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  • review by Paul Burston

Never Be Broken

Are there enough superlatives to describe Sarah Hilary’s DI Marnie Rome series? (Short answer – no, there aren’t). Over the course of five books, we’ve seen Marnie tackle her personal demons and fight crime with police partner DS Noah Jake. We've seen her close to broken and we've watched her rebuild herself. Seldom has a fictional cop been shown with greater emotional depth.

In this, the sixth book in the series, Noah has a few issues of his own – though being black and gay are the least of his worries. Yes, he experiences racism and homophobia – but (and this is crucial to understanding the brilliance of Hilary's characterisation) he’s not defined by them. Noah's a good copper and what keeps him awake at night are the things that keep any good copper awake – the desire to do right, fear of failure, feelings of guilt when things go wrong.

Never Be Broken is very much a book about now. Children are dying on London’s streets. A black boy is stabbed outside a corner shop. Then a thirteen tear-old girl is killed. She’s thirteen and white, comes from a good family and has a father who’s used to getting things his own way. Soon the investigation into her death becomes mired in politics and entangled with other agendas.

As ever, Hilary expertly weaves the crime procedural with the domestic lives of the main players – Marnie and Ed, Noah and Dan, Noah’s parents and much-loved brother Sol. And then there’s Marnie and Stephen, the boy her parents adopted and whose violent actions have overshadowed her whole life. The writing is razor sharp and deeply insightful, beautifully composed and often heart-breaking in its emotional intensity. Crime fiction doesn’t come much better than this.

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