Review – Keep Her Sweet by Helen Fitzgerald

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.

You can also buy it from Waterstones or Amazon

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.

You can follow the author on Twitter

The Great American Boogaloo by Paul Flower

From his woodland bunker in Michigan, Bo ‘Big Bruddah’ Watts has assembled a scratch army of gun-toting militiamen, and he’s ready to use it. Rumours are circulating that the liberal, female President of the USA is going to fight climate change by banning beef, snatching the great American hamburger from the mouths of patriots. Big Bruddah missed the last militia uprising. That one, sparked by a conspiracy theory about a deadly virus and stolen cheese recipes, ended in failure when his now ex-wife, Miky Spike, stopped the potentially bloody conflict at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Wisconsin.

He is determined to stop the president, with the help of eccentric octogenarian Wilbur Tuttle, who runs Silver Eagle Security, the private military enterprise owned by the hapless former governor of Michigan, Bill Hoeksma.

The plan is to launch a coup in Tampa, Florida by kidnapping the President’s daughter and then installing Hoeksma as a puppet President. With the support of Silver Eagle’s best men, Big Bruddah and Tuttle hope to ignite the long-awaited insurrection militia members call the “boogaloo.” What could possibly go wrong?


The Great American Boogaloo By Paul Flower is a first class satire, using intelligent writing and humour to delve into the world of the American right! Conspiracy theories abound, as does the writers obvious skill at delving under the surface of the madness on which the story is based.

It is at it’s heart a comedy of errors and a tale of the absurd behaviour of the militia groups and right wing politicians, who have decided that the American president has to be stopped, before she bans not just guns, but their right to eat beef and hug cows!

I loved that Paul Flowers didn’t hold back, he lets rip and brings to life not just the absurdity of their beliefs, but the dangers behind their ideology. Satire is hard to do and although I did not laugh continuously, I was glad that I didn’t, because he took the time to show me, not only how mad they are, but also how dangerous. This is humour with a healthy dose of respect for the dangers these people pose.

The characterisation is spot on. These are not caricatures, but an all to real depiction of the type of people these groups attract. The misfits, the racists, the losers, homophobes, basically any one determined that progress is halted at any cost. Men like Bo ‘Big Braddah’ are littered throughout the book. The writer not only managed to make me laugh, most of all he made me pity men like Big Bruddah, because he brought them to life and delved into the sadness at the centre of such men, into their paranoia.

It is the lightness of touch that makes this story both very very funny, but also oddly moving. To be able to laugh at these groups, is only possible, because Paul Flower’s uses humour to great effect.

I really enjoyed it and if you like your comedy full of wonderfully drawn characters, so will you.

You can buy this novel from Amazon

About the author

Paul Flower was born and raised in Michigan and still resides there. He has been writing professionally for more than 37 years. While much of his career has been spent in advertising and marketing, he worked in broadcasting for a short time. Paul has one previously published novel to his credit, and his writing has appeared in national and regional magazines. He and his wife have four grown children and a rapidly evolving number of incredibly beautiful and intelligent grandchildren.

My Wonderful Reading Year – April 2022 – The Journey Continues.

Well, the plan to beat the backlog of my to be read pile of books continues at pace, admittedly a slow one, but still I am making headway and remembering that I bought those books for a reason! I am enjoying the pleasure of simply reading a book, without the pressure of reviewing. Then again I still love reviewing books to, just now I think I have a better balance between the two. My twin loves of fiction and non fiction continue to be indulged and there are some crackers in this months selection!

Inside Parkhurst – Stories Of A Prison Officer by David Berridge is a warts and all look at life working inside one of Britain’s most dangerous prisons. I loved it and whizzed through the pages, was both shocked and saddened for both the staff and the prisoners. Ideally this should be read against A Bit Of A Stretch – The Diaries of A Prisoner By Chris Atkins, so that you get both sides of the story.

The Shot by Sarah Sutton is a thrilling, high octane thriller that explores the world of international reporters. It is a masterclass in story telling and takes the reader into pressure keg of reporting in a war zone. A real page turner, it sweeps you along, pulling at the heart strings and teaching us to never take what we see on our tv’s for granted.

I loved The Drowned City By K J Maitland. It is full of lots of historical detail, drama and wonderful characters. I now plan on buying the sequel and devouring that as well.

The Grand Tour – Travels with my Elders by Ben Aitken is one of the funniest non fiction books I have read in a while. It is also very moving and if you have ever gone on one of those coach holidays you need to read this book. In it he makes connections with some amazing people, travels with his elders across the country and learns a lot about himself.

Trouble by Marise Gaughan is not an easy read, but it is incredibly moving and inspiring. Here the author tells the story of how her life from child to adult has been affected by her fathers suicide and long history of mental illness.

My final read for April was Mrs England by Stacey Hall. I loved this novel, became utterly absorbed in the story and characters.