Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary Headline May 16th 2019
Children are dying on London’s streets. Frankie Reece, stabbed through the heart, outside a corner shop. Others recruited from care homes, picked up and exploited; passed like gifts between gangs. They are London’s lost. Raphaela Belsham is killed. She’s thirteen years old, her father is a man of influence, from a smart part of town. And she’s white. Suddenly, the establishment is taking notice.
DS Noah Jake is determined to handle Raphaela’s case and Frankie’s too. But he’s facing his own turmoil, and it’s becoming an obsession. DI Marnie Rome is worried, and she needs Noah on side. Because more children are disappearing, more are being killed by the day and the swelling tide of violence needs to be stemmed before it’s too late.
As I am writing this review BBC Five Live has just informed me that 100 people have been killed via knife crime this year. A shocking statistic but what lies beneath that statistic, what makes individuals commit such crimes? It was this question that Sarah Hilary attempted to answer, as she unlocked a city wrapped in drugs and crime, and questions of race and class.
Once again we were in the safe hands of Detective Inspector Marnie Rome, but this time she was merely a guide, the voice of reason as Hilary moved her attention to Detective Sergeant Noah Jake.
Here was a man wracked by grief unable to process the murder of his brother Sol. Hilary excelled in her soul searching, descriptions of Noah’s inner torture, his guilt, his off kilter reasoning that led him into trouble, that knocked his self esteem and belief in himself. You could sense his loneliness, his loss, almost like he was stranded on an island with no means to get back even if his partner and Marnie were there to help him.
Yet on one level he was able to function, to piece together the background to the murder of Raphaela Belsham, the young white girl, the anomaly amongst the murdered children in inner city London. It gave him an escape from his grief, but in many ways accentuated it, pushed it to the fore, and you were just waiting for him to break down, for the hardened veneer to crack.
Hilary kept us guessing, piled on the pressure and the anticipation and instead took us deep into the deprived estates of London, the tower blocks that provided the perfect cover for drug dealers and organised crime. Ordinary residents who turned a blind eye to events, afraid of speaking up, of recriminations. What stood out was the racial divide, a divide you thought we had quashed, as Hilary raised more questions than answers.
Why were so many of the dead, the perpetrators black? What drove them to such acts? Was it the circumstances they lived in, the lack of opportunities to gain education, jobs, a better life? Was crime the only way to better oneself, to fight their way out? We didn’t get the answers fed to us, Hilary merely presented the facts, the circumstances, didn’t patronise but allowed us to make up our own minds, arrive at our own conclusions.
She gave us characters from all walks of life, all with their own part to play. And that is what made Never Be Broken so damn good, its basis in fact, in real life not saturated in fantasy, and untruths.
Yes it had a social conscience, yes it was based on real life, but Hilary also entertained and gave us a crime novel with all the requisite components. We had murder, drugs, theft, suicide, alongside human emotion and life. It was exciting, fast paced and tension filled and she once again showed us what a truly wonderful crime writer she is. Roll on the next DI Marnie Rome investigation.
I would like to thank Headline fro a copy of Never Be Broken to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Sarah Hilary’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the
Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s
Book of the Month (‘superbly disturbing’) and a Richard & Judy Book Club
bestseller, it has been published worldwide. No Other Darkness, the second in the
series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series
continued with Tastes Like Fear, Quieter Than Killing and Come And Find Me.
Follow her on twitter @sarah_hilary