No Other Darkness
Sarah Hilary introduced DI Marni Rome in Someone Else’s Skin. Now she’s back with its sequel, No Other Darkness, as strong an entry as the first, a fast page-turner chock full of unforeseen events.

Auntie M should note that it’s weird reading about a main character who shares her nickname, but casting that aside, Marnie Rome is an interesting character to drive this series. She’s in a relationship with Victim Care Officer Ed Belloc, who understands the pressures of her job and helps to soothe her ragged past. And she’s proud of the team she’s put together, including her DS Noah Jake.

A particularly awful case has them in its grip: two young boys have been found dead in a bunker hidden under the garden of a young family. The Doyle’s have two little children, foster a teen, Clancy, and are expecting their third child when gardener and father Terry unearths a manhole cover and the grisly contents of the bunker it serves.

Clancy reminds Marnie of her own foster brother, serving time for the murder of her parents, and the threads of the two cases seem to overlap to her frazzled nerves. Her past interrupts on more levels than she can cope with in the form of a reporter Marnie knows from her past.

With no known identity for the boys, Marnie’s team tries to identify the two lads, probably brothers who appear to have been left in the bunker with tins of food, a bed and a bucket, until they died of starvation and exposure. Was this the work of a prepper, someone who carried apocalyptic preparations to the extreme?

Once the boys identities are known, things shift horribly: their mother had reported their drowning death years before, and that of their infant sister, although only the sister’s body had been found. She’s been in prison after confessing to the murders, a victim of postpartum psychosis. But now she’s close to being released on parole with a new identity.

How those boys came to be in the Doyle’s bunker, how Clancy figures in, along with several neighbors who appear to not be what they seem, will all cloud Marnie’s investigation as things turn on a dime when the Doyle’s young children go missing.

This is a a briskly-paced police procedural where the stakes are high and the terror never far from the next page. Competently done and filled with surprising twists and creative characters who are complex and real.