Title: The Birthday
Author: Carol Wyer
Publication Date: 27th October 2018
About the book:
One hot summer’s afternoon, five-year-old Ava Sawyer went to a party. She never came home …
When five-year-old Ava Sawyer goes missing from a birthday party at a local garden centre, the police are bewildered by the lack of leads. That is until two years later, when Ava’s body is found and another little girl, Audrey Briggs, goes missing. Audrey also attended that party …
Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward. A mother of two teenagers, this case chills her to the bone, and is a disturbing reminder of the last job she worked on. One that ended very badly.
Natalie soon discovers that Ava’s mother has some worrying gaps in her alibi and as she digs deeper, she’s sure Ava’s father is not telling the full story. And what did the owner of the garden centre Elsa see that day? Something that she’s not telling Natalie …
Just as Natalie is facing up to the grim possibility that Ava and Audrey were killed by someone close to home, another little girl from the party doesn’t come home from her ballet lesson. Can Natalie find a way to stop this killer before more innocent lives are taken?
What I Thought:
It’s been far too long since I last sat down with a Carol Wyer novel. I am a big fan of her DI Robyn Carter books so I decided this weekend it was time to dive into her other crime series and read The Birthday the first in her Natalie Ward series, and let me tell you I was not disappointed!
The story begins with a prologue, looking back at a birthday party held in 2015 where a little girl went missing. The action then moves on to 2017 and the present day within the story where the body of a little girl is discovered. DI Natalie Ward is soon assigned the case and when the body of another little girl appears, Natalie realises she faces a race against time to solve the killings before another child dies.
I’ve always said how much I enjoy Carol’s plots and pacing and The Birthday was no different. From the very first pages I was absolutely hooked, desperate to discover the truth behind it all, but also dreading turning the pages at times! At least once I almost spoke out loud begging a character not to do something as I knew there was no way that it could end well, and then nervously turning the page to discover what happened next. The story builds so wonderfully to an incredibly satisfying conclusion.
One of my favourite parts of the story was the throwback chapters that went further than the birthday party where Ava went missing, and focused on a young boy growing up, I knew I was reading about the killer, and there was a real sense that you were reading the making of a murderer (to steal a title from Netflix). However I still didn’t manage to guess who this young boy became!
With any new series you get a cast of new characters to get to grips with and this story his no different, I think that Carol manages this really well though, by the end of the book you have a real sense of who Natalie is, and a fair idea about a number of members of her team without feeling like the book is overly long, or has been padded out with detail, the exploration into the character’s character is really well balanced with ensure the plot continues to move on at a great pace.
I really liked Natalie, she seems like a well rounded, human police officer. She’s not a perfect super cop, she has flaws but at the same time she’s not a stereotypical flawed alcoholic detective that you sometimes find at the opposite end of the spectrum. She’s still haunted by a case that went wrong at her previous station, and it has a real effect on how she looks at her current case, I hope that in some point in the future we might get a little more insight into what went wrong with Olivia, it might make for an excellent novella if not a full novel!
We also learn a little about Natalie’s family, her husband David and their two children Josh and Leigh. Josh and Leigh seem like two fairly average teenagers- although I’m always suspicious when children are introduced that something is going to happen to one of them in a later book! David on the other hand I struggled to like or emphasise with. Logically I understand that losing a job, and your wife becoming the main earner can be difficult for a man, especially if they’ve been brought up in a very traditional household where they’ve always been told that it’s the man’s role to earn money and support the family. However some of the moods he gets in with Natalie just irritated me and I spent a lot of time thinking she deserved better.
The other characters at the station all seemed very likeable, I enjoyed the banter between Lucy and Murray. Mike in charge of the forensic team seemed like a nice guy, although he’s made a mistake or two (I confess I prefer him to David) and I especially liked the inclusion of a wider forensic team, with the introduction of a forensic anthropologist alongside the usual pathologist, the science geek in me hopes they will play a role again in future novels!
My only criticism (and it is a tiny one) is that there were a couple of jarring locations for me that slightly distracted me, only very briefly. Early in the novel we learn than Samford is in the north Staffordshire area, and later on one of the characters comments about moving from Cornwall because the travel was too much to Samford. However there are a couple of place names given Axmouth and Honiton that are in Devon right on the south coast, but in the book these are locations fairly close to Samford and Uptown. Most people probably wouldn’t have given these a second thought, but as I happen to grow up in East Devon fairly close to both these locations it just jarred slightly and made me second guess if the location I’d built in my head was wrong. As I said it’s only a little thing that I’m sure most people wouldn’t have noticed and overall it didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed the book!
Another wonderful crime novel from Carol! With a tale that will leave you eager to reach the end and discover who was responsible you will not be disappointed if you pick this one up! I’m so pleased there’s already another DI Natalie Ward story I can pick up!
About The Author
Carol Wyer, is an award-winning author and stand up comedian who writes feel-good comedies and gripping thrillers. Her book, Grumpy Old Menopause won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction 2015.
The DI Robyn Carter series has earned her acclaim as a crime writer and the first book in the series, Little Girl Lost, shot to the #2 best-selling spot on Kindle #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible, and was also a USA Today top 150 best-seller.
Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’ featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post.
Carol is a signed author with Bookouture (part of the Hachette Group) Canelo and Delancey Press.
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As always if you’ve read the book let me know what you thought! If you’ve not read it yet will my review convince you to pick it up?