This is my first Helen Fitzgerald book. Nail-biting suspense, and a roller-coaster plot with pitch-perfect characters and tension a plenty. A relatable, thrill-a-minute ride that takes you into the heat of Fran’s Australian hometown – the last place she wants to go. A tour de force of storytelling that keeps you on the edge of your seat!
Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.
She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.
As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating
bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants… Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…
A fateful wish, a town burning. Ash Mountain, an inland town in Victoria, is about to succumb to the tragic loss of life and wildlife. Fran Collins prays she can get her daughter Vonny back before the fire storm above McBean’s Hill swallows the world whole. As the sky reddens, Fran must leave her dad alone and get to the monument.
Rewinding ten days prior to the fire, Fran returns home to look after her dad. As her story unfolds, we see a larger-than-life character who desires all the things a young woman would want and has survived exclusion and ridicule to boot. Understandably resentful of the town and it’s memories, she is tough, relatable and emotionally alert enough to survive this. But not without a few more challenges along the way. Humor sprinkled with high tension, Fran re-examines her life and the events that changed her forever — a hard-hitting journey expressed with lyrical prose and one that stays with you long after the book has finished.
The novel has a strong sense of place where secrets are peeled away through the chapters and staggering surprises keep coming. In fact, every new detail makes you wonder where the story is heading. A good portion of the book is dedicated to Fran’s backstory with scenes that drop you right there, seeing it through her eyes and feeling what she must have felt. Although I preferred being catapulted to the present, the backstory in this book is relevant to Fran’s character arc and has to be examined in order to appreciate her many layers.
As the fire engulfs the area, it is eerily quiet and the heat unbearable. The clock ticks and the burning question is; who will make it out alive. The power is off and there is no access in or out of the town. Everything is smoke as the fire approaches from the northwest. Fran grieves one death and soldiers on desperate to find Vonny. The burning photos are so poignant as is that last kiss, and hope and loss laid to rest one final time. Poor Ronnie Corbett brought a few more tears and I felt drained at the end.
I raise a glass to the author. This book is not only packed with emotion but stuffed with gold stars. It’s a powerful read which twisted and lurched where you least expected.
HUGE thanks to Anne Cater for organizing this tour, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and author Helen FitzGerald for a copy of this incredible book.
About The Author
Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.
Praise for Helen Fitzgerald:
‘Helen Fitzgerald’s sublime Worst Case Scenario, a foul-mouthed, satirical revenge thriller in which Glasgow probation officer Mary Shields battles career burnout and the menopause’ The Guardian
‘ The plotting is intricate and beautifully handled, and the narrative pace is absolutely breakneck … a wonderful, energetic, hard-hitting and deeply funny novel’ The Big Issue
‘Shocking, gripping and laugh-out-loud hilarious’ Erin Kelly
‘ The main character is one of the most extraordinary you’ll meet between the pages of a book’ Ian Rankin
‘A dark, comic masterpiece which manages to be both excruciatingly tense and laugh out loud funny at the same time’ Mark Edwards
‘Outrageous, extremely funny and ultimately devastating ’ Ambrose Parry
‘Fabulously transgressive and completely unique’ Mark Billingham
‘ The classic thriller gets a hell of a twist ’ Heat
‘FitzGerald writes like a more focused Irvine Welsh or a less misogynist Philip Roth’ Daily Telegraph
Other books by Helen Fitzgerald: