Author of the Month

Name: Sarah Hilary

First Novel: Someone Else's Skin

Most Recent Book: Tastes Like Fear

'...woven together brilliantly into a tautly conceived story... '

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 and 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.

DI 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 is about to face.

Because when Harm's family is threatened, everything tastes like fear...

I read over 100 novels a year. Sometimes, it's easy to forget the main characters in a series from one year to the next. That's not necessarily the fault of the author, I just read that many books I can't keep all the characters in my head. With Sarah Hilary I don't have that problem. Her protagonist: the damaged yet brilliant DI Marnie Rome, is so well drawn, so lovingly created, that picking up a new book a year after the last feel like it's only been five minutes.

It is testament to Hilary's writing prowess that not only do the characters remain with you but so do the plots. I'm still shaken by the events in ‘No Other Darkness’. It's no wonder the author won the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival award for her debut novel. Soon, Sarah Hilary is going to have a mantelpiece full of them.

DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake are a wonderful pairing. They feed off each other nicely and their private lives are suitably engaging to keep the reader hooked. Rome is in turmoil due to the murder of her parents by her foster-brother. His reappearance could have been laboured by now but Hilary is keeping this powerful relationship between the two alive. It's a dangerous game they're playing and it will explode into something terrifying. I know Hilary is playing with her audience here. She's plotting something and we will be in for a shocking treat.

‘Tastes Like Fear’ is an intriguing and complex story that taps into the state of society in 21st century Britain - broke down estates, people living in fear, the constant need for security. It's all woven together brilliantly into a tautly conceived story that will grab you from the first page and refuse to let go until the last.

I devoured ‘Tastes Like Fear’ in a weekend and loved every word. This is what crime writing is all about. Sarah Hilary is going to be a huge name in psychological thriller writing - and deservedly so too.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) You've had great success with your first two novels. What do you think it is about Rome and Jake that has resonated with readers? What feedback have you had about Rome and Jake from crime fiction fans and do you take on board what people say?
Readers love how human they both are, and how brave. For me, courage comes from struggle. Nothing is ever easy for Marnie or Noah; they have to fight for every win. Readers identify with that struggle. Former police officers and detectives have said Marnie feels real and believable in her role as Detective Inspector, and that’s important to me. Crime fiction fans have really taken her and Noah to their hearts, which matters most of all.
2) ‘Tastes Like Fear’ is a very topical novel featuring broke Britain and the struggle of living on a housing estate. How aware are you of the news and current events when you're planning a new novel?
It’s always there, in the background. I’m not a writer who believes in solitude or switching off the world in order to write. I’m a people-watcher, by instinct. I couldn’t write the Marnie Rome series unless I was elbow-deep in the world that’s at the heart of the stories.
3) The relationship between Marnie and Stephen is a fascinating one. Do you have plans for these two in future novels?
Most definitely. Book four, which I’m writing at the moment, is very much about Marnie and Stephen. He’s her nemesis, but he’s also her brother. There’s a tension in that which is irresistible to me as a writer — and which readers seem to relish, too.
4) You have been very clear that you write ‘organically’ without plotting too fastidiously. Do you have any idea where you want to go or do the book and the characters take charge?
I have a theme, and a scene or two. From that, I try to put down a ‘treatment’ for my editor, a sort of route-map. But I invariably go off-piste once the characters get to work. My favourite part of writing is when I’m surprised by the characters. That’s where the twists and turns come from, which readers love so much.
5) You have written introductions for upcoming re-issues of three Patricia Highsmith novels. Was she a big influence to you? Why do you think she is still revered so many years after her death?
Highsmith has a kind of alchemy for writers, and readers. There’s a controlled anarchy in her stories which I find hugely inspirational. You can never really guess where the books are headed because she doesn’t play by any of the rules. She was a very instinctive writer who believed her unconscious mind would serve up the stories, but she also kept countless notebooks (her ‘cahiers’) so it’s impossible to pin down a formula or technique from her approach. Her books are vastly different, even within the Ripley series. For a writer, that’s magical.
6) You have a great presence on social media (you often make me smile with your comments). How important is it to interact with your readers?
Hugely important. Without readers, there would be no books—simple as that. When I’m writing, I’m very aware of the part the readers will play in making my words come to life. Their understanding and intuition — and their curiosity, their questions — all of this is the glue that holds everything together. And I also love chatting with them at book groups and online. Readers are ace.
7) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
Be patient, and tenacious. You have to be in this for the long haul.