Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary (Book Review)
'Safe, he was safe.
There are places, you know.
She hadn’t believed it, until then.'
This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Hilary, and though Tastes Like Fear is the third in the D .I. Marnie Rome series, there is no need to have read the other two instalments, as there was no problem reading this as a standalone. Having said that, if you plan to read the entire series, it would make sense to read them chronologically.
D .I. Marnie is a strong character and I sensed it was a character that Hilary had already laid the groundwork for in the previous two books, and that is something that a series such as this benefits from. In this book, D .I. Marnie and DS Noah Jake are investigating a traffic accident that was caused by a young girl in the middle of the road. Eyewitness accounts claim that the girl was already a little beaten up, even though she wasn’t actually hit in the accident. The investigating pair fear for the girl’s safety, and even though they find she doesn’t fit the description of May Beswick, a missing girl they’d been investigating for the last twelve weeks, they still need to find her before she comes to harm. It is this little dangling carrot that sets them off on an ever deepening and intriguing search for the truth, and the belief that many of the missing girls from the area could somehow be linked back to the accident and the girl who caused it.
Harm is his name, a man holding the girls in a makeshift home, making sure they keep clean and well-fed, even if that means eating a diet consisting of tinned-fish and other salty preserved-foods. The girls don’t mind at first, not when he first takes them in, he leads them to believe they can leave at anytime, that he is their saviour and not their enemy, but they soon find out that’s not the case. There is a strong psychological note to this as well; as we find that Harm makes them feel important, he makes them his own innocent girls until they don’t feel they could face the real world again, not even if they wanted to.
Some girls do escape, but in the worst possible way. May Beswick’s body is found first, shortly followed by the discovery of Ashleigh Jewell. This sets Marnie and Jake on a race against the clock, to find the killer before more bodies turn up dead, but it is never clear who might have actually killed them, or if it has anything to do with Harm at all. There are some nice alternating chapters in the book where some of the victims in the house give first person accounts of their experience in Harm’s little hideaway, and through them we get to see the other side, the things that not even Marnie and Jake know about, but these accounts do not give too much away as to the identity of the killer, and from the start it’s never clear whether it is Harm himself, or someone else entirely doing the killing. Hilary casts doubt and suspicion on many of the characters in the story, and I for one was kept guessing to the end, some that panned out correct, and some of which I never saw coming.
There are many twists to the story and we encounter a lot of different characters along the way, but I never lost track of where the story was going, which is credit to Hilary’s tight crafting of the story and clever use of characters to move the story forward in a believable way. If you love thrillers and crime fiction in general then you will certainly love this book. I found it both gritty and believable, especially the dark places where Harm keeps his girls, where the atmosphere is at times palpable, and often claustrophobic in its rendering of a world beneath the surface of the everyday people going about their lives. So even if you haven’t read the previous two instalments, this book will certainly whet your appetite for more.
I received this book for free and this is my honest and unbiased review, according to FTC guidelines.