No Other Darkness, by Sarah Hilary, is a tense and gripping crime thriller which opens with the grisly discovery of two little boys entombed in an underground bunker. It features DI Marnie Rome who first appeared in the author’s debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin. Like the first book a challenging crime involving families and their dark secrets is explored. The story has depth and complexity but is presented effortlessly, thereby confirming the skill of the writer.
The boys’ bodies are found by the owner of a house which was built above the bunker eighteen months previously. It is estimated that the boys have been dead for around five years. With little to go on as to who these children could be or why they were entombed DI Rome’s team struggle to deal with what is threatening to become a cold case. They are not the only ones adversely affected by the tragedy. The home owner who found them has been rehomed while the investigation is ongoing. He and his family are struggling to come to terms with the effect the find and their enforced move has had on their psyches. As their home is exposed to outside scrutiny questions arise about how they chose to live and why.
The family have two young children, another on the way, and are also fostering a teenager. When the press become interested in the case an old flame of Marnie’s emerges, taunting her with parallels from her past. The teenager is the same age as the foster child who killed her parents.
At various stages I correctly guessed ahead of the plot yet each time found that this was not the conclusion but merely a step along the way. The story is heartbreaking on so many levels, the final few chapters oozing the terror of the darkness.
For crime fiction fans this thriller is an absolute treat. Graphic but never gratuitous it explores the potentially devastating consequences of untreated mental illness, of paranoia, and the damage that can be wrought by guilt, grief and fear.
I was fortunate enough to receive two proof copies of this book to review: one from the publisher, Headline, and one from Goodreads via a First Reads giveaway.