When a writer tries something different, there is often a sense of it being the same as, try as they might, an author's signature often breaks through. Sarah Hilary, writer of the award-winning Marnie Room series of crime fiction novels has produced her first standalone psychological thriller with 'Fragile', and, my goodness, she has proven what a wonderful writer she really is. Many have compared 'Fragile' to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. To me, this is more Barbara Vine territory. Unsettling, dark, captivating and with a hint of not knowing what is going to happen next.
With a police procedural series, like the Marnie Room novels, we know who the good guys and bad guys are. We know we're going to love Marnie and her team and hope the bad guys are thrown in jail or meet a bloody end. With a psychological thriller such as 'Fragile', we don't know who we're supposed to like. This is where Sarah Hilary plays with her readers' minds. You'll love Nell on one page but not on another, but you're so taken with her, you'll keep reading and you'll be tentatively turning the pages, wondering which one of your emotions will be toyed with next.
The pace is considerably slower than Hilary's other work, but it is richly written. The prose glides beautifully and it's this elegant, almost ethereal writing that lends itself to gothic. This isn't a work of fiction, it's a work of art. The cover, alone, should be framed. But there are real elements to the great writings of the Bronte sisters in this book. At times, I felt I should be reading it in an abandoned castle with a howling storm raging outside.
'Fragile' is a dark, and at times, deeply unsettling, story, peopled with characters you'll hate yourself for liking. I didn't want to finish reading this book, but now I have, I want more of this from Sarah Hilary. I knew she was going to have an amazing career after reading her first book, but 'Fragile' has catapulted Hilary to the top. Give her a crown right now.