I’ve been a fan of Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome crime series throughout however this standalone thriller is very different. The only thing that is the same is the author’s excellent style of writing and prose.
The characters here are complex and I admit I found it hard at times to differentiate between imagination and reality.
With the early part of the story set in North Wales but mostly located in London, Fragile is a dark unsettling thriller featuring two lost souls – Nell and Joe. Both are foster children with a difficult background and neither have known real love. Their foster mother Meagan Flack was as far from a mother as anyone could be – in fact Nell was more of a mother and caregiver to the other children, doing the work that Meagan should have done. When tragedy later strikes the home, Nell and Joe flee to London, along with their demons, but then Nell loses sight of Joe, she sees him going into a house – Starling Villas, but not come out. In an attempt to find him, she talks her way into a job as housekeeper to Dr Robin Wilder JP at the Villas – Wilder is a studious and oddly mannered man, with strict routines and rotas that she must follow.
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.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation and to the publisher for granting a copy via Netgalley.
Fragile is a modern Gothic psychological thriller with a contemporary twist on the classic novel Rebecca from award-winning and critically acclaimed writer Sarah Hilary Everything she touches breaks . . .


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.
Publisher: Macmillan
Format: Ebook, Audio and Hardback (10 June 2021)
352 pages
Source: Copy provided for review via Netgalley
Starling Villas is a character on its own. Dark, brooding and unforgiving, this narrow building with its many boxes, attic rooms and orchids holds the secrets of Robin Wilder and his toxic and manipulative wife Caroline. There were times when I really worried for Nell – despite living on the streets and having had a brutal and hard introduction to London life, she had a vulnerability about her and it was unclear what the Wilders had in store for her.
Fragile is beautifully written, full of tension and makes for a compelling read. A character driven thriller that will give you chills.
Sarah is one of the Killer Women, a crime writing collective supporting diversity, innovation and inclusion in their industry.
So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.
Guilt, revenge, control, jealousy, cruelty – there are many themes running through this chilling atmospheric and suspenseful story. Hilary’s writing is rich with description and intensity and it has a poetic quality which gives life to these broken characters.


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 . . .
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.


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