I’m pleased to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for the brilliant Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. Thank you to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for giving me the opportunity to share an extract from this wonderful book with you today.
About the book:
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…
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.
by Helen Fitzgerald
Nine Days before the Fire
‘Ned Kelly’s dad escaped from there,’ said her dad, who was not present in the flesh, but speaking from the iPad. He’d been bashful at first, had refused to turn on the video at his end, but obviously couldn’t resist. ‘Blasted a hole in the old jail the size of an Irishman,’ he said. ‘They built this tower after that.’
They were at the top of the monument, a place Fran always visited when she was home. She put a coin in the telescope and did a slow 360: there was the city smog, there was the new new highway, there was the water tank, there was a digger digging. ‘And no-one’s escaped since,’ she said.
She was ill-balanced when a boarder appeared from behind the bend in the inner staircase of the tower. Her dad’s screen banged the bluestone wall, which made him joke-wince, which made Vonny laugh when she shouldn’t have because this was one of the things that provoked boarders.
‘On you go,’ said Boarder #1, flattening himself against the wall and checking out sixteen-year-old Vonny as she slithered past.
There were only three, thankfully. They weren’t in uniform, but wearing city-slicker casuals the locals wouldn’t be caught dead in. Even these three were dapper, and they were the dregs of the college, boys who no-one wanted in the summer, bar the clergy.
The boarders remained elevator-silent till they reached the lookout, then one yelled: ‘Mountain Slut!’
Fran assumed they’d yelled it to her, then realised that she was now a mountain hag. It was her daughter who was a Mountain Slut. Her head heated as the boys laughed.
‘Ignore them,’ said Vonny when they were outside.
‘Anyway, it’s kind of nice to be called a slut for a change. Race you down?’ Vonny had inherited her mother’s competitive gene, and was off already.
Fran extended the buggy, took hold of the handles, and jogged down the track, her on-screen dad reacting to unexpected potholes with an ‘arghhh’ and a ‘weeee!’.
End of extract
I read Ash Mountain a few weeks ago and loved it! Read on to see what I thought of this dark and compelling thriller.
My Mini Review:
Ash Mountain tells the story of Fran, a woman in her forties who has gone back to her childhood home to care for her ailing father. It is a sharp and compelling thriller that encompasses everything from dark humour to the devastating horror of a bushfire. In the skilful hands of Helen Fitzgerald, the story moves seamlessly between the days leading up to the fire and thirty years earlier when Fran was fifteen.
Mostly told from the point of view of Fran herself, the story is also intercut with first person narratives from other characters, which all adds to the drama and intensity of the tale as we begin to learn more about what motivates Fran’s actions in the present.
Helen Fitzgerald has written a dark and intriguing thriller that once started you do not want to put down. The last quarter of the book in particular had me holding my breath, the panic and claustrophobic feel of what was happening grabbing me by the throat and refusing to let go.
Haunting, poignant and devastatingly real, this is a book that will stay with me. Highly recommended.
Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald is available to buy now: Amazon UK
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