All Of Us Are Broken is Fiona Cummins’s sixth novel, her second featuring her tormented detective character DC Saul Anguish. I read her standalone When I Was Ten back in 2020, but somehow missed Into The Dark last year, the first about Anguish. So, I hoped I didn’t need too much context when I went into this one, kindly sent to me for review by Macmillan Aus.

It opens with a hostage situation and a Sophie’s Choice: a mother forced to choose which of her children will die. Then, it goes back to the beginning, with a grieving family going on a renewing holiday and a young woman walking out of her teaching job hell-bent on gaining some notoriety. Their paths are going to cross in the most unfortunate way.

All Of Us Are Broken is set over the course of one day, as characters move across Northern England and across the border into Scotland. DC Saul Anguish is hot on the heels of Missy and Fox, a couple on a killing spree reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde, as the Hardwicke family travels north, blissfully unaware of the horrors that await them at the hotel where they stop for the night.

The prose is a bit… well, it felt like Cummins was trying too hard. “The strands of her hair danced a denial,” she writes on page 81. Then “his face as smooth as the jazz he’d loved since he was a boy,” on page 132. It’s all just a bit much.

Going even further over the top, All Of Us Are Broken is a rabbit warren of trauma-based sub-plots. There’s Anguish’s own dark past (his name isn’t subtle). There’s Blue, the narcoleptic forensic linguist who has been repeatedly sexually assaulted. There’s their boss, who has a fractured connection to one of the killers. On and on it goes… “All of us are broken” indeed. Trigger warning for gun violence (obviously), sexual violence, grief, and terminal illness.

I think the story would’ve benefited from a narrower focus. The intensity of what the Hardwicke family experiences would’ve been more resonant without all of the other distractions. All Of Us Are Broken didn’t quite live up to what I’d hoped from the moral dilemma promised in the blurb.

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