Tuesday 8 June 2021

Fragile by Sarah Hilary @sarah_hilary #Fragile @panmacmillan #BookReview #Giveaway #Win #Prize #Competition


Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperately trying to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes teh opportunity with both hands.

But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell's arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easily they can be to break . . .

Fragile by Sarah Hilary is published in hardback on 10 June by Pan Macmillan. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review.

I also have one hardback copy to give away today. Entry is via the competition widget in the blog post. UK Entries only please.


Whenever anyone asks for recommendations of a police procedural series, I always tell them to read Sarah Hilary's DI Marnie Rome series. One of the best crime series of our time, written with intelligence and grace and capturing so much more than just criminals.

When I heard that Sarah Hilary was to publish a stand alone novel, with a gothic theme, I was really excited. I haven''t been disappointed. Fragile is a dark, brooding and quite beautiful story that crawls under the skin whilst giving chills down the back of the neck. 

The reader meets Nell Ballard as she sits in a London cafe, looking out on to the street and pondering how different London looks in daylight. Nell is a runaway, she arrived in London with her boyfriend Joe and has slept in many places ever since. Last night, Joe followed a woman out of a club, and Nell has not set eyes on him since. Starling Villas, the long thin house across the road from the cafe is where Joe went, and Nell is determined to get inside and find out what happened to him, 

With devious ingenuity and more than a little deceit, Nell secures herself a live-in job at Starling Villas. She will attend to the needs of the strange and a little foreboding Dr Robin Wilder. Her days are strictly set out by a rota he has drawn up, and for Nell, this feels rather like the life that she's always known.

Nell grew up in care. Abandoned by her own mother at age eight, she was put into the care of Meagan Flack who was in charge of Lyle's, a soulless house in Wales.  Whilst Nell became the mother figure of the house; washing, cleaning and caring for the smaller children, Meagan sat back and allowed it, occasionally showing her cruel streak and always with eyes in the back of her head. When Joe arrived at Lyle's both Nell and Meagan fell for him. Nell with the passionate love of a young teen, and Meagan with the favouritism she showed him. 

When tragedy struck at Lyle's, all three of them lost their homes. Nell and Joe fled to London, whilst Meagan had no choice but to go. The reader is also privy to Megan's current situation; a bitter woman, living in filth and overcome with bitterness and an urgent need for revenge. 

Starling Villas is as much a character within this story as the human voices. With the incredible imagery that Hilary creates, from the spiders and dusty cobwebs, to the orchids and the fat pigeon that seems to appear at crucial points, this is a vivid and beautifully created setting. The author deals with some dark and important issues within her writing, with an insight that is quite breathtaking. As the novel progresses, the setting gets darker and the slowly revealed back stories become more heartbreaking.

Fragile is unlike anything that I've read before. It is a superb mix of gothic tension, obsession, young love and disappointment, woven together masterfully. It is ambitious, clever and haunting. The characters are flawed, yet precisely drawn, they will haunt the reader. Highly recommended.

Sarah Hilary's new novel FRAGILE will be published on 10 June 2021 by Pan Macmillan. Mick Herron called it 'a dark river of a book' while Erin Kelly said, 'Timeless, tense and tender, Fragile will worm its way deep into your heart.'

Sarah's debut SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015. It was a World Book Night selection and Richard & Judy Book Club pick. The latest in her D.I. Marnie Rome series NEVER BE BROKEN was published by Headline in 2019.

Visit www.sarahhilary.com for news, updates and reviews.

One Hardback copy of Fragile by Sarah Hilary

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