#Review: Keep Her Sweet by Helen FitzGerald @FitzHelen @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours #blogtour #SiblingRivalry #KeepHerSweet

By | May 24, 2022

Something a bit different from me today – ok, let me rephrase that, something very different. I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Keep Her Sweet, the forthcoming book from Helen FitzGerald, published by Orenda Books on 26th May for kindle, in paperback and as an audiobook (and available for preorder in all formats). My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation and support, and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda for my advance reading e-copy.

Now, tense and shocking psychological thrillers (even when “wickedly funny”…) aren’t really my usual cup of tea, but I have read Helen FitzGerald’s books before. The first was Bloody Women back in 2011 – I can’t remember what attracted me to her writing, but I found it dark and original with an unlikeable heroine, an unusual storyline with a liberal helping of descriptions of sex, alcohol abuse, mental illness and violence, and a series of twists and turns that defied my every expectation. And I went back for more, with The Donor in 2012. At the time, it was suggested for fans of Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain (which always puzzled me a little), but I notice the comparisons are now with Julia Crouch, Sophie Hannah and Laura Lippman who are perhaps a touch closer to the mark. But Helen’s writing defies all comparisons – and I was drawn in by her angry, edgy writing and the unexpected tear it left in my eye. Since then, I’ve shamefully neglected her writing – so I was rather looking forward to this one…

When a middle-aged couple downsizes to the countryside for an easier life, their two daughters become isolated, argumentative and violent … A chilling, vicious and darkly funny psychological thriller from bestselling author Helen FitzGerald.


Desperate to enjoy their empty nest, Jen 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 Jen 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…


Chilling, vicious and darkly funny, Keep Her Sweet is not just a tense, sinister psychological thriller, but a startling look at sister relationships and they bonds they share … or shatter.

With my preference for the lighter end of fiction, I really shouldn’t have liked this book – but I have to say I really loved it.  The Moloney-Singh family are truly horrendous – ok, it was always going to be difficult with four adults in a home intended for two, but there’s far more wrong here than a tussle over where to sleep.  Father Andeep is a failed Scottish comedian, whose repeated lines are wearing thin for everyone – wife Penny does try (a little…), but perhaps not hard enough for their marriage to have much of a chance of surviving. Eldest daughter Asha is home after time with a religious cult and a complicated obsessive relationship that culminated in an act of violence – she’s now confined to the house, tagged to make sure she stays there. Thank goodness for second-born Camille, the most stable one – well, that’s what she tells us anyway, the only character we hear from in the first person as she records her thoughts in her diary. As the tension rises, Penny calls in family therapist Joy – but, as she struggles with her own family challenges, bringing harmony to this dysfunctional family is plainly far beyond her capabilities.

The writing is simply superb – told from three perspectives, The Mum, The Second Born and The Therapist, each with a very distinctive “voice”. As the family disintegrates and the extreme behaviour escalates, I’ll admit it was Joy (the therapist) who particularly fascinated me. Her errant daughter has the same disregard for family ties as the units she works with, the costs of her repeated rehabilitation driving her mother from her home, first to a smaller one in an undesirable area, then forcing her to live in the van her husband used for his dentist business (complete with the patients’ chair fixed to its floor) – and she has a particular clarity about her financial future that’s pretty heartbreaking, although the sympathy you feel for her situation might prove to be short-lived. And you might well find that you’ll have little sympathy for the family at the story’s core either, as their actions become increasingly toxic and extreme, fuelled by drink and drugs and the most appalling selfishness as they each strive to emerge the victor in a battle of their own making.

But the whole story had me entirely rapt throughout, unable to look away as the inevitable and violent climax approached – should you be a touch squeamish, this is one you might need to read through your fingers. The characters might be extreme and exaggerated, but they’re also disconcertingly and disturbingly real, and you can’t help being inextricably involved with the many twists and turns of their story as the level of anger and absence of control steadily rises. But bizarrely and wonderfully incongruously, there’s plenty of humour too – dreadfully dark, every smile feeling shameful, but such exceptionally clever writing.

I’ve never read anything quite like this before, and I’m still not sure if I can say hand-on-heart that I entirely enjoyed it – I found it a bit too uncomfortable for that. But it is a quite remarkable and wholly original book from an extremely talented author, and I’d urge others to give her writing a try – you might feel equally ambivalent at the end, but it’s an experience you certainly won’t forget in a hurry.

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 adapted for a major BBC drama. Her 2019 dark-comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in the Literary Review, Herald Scotland, Guardian and Daily Telegraph, shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and won the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award. Her latest title Ash Mountain was published in 2020. 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. Follow Helen on Twitter

One thought on “#Review: Keep Her Sweet by Helen FitzGerald @FitzHelen @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours #blogtour #SiblingRivalry #KeepHerSweet

Comments are closed.