders, along with witnesses who suffer from somewhat of a credability issue, it is hard to know who to trust. With Marnie’s greatest ally Welland also away from the operation, she has to contend with a career driven new boss, one whom she doesn’t quite trust. This leaves Marnie feeling very much on her own at a time when she needs all the emotional support in the world. It adds another layer of conflict, one which makes things that little bit harder for the team and dare I say it, more fun for the reader.
There is another, initially unexplained thread throughout which can make for some uncomfortable reading at times; the abduction of a young boy. Told from his perspective, the scenes in which he appears are occasionally harrowing but not gratuitously so, and you can’t help but will this particular section to a speedy and safe conclusion. The plotting forces the reader to examine the implication of nurture, rather than nature, on the development of young minds. It is something which Hilary touches upon, whilst still allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. However I can’t help but wonder if this situation is another mirrored experience for Marnie; it has clear echoes of the past which could come back and haunt her at a later date.
The conclusion of the book is fast paced, the team narrowing in on the killer with potentially deadly results. Hilary builds the action with her usual skilled ease and Marnie is as level headed and fastidious as always, in spite of the battle which is being waged in her mind. And as the case forces Marnie to interact with another unit of officers, it seems as though it is not only her past which may be leaving her confused.
I really do love the characters of Marnie and Noah. Both have their issues; personal and professional conflicts which they need to conquer. Marnie is slowly coming closer to the truth over what happened in her family home, something she needs to know but is scared of truly understanding. And Noah has to make the hardest decision of his life in this book and I will be intrigued to see how that plays out. Speaking of Noah, I can’t help thinking that maybe he should consider a safer career. In flower arranging or anything working with something soft rather than baseball bats and kettle balls. Poor guy. That Sarah Hilary really does have a mean streak.
I think this book could potentially work as a standalone but do advise caution if not knowing everything drives you a bit nuts. While you get a little of the back story throughout, there is a lot which links to the previous books in this series and would be best served by having read them in order and it does avoid any spoilers if you are intending to read the others. And besides, with a series this good, why the heck wouldn’t you want to read them all?
A clear 5 star read for me. If you’ve loved any of the first three books then you really will love this.
My thanks to Netgalley and publishers Headline who provided the advance copy of Quieter Than Killing. It is released on the 9th March and is available to purchase from the following links:
About the Author
Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin, won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2015, and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s Book of the Month (‘superbly disturbing’) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. No Other Darkness, the second in the series was published in 2015. The Marnie Rome series continued in 2016 with Tastes Like Fear. Sarah lives in Bath, and is available for interviews, events and to write features. Sarah will be appearing at CrimeFest and the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in 2017.
Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary or on her website Crawl Space
You can purchase the first three books in the Marnie Rome series from Sarah Hilary’s author page on Amazon here.
The other books in the series are:
A massive thanks to Katie Brown at Headline for inviting me to take part in the tour. With some great features and reviews from some other superb bloggers, why not take a look at one of the other tour stops, continuing tomorrow with the wonderful Anne over at Random Things Through My Letterbox. Happy reading all.