by Helen FitzGerald

Publisher: Affirm Press, 2024

Publisher’s blurb

On her first shift at a halfway house for violent offenders in Edinburgh – the only job she could get – rebounding Australian expat Lou is taken hostage. For nine long hours, the only people who can help her are the residents. But who can Lou trust? The mum-and-dad-killer, the elderly legless rockstar paedophile, the stammering suicide chat room guy, or the Armani-suited conman? 

Slick, darkly funny and nerve-janglingly tense, Halfway House is a breathtaking thriller and an unapologetic reminder: never corner a desperate woman.


by Ola Kwintowski

Helen FitzGerald is a well-established crime author having published thirteen adult and young-adult thrillers. Halfway House is a culmination of years of writing as well as her own harrowing experience of living and working as a social worker in a halfway house in Edinburgh. The story follows Lou O’Dowd, a young woman trying to reinvent herself, filled with hopes and dreams. She’s a terrible judge of character and has a weakness for thrill-seeking. She embarks on a new life overseas as a night-shift worker in a halfway house for violent offenders. What could go wrong? Fuelled by memories of my own naïve and adventure hunting youthful years, I settled into this page turner thinking, what would have I have done?

Lou is a complex character. She’s without responsibility, purpose, or accountability – she relies on others to get her out of trouble along with a bagful of charms and lies. Despite this, FitzGerald manages to paint her in a light where you do feel compassion and want her to succeed. Lou’s good intentions, her relentless effort to be better and the heartbreaks she’s endured when she was younger pull us across the line. Where it gets exciting is when she meets her match, Timothy. At first it’s fireworks and first kisses, charm and passion, but halfway through the novel the plot takes a wicked and exciting twist. This is where the real fun begins. 

While I felt that it took a little too long for the crux of the novel to start, Lou taken hostage by the housemates, once she is tested and prodded, the story takes life. The plot is driven by both setting and characters. The house feels strange and foreign – keeping the reader on edge. The characters, the offenders living at the house, are terrifying. Initially they come across as silly, doddering men: there’s the sobbing, depressed, elderly musician who appears frail and lonely – till you learn he’s a paedophile and rapist. Every character in this story has a malicious story that rears its horns in the darkest of hours. 

Halfway House is an entertaining read till the very last page. It sheds some light on the darkest corners of the human psyche, while highlighting the importance of family and friends, of how choices always accompany consequences and the importance of taking charge of your own life.