Never Be Broken

Written by Sarah Hilary

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.

Never Be Broken
Headline Publishing
RRP: £18.99
Released: May 16 2019

Time needs consideration in this new work from Sarah Hilary, for the premise that underpins this novel is timely indeed. It could have been torn from last night’s newsprint or from your social media feed. We should also utter Tempus Fugit as Never Be Broken is slippery because time does indeed fly by, as you read her sixth crime thriller, recalling her extraordinary debut the multi award-winning Someone Else’s Skin so many years ago.

We are back with Detective Marnie Rome, and the London based police-team investigating a series of shocking crimes perpetrated against the young, the most vulnerable in society.  We have child exploitation, we have rural drug-running (from the inner-city to the counties), we have knife crime and we see a gun and gang culture – however, it will take the murder of thirteen-year-old Raffa (Raphaela Belsham) before real pressure is brought to bear to solve these crimes. It is of little surprise that Belsham’s father is a man of power, and he is of the right social class, connections and colour.

There is social commentary as a backdrop which gives this novel an urgency of pace. However, the themes that Hilary explores do not obstruct the narrative; they enhance it, because time does need consideration as it becomes urgent to Marnie Rome that these crimes require a swift resolution before other children come to harm.

Though Hilary’s latest can be consumed as a standalone, the reading experience is enhanced by a knowledge of the precursors, especially due to Marnie’s colleague DS Noah Jake, who takes a pivotal role in this bleak tale. Jake is an engaging character whose grief over the death of his younger brother Sol becomes all-consuming. Noah starts to speak to his brother Sol’s ghost.  This is an interesting narrative device as it allows the reader to get inside the head of the troubled Detective Sergeant.  

DS Noah Jake refuses to take compassionate leave, despite Marnie’s concerns. Instead, he throws himself into the investigation; one that poses the troubling question - “what was a girl like Raffa (from a white-collar world), doing in the blue-collar neighbourhood of Erskine Tower?” And what was the school project that brought her from Muswell Hill to the dark shadows of the tower block?

More killings and crime baffle the police team, as they try to make sense of the outrages, though it’s the shooting of young Raffa Belsham that takes precedence over the other atrocities, the inner-city knifings, the drugs and the gangs. There are some very tough scenes amidst the action of this investigation, sequences that will make you freeze and think deeply as to what we see around us. The finest of novels often act as a prism to our reality from which we find insights that non-fiction has difficulty in revealing.

However, a warning - when you reach the climax, you may find yourself re-reading the opening, and pondering deeply.


Because Sarah Hilary has established herself as penning some of the most thought-provoking police procedurals currently in print, and she always presents the reader with a junction at the close of each book. The fork in the road is not just for the reader, it’s also written for the writer as she leaves behind a challenge. How do you ‘top’ this one?

Time needs to be considered, because it will be twelve months before we seek an answer to that question, because Never Be Broken is a career-best (so far).

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