‘Celebrate with your wallet’ – No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

nodshSarah Hilary’s debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin, was one of my favourite novels of last year. This is worth mentioning because it is a crime novel and I struggle with the genre. It just tends to rub me up the wrong way. I don’t think I can be accused of not trying. I have had a go at Chandler, Rendell, Friedman, Deighton, Doyle, Ambler, Rankin, Leonard, and yeah, they are ok. I quite like Simenon. I enjoyed Peace’s Red Riding Quartet until it got a bit too heavy. Too often crime fiction is about solid, unremarkable prose, and tricks, and repeating those tricks, and thus, inevitably, the law of diminishing returns. Someone Else’s Skin obeyed the rules of the genre while simultaneously breathing new life into it. It was smart and smooth, poetic when it wanted to be and direct when it needed to be. It had substance. It could be re-read.

I have always been a little bit jealous of readers of series of novels. Awaiting the new book, all excited like there was going to be another series of The Wire or something. It has never happened for me. I loved the Hitchhiker’s novels as a kid but four of the five had been published before I started reading them. I have no stomach for dragony quests or vampires or space opera or any of that gubbins. Crime was my big hope: find a detective I liked and stick with them. It never happened though. I gave up a long time ago.

Then along came DI Marnie Rose…

No Other Darkness follows on from Someone Else’s Skin (though, I should point out, not in a way that requires you to read the first book before you can enjoy the second – Hilary balances the needs of new and established readers superbly) and keeps up the quality easily. The bodies of two young boys are found in an underground bunker. They have been dead five years. That’s your crime. And, well, it is a crime novel, you know how this works (and if you are a fan of the genre the last thing you want is me telling you any more of the plot than what you get on the blurb). So instead of spoiling the book, allow me to recommend it.

It is very good. So good that I finally have a series of books to follow. I guess I will have to check if they call them a series of books now. Is that right? A series of books? I’ll check later. Anyway, the thing that makes everything all exciting, is that Hilary cares about plot, character, and prose. That sounds like a trite observation but I have found that in crime, two out of three seems to be enough for a lot of readers. And yes I am a snob but equally all of those things do matter. We should celebrate when writers take genre as seriously as literary fiction because readers of genre fiction are too often taken for chumps. We are not chumps. Stand up. Celebrate. Celebrate with your wallet. Buy this book.

Any Cop?: Sarah Hilary is already kind of a big deal but she is very soon going to be mega-famous in a playing poker with Castle kind of way. She is the real deal and then some. Read the first book and then this one or read this book and then the first one, whichever way round you like. Then join me in the queue for the third one.

Benjamin Judge


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