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, 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 …
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.
Keep Her Sweet is published by Orenda Books. The eBook is out now, the paperback on 26th May.
I'd previously read a couple of Helen's books before (Ash Mountain review here) so knew I was in for a treat.
Penny and Andeep have downsized to focus on themselves, their relationship and their creative outlets - Andeep on his stand up comedy, Penny her upcycling and various groups. But circumstances mean their two adult daughters have come to live with them. In the smaller space sisters Asha and Camille are at each other's throats and things quickly escalate to the point where a family therapist is called in. Joy, however, has worries of her own.
Well, talk about a dysfunctional family! The Maloney-Singhs have it all going on. Every one of them has issues, but the relationship between Asha and Camille seems to have completely broken down. The story is told from three different points of view: Penny's, Joy's and particularly Camille's. But, actually, it's hard to know how reliable our three narrators are. And I love an unreliable narrator.
All the characters are beautifully described and their relationships - good bits and bad - laid out in intimate detail. I particularly loved Asha, or, I guess, Camille's (and ultimately, of course, the author's) presentation of her sister. Asha has certainly had her issues and these are teased out through the story. Poor Joy! The most sympathetic of the characters, she comes across as a very nice woman, if a little distracted, but Fitzgerald puts her right through the ringer. And as for Richard and Rowena, don't get me started!
There is a lot of humour in the book, of the darkest kind. Although drug misuse, of course, is no laughing matter the description of Spock's meth high is very funny. My favourite line, though, refers to Richard - I won't repeat it here but it made me laugh out loud. It's fair to say religion doesn't come out very well here.
As we're reading there is a rising tension, a sense of inevitability, that we might not be heading for a happy ending. Certainly not a happy family. The strained relationship between the sisters, already violent, just gets worse and worse. Therapy doesn't help. But I loved the relationship that develops between Joy and Camille and the unexpected direction it takes.
There is so much to unpick in this novel I could go on and on. But here's what you need to know: Keep Her Sweet is shocking, tense, violent, dark and funny. It's a warning tale of bad parenting, toxic sisterly bonds and dysfunctional families. And it makes this blogger very glad she has a brother! Loved it.
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 most recent 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 @FitzHelen.