Hello and welcome to my stop of the Ash Mountain Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I keep hearing fantastic things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s work and the blurb of Ash Mountain was simply irresistible… It turned out to be an excellent first experience with her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!
“This town is no more shit than any other place. It’s just that when you live in a small town, you know everyone, you know their tragedies, and you feel their pain.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
I keep hearing excellent things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s writing, and I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to join the blog tour for her most recent title as the blurb of Ash Mountain simply sounded irresistible. The Australian setting, the bushfire, the combination of domestic noir and disaster thriller… Oh yes, bring it on! I was mesmerized as soon as I started reading and this feeling didn’t go away at any point. Brazen, sharp and a dose of humor mixed with an emotional rollercoaster as well as a topping of danger… Without doubt a mind-boggling thriller sundae with a truly unique flavor, and something you shouldn’t miss out on!
The first thing that stood out for me was the writing. It’s my first experience with her style, and I must say that I’m a fan. The sharp and sometimes even snarky and self-deprecating humor added an interesting tone to this story that is part domestic noir and part disaster thriller. You get the best of both worlds as you learn more about the town and its inhabitants, while also knowing that danger is just around the corner… The bushfire really gave the story that sense of foreboding as you got to know the characters and wonder where they would be on the day of the fire and if they would survive… It also gave the story a sense of urgency and stressed the vulnerability of those characters.
I loved the structure of the plot. Not only do we have multiple POVs of different people in Ash Mountain, but we also have a lot of timehops and flashbacks to deal with. As the bushfire is basically the main event that affects everyone in town, each timeframe is compared to the day of the fire, going back days and sometimes years in the past. The story starts with a proper bang as Fran experiences the bushfire… I mean, the story is basically on fire from the very start! Afterwards, we get to see the events both days before the fire and 30 years in the past back when Fran was 16. Time and character hops keep you on your toes without being confusing, and it is truly fascinating to learn more about the people in town while only YOU know the threat that hangs above them. The sense of foreboding definitely added a healthy dose of suspense; the building up to the day of the bushfire was brilliantly done and it’s easy to say that the story both started and finished with a bang.
The setting in the Australian outback is brilliantly described. The descriptions really made the small Ash Mountain town come alive for me and I loved the use of Australian words to make the story feel more authentic. The same goes for the thorough descriptions of the bushfire and its aftermath. I’ve heard of bushfires before of course, but I would never have pictured it this well without the brilliant descriptions of Helen Fitzgerald. The wall of fire, the smoke, the seemingly random path of destruction… An image of fear, helplessness and danger and very current after the terrible fires in 2019. I particularly loved the story behind the cover too, as it was an actual photo taken during those fires.
Ash Mountain also had a very interesting cast of characters and I had a great time getting to know them. Fran is the main focus of the story, and we can see her features both in the flashbacks as well as the present. That said, the story also shares multiple POVS to help you to get to know the people in town as well as learn more about several events in the past and present. The story furthermore includes difficult themes as child abuse, teen pregnancy, sickness and death, although the bushfire is the actual star of the show and its danger is omnipresent. The story does show that even a small town has secrets you can’t run away from…
This book turned out to be a real firecracker! Unique, sharp and with that ominous feel, Ash Mountain is the perfect balance between domestic noir and disaster thriller set in a small Australian town. Highly recommended!
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.