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Fresh Blood

Name: Sarah Hilary

Title of Book: Someone Else's Skin

'...deserves every accolade for such a breath-taking crime novel. '

Synopsis:
Detective Inspector Marnie Rome is sent to interview a resident in a women's refuge with her partner, Detective Sergeant Noah Jake, and on arrival they find one of the women's husbands, lying stabbed on the floor. As Rome and Jake investigate, events begin to spiral and violence escalates. Everyone in the shelter is keeping secrets, some for survival, and some, the suspect, to disguise who they really are under their skin.

Through the twists and turns of the case we get under the skin of DI Rome. For Marnie, murder is personal as well as professional; she has closed herself off to colleagues and friends after the brutal murder of her parents.

Review:
Welcome to the dark and disturbing world of DI Marnie Rome in a debut novel by a talented new writer who deserves every accolade for such a breath-taking crime novel.

The opening chapters grab you by the throat and take you on a fast paced journey; putting you through emotional hell as we discover horrific murders, domestic abuse and psychological torment, until the final satisfying page.

On the basis of this first novel Sarah Hilary was born to write and she is definitely a name to look out for. She has created a memorable character in Marnie Rome and as the series develops I am sure we can expect to discover more of her past and the demons she torments herself with.

As fans of crime fiction we are all aware of a protagonist with a dark secret but Hilary has given us a highly original back story with a sense of truth and believability. This multi-layered novel is more than a story; we follow these characters and watch them progress, grow and learn from their mistakes. Rome and Jake are a fine double act and I am already looking forward to book two!

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating



Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) You have turned your hand at writing a crime novel. Did you always want to write crime or did you gravitate to it after experimenting with different genres?
I wouldn’t say other genres as such, but I did spend a long time talking myself out of attempting a crime novel because I was convinced I couldn’t plot. I’d always read crime from an early age though, so once I’d got my courage up it was a natural direction to take.
2) Refuge shelters are very closed places; how much research did you put into ‘Someone Else's Skin’?
I read a lot of first person accounts, and spent a lot of time looking at refuges online to understand the geography and security. I have to pace myself with research otherwise it becomes a way of avoiding writing, so I always remember that I’m telling a story. The story needs to be credible, and I’d like it to be visceral, but it is fiction.
3) Marnie Rome has been compared to Jane Tennison from ‘Prime Suspect’. Are you happy with that comparison?
I couldn’t be unhappy about it as Jane Tennison is a terrific character, but I do think Marnie is her own woman. She has darker corners than Jane, and she’s keeping more secrets. I consciously avoided making her ‘a woman in a man’s world’ as I think that path’s well-trodden. So while we see Marnie interacting with male colleagues there’s no overt theme of workplace sexism, for instance. It’s more about the secrets that Marnie’s keeping, from herself as much as anyone else.
4) ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ is a very fast paced novel and you don't shy away from some very dark subjects. Did you have to rein yourself in from being too dark?
Interesting question! I didn’t consciously rein myself in; I went where the story took me. But I took care not to make the subject matter gratuitous, and to balance light and dark. I’m not a fan of darkness for its own sake, but for me part of crime fiction’s appeal is the way it explores the subjects we’re not supposed to talk about. I wouldn’t want to write (or read) a book that pretends brutal crime isn’t appalling.
5) As the creator of Marnie Rome, what do you like about her the most?
Her unflinching courage; the way she refuses to take the easy path. And her honesty: she owns her weaknesses and her mistakes. She’s always trying to be a better person and she believes in second chances, for everyone. I think that’s what makes her a great detective.
6) The first half of the book swings back and forth between the past and the present. As a new writer was it a difficult or easy method of telling your story? Is characterisation very important to you?
The first draft was linear, with no swinging back and forth. But this story is all about secrets and layers, so in the second draft I started to add those. I wanted to show how Marnie became the person she is, and to make it clear that she’s a work in progress, still trying to find her feet after the loss that knocked her flat five years ago. There’s a lot we still don’t know about her past, recent and otherwise, and I wanted to plant the seed of that idea: that we will learn Marnie’s secrets slowly, over the course of the series. Characterisation is hugely important to me. It all starts there: plot; motive; resolution (or its lack).
7) Can you give us a hint of what book two is about and how far ahead have you planned Marnie's journey?
I’ve finished the first draft of the next book and am about to begin the big edits. The story starts with lost children and it’s darker in a different way to ‘Someone Else’s Skin’, still scary but sadder too. We learn more about Marnie’s past and see a more impulsive side to her character. I have a rough plan for book three in the series. I try and keep a notebook of ideas for the next book along, but I also like to be surprised. Marnie’s very good at surprising me.
8) Who do you see as your influence as a writer?
Blimey, loads of people, starting with my grandmother, who wasn’t a writer but who told me the most amazing stories when I was a child. In terms of writers, I’d say Patricia Highsmith, Thomas Harris, Fred Vargas, Helen Dunmore, Muriel Spark, even PG Wodehouse.
9) What do you look for when you pick up a book to read? Is your main focus to write the book you’d love to read?
Quirky characters (Fred Vargas’ Adamsberg is my current obsession), a decent quota of darkness, originality (I loved ‘The Shining Girls’ last year, because it was so unexpected) and perspective (I want to feel that I understand the world a little better after reading). I don’t consciously try and write the book I’d love to read. It’s more about the compulsion in me, to tell a particular story. But when I’m editing I do think carefully about what makes a crime story into a compelling read.
10) What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
Only three? That’s a tough one. Okay… ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles, because the crime is so chillingly middle-class and believable. ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ by Thomas Harris, for Clarice Starling and the off-kilter beauty of the prose. More recently, ‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn, which is insanely good.
10) What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
Only three? That’s a tough one. Okay… ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles, because the crime is so chillingly middle-class and believable. ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ by Thomas Harris, for Clarice Starling and the off-kilter beauty of the prose. More recently, ‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn, which is insanely good.