A modern Gothic thriller from an award-winning and critically acclaimed author –
a REBECCA for our times.
Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate 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 the opportunity with both hands. But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for…
This is a complex thriller with so many layers, from social justice, traumatic childhoods and relationships. Nell is our lead protagonist in this story, and we follow her troubling tale in the form of a dual timeline – one being the present day, and the other taking us back to a year previous.
In the present day Nell is currently homeless, and her lover Joe has disappeared into the night with a well groomed older woman. Nell manages to track them down, and her search leads her to a tiny, three story Victorian house that is almost invisible from certain places. As Nell waits for Joe to emerge from the house, she uses what little money she has to buy herself a hot drink in the cafe nearby. As she is waiting, and watching the house, the only person that emerges is a young woman, so Nell takes it upon herself to approach her and find out what exactly is going on within the walls of the mysterious house.
As the story drifts back to Nell’s past, we learn that she has had a rather hard upbringing within the care system. Whilst picking up the slack of the housework and looking after the younger children in the house, Nell certainly seems to mature before her time, and it is in this house that she first meets Joe. As two teenagers forced into each others lives, it wasn’t long before they became inseparable. Something occurs within the foster home that causes them to flee, but what could have been so bad to convince them sleeping rough is a better option?.
This is an utterly chilling read that captivated me entirely from the moment I opened the cover. The characters are gritty and realistic, each of them being given their own fleshed out personalities and flaws that add to the complexity of the story. The storyline itself is perfectly paced and has so much drive throughout it is difficult to part with it.
The story is both thrilling and heart wrenching at the same time as we learn more about the characters and the lives they lead, not to mention the many difficulties they have faced throughout their lives. With a unique plot and an ending that I hadn’t anticipated, this is one of those books that I will be talking about with others for a long time to come.
About the Author
SARAH HILARY’s debut Someone Else’s Skin won the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the
Year, was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and The Observer’s Book of the Month. In
the US, it was a Silver Falchion and Macavity Award finalist. No Other Darkness, the
second in the series, was shortlisted for a Barry Award.
The sixth in her DI Marnie
Rome series Never Be Broken is out now.
Her short stories have won the Cheshire
Prize for Literature, the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize, and the SENSE prize.
Fragile is her first standalone novel.
Sarah is one of the Killer Women, a crime writing collective supporting diversity,
innovation and inclusion in their industry.
*Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, MacMillan books and Sarah Hilary for providing me with a gifted copy of this book in return for my honest review. All thoughts are entirely my own and not influenced in any way.*