editor's choice



‘Let him be an example. My Frank. Of how to live best, and to stop all this death. Let them put down their knives, stop being ruled by fear. They are all so fearful, that’s why my boy died. Not because another kid was showing off, as the papers said, not muscles being flexed. Because of fear. That’s what we must stop … the things that make them reach out for weapons … Fear. Of being the one without a blade when the fight starts. Children, put down your fear. Please. Let my Frank be the last of London’s dead.'”

                  – Matilda Reece on her son Frankie’s death


There’s a desolate beauty to the London of Sarah Hilary’s latest novel, Never Be Broken. It’s a city fractured, a Brexit landscape of lost people, stumbling blindly forward, mired in grief. And it’s a place where the young die on its streets, teenagers bleeding out scared and alone, the victims usually black; it’s a place ruled by fear.

DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake are tasked with trying to solve the latest of these senseless crimes, the fatal stabbing of young Frankie Reece outside a local corner shop, but the teenager’s death is quickly overshadowed by that of thirteen-year-old Raphaela Belsham. Raffa’s not only from a privileged background, she died in wealthy Muswell Hill and she’s white. Suddenly everyone’s taking notice. For Marnie Rome matters are more complicated by friend and colleague Noah, devastated by the brutal killing of his brother Sol, something which he feels he had a hand in.

Hilary writes honestly and authentically, depicting a London and people struggling to find a way forward. Grief and bereavement inform the book, the weight of loss bringing Noah ‘to his knees, as if he’d been struck down’ and grief is a ‘contagion’ or ‘addiction’, disempowering those afflicted by it.

This is a raw, open wound of book, Brexit London a city buckling under the weight of fear and hatred and Noah’s grief and behaviour in particular, uncomfortably real to anyone who’s experienced a sibling’s death.

Never Be Broken is compelling enough to make us have to turn each page, forcing us to read on even when the people or outcomes seem distressingly bleak. A book of our current times in many ways, it’s one of the best we’ve read this year.

We can’t recommend it enough.



Never Be Broken | Sarah Hilary | Headline | hardback | £18.99 | 16 May 2019 |

Book 6 in a series but it can be read as a standalone

audio and ebook also available

please support your independent bookshops and libraries


Acknowledgements: Quoted book text © 2019 Sarah Hilary. This review is published as part of the Random Things Tour virtual book tour. Please check out the other participants. Many thanks to Anne Cater and also to the publisher for sending us a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.



Also of interest:Permission by Saskia Vogel’; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’; ‘The Killer You Know, SR Masters’ friendship noir’; ‘The Way of All Flesh’; ‘Call Me Star Girl’;Falling from the Floating World’; ‘Blood Orange’; Beton Rouge’; ‘Gallowstree Lane‘; The Lost Man‘; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.







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