Desperate to enjoy their empty nest, Penny and Andeep downsize to the countryside, to forage, upcycle and fall in love again, only to be joined by their two twenty-something daughters, Asha and Camille.
Living on top of each other in a tiny house, with no way to make money, tensions simmer, and as Penny and Andeep focus increasingly on themselves, the girls become isolated, argumentative and violent.
When Asha injures Camille, a family therapist is called in, but she shrugs off the escalating violence between the sisters as a classic case of sibling rivalry … and the stress of the family move.
But this is not sibling rivalry. The sisters are in far too deep for that.
This is a murder, just waiting to happen…
If there is one thing I have learned when reading Helen Fitzgerald’s books is to always expect the unexpected. The humour is always deliciously dark, her prose modern, which strong themes and characters whose voices speak to the reader, of the simmering toxicity that sits just under the surface of fractured family relationships. Few writers do it better and Keep Her Sweet is proves yet again, that in reading the synopsis, you would expect a run of the mill thriller about two sisters who simply dislike each other. But what you actually get, is a much more fascinating account of the shocking reality of families, whose connection creates murderous undercurrents.
For me one of the best things about Keep Her Sweet is the superb characterisation. The writer giving us a masterclass in delivering a story about a group of deeply dysfunctional individuals. She ensures that as readers we are kept off balance at all times, because we simply do not know what they are really capable of and that is down to the slight of hand played by Helen Fitzgerald. Not only do we have the sisters but their parents and their family therapist, each of whom seem capable of throwing a curve ball, into our perceptions of what will be the fate of each character.
Joy the family therapist was without doubt my favourite character. Not only does she play a part in the girls’ lives, but we get to find out about her own relationship with her daughter and how that affects her relationship with the sisters of the story. She is caring and acts as a counterbalance to all the other people around her. She felt inconsequential to the story at the beginning, but actually plays a pivotal role in the ensuing drama. As a character she stops the story descending into total darkness and overpowering an intelligent narrative about quite complicated relationships. She is goodness at the heart of the story and is used to highlight the not only how dysfunctional the family are, but how easy it is to misunderstand from the outside, who is the sinner and the sinned against, behind closed doors of suburbia. I loved that though she to is flawed, essentially she is a good person, but one with hidden depths.
The story is shocking and intense, but the balance between the ‘thriller’ elements and the themes of the story are pitch perfect. Throughout Helen Fitzgerald weaves into the story the idea that no family is perfect, that relationships can become as they do in real life, very strained, violent and murderous. I was chilled to the bone in places, I laughed at other parts and I adored every word she wrote. Here we have a family that appears to be in mortal decline, but you have to read to check if she has tricked us! It is not just a story about sibling rivalry, it is about the darkness that can lurk behind any door in your street!
You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher at Orenda Books.
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. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia. She now lives in Glasgow with her husband.
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