Ash Mountain by Helen FitzGerald, Review: Utterly gripping

Ash Mountain by Helen FitzGerald is an utterly gripping, ingeniously written character-driven disaster thriller. Read my full review.

Ash Mountain, Review - Helen FitzGerald

Ash Mountain Synopsis

Fran thought she’d never return to Ash Mountain but her dad has become ill, her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city anyway.

In a blistering summer, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem as old friendships and rivalries are renewed and new ones forged. But the tumult of her home life is the least of her worries, because a bushfire is roaring towards Ash Mountain and the town’s long-held secrets will soon be exposed in the carnage.

Ash Mountain is a uniquely Australian domestic noir – warm, blackly funny and a powder keg of accumulated tension. Vividly portraying small-town life, and a woman and a land in crisis, this is a disaster thriller you will never forget.

‘This is a writer at the absolute top of her game.’ – Erin Kelly

(Affirm Press, February 2021)

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Literature

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post we may earn a small commission to help offset our running costs.

Ash Mountain Review

What a superbly written novel. Ash Mountain is a gripping read in so many different respects.

Sure, this is a disaster thriller; an absolutely devastating one. But thanks to FitzGerald’s sophisticated, layered revelation of characters’ backstories, the tension and suspense reaches fever-pitch well before that disaster’s impact is depicted.

I found the authenticity of Ash Mountain’s characters searing; their attitudinal quirks and fallibilities beguiling. And the feeling in this resilient country town, as it sweats and bristles under the weight of its dark past, it’s palpable.

However, the icing on this cake for me was FitzGerald’s shocking aplomb with the darkest of dark humour. I found myself hanging on every written word… just waiting for the next clanger (gut punch or pressure valve release) and/or savouring the more nuanced cutting crumbs cast around.

Nurse Jen was even less pleasant than the information she imparted, and Fran found herself exchanging naughty looks with Gramps {her Dad}… She noticed that a line of mucous had exited Gramps’ nose. It was now glistening on his cheek.

‘Before and after handling the catheter equipment, wash your hands with warm water and soap,’ Nurse Jen said, having obviously decided to ignore the matter on her patient’s cheek, despite the fact that almost all her agenda items this far had related to the wiping away of things.

Fran crossed the circle and sorted her Dad with a tissue. ‘Grotty bugger,’ she whispered. He almost laughed, but he probably wouldn’t risk doing that again in public.

There are many memorable moments, but for me, Fran’s solution to getting her Dad out and about more… just wonderful.

In Ash Mountain, Helen FitzGerald tackles a raft of confronting subject matter with enviable poise and humanity. I was thoroughly impressed by this novel, and look forward to reading more from this very talented author.

An early contender for my Top Reads of 2021 list…

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5 – Overall 4.75

Get your copy of Ash Mountain from:

Book Depository Booktopia AU Amazon OR listen to the audiobook FREE with Audible’s Trial (check eligibility)

More Ash Mountain Reviews

‘Haunting, thrilling, dark, funny and devastating.’ – Christian White, author of The Wife and the Widow

‘You are a GENIUS Helen FitzGerald. I bow down to your craziness and passion.’ – Louise Beech

‘I’m a huge fan of Helen FitzGerald’s offbeat characters and mordant wit… I loved it!’ – Louise Candlish

About the Author, Helen FitzGerald

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 Kilmore, Victoria, Australia. She now lives in Glasgow with her husband. Connect with Helen on Twitter.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2021 and the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

* My receiving a review copy of Ash Mountain from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.