It’s MY Birthday … what better way to celebrate than with a book review of The Birthday by Carol Wyer!
This has actually been on my TBR list for a while, especially since the pre release of her latest book, The Dare, is sat waiting for me on my kindle, courtesy of NetGalley/Bookouture.
The Birthday by Carol Wyer
Genre: Fiction/Crime Fiction/Crime, Thriller & Mystery
BUG Rating 5/5
Overall: This book literally had it all – honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to be this freakin’ good. I have read a couple of Carol Wyer’s Robyn Carter books, and although I enjoyed them, honestly, for me, they were missing something. But, boy was I wowed with The Birthday. The plot is focused around Natalie Ward, a dedicated detective inspector with a mildly challenging home life. Natalie is assigned to a case of a missing little girl who’s body has now been recovered during an excavation, exactly where she went missing from two years previously at a garden and craft Centre in Upton. From there the exciting ride begins, as Natalie is trying to uncover what happened to Ava. Before Natalie is able to get too stuck into the cold case, another school girl goes missing and is found dead, in what appears to be similar circumstances to Ava. This case brings back to the surface all her nightmares and struggles from a past failed case where Natalie arrived too late to save a young school girl. Carol really managed to draw me in with the intricate formulation of the plot and subplots. The book had just the right balance of character development and twists to keep me engaged and turning the pages at record speed. In 3 words: Hair-raising, Gripping and Exhilarating.
This is the real world, Natalie. Sometimes, we can’t make it right. We can only do our best […] What if our best isn’t good enough.
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?
The Birthday is the first book in the DI Natalie Ward trilogy – I hope Carol won’t stop at just 3! I’ve had a taste now and want the series to go on forever!!
The book follows Natalie as she is assigned to an excavation site where an old garden and craft centre used to sit as the body of a little girl has been uncovered. The body is that of missing school girl, Ava Sawyer, who went missing two years previously during a birthday party at that very spot.
The small town of Upton is yet again shaken to its core as the events of the day Ava went missing resurface in everyone’s mind.
As Natalie is digging up the past on this cold case to try and piece together what happened to little Ava, another girl, from the same birthday party, goes missing. She is found not far from the last sighting, strangled and dressed in a yellow party dress, just as Ava was.
Natalie now has a lot more on her plate than she first thought as it’s a rush against time to identify and apprehend the killer before they inevitably strike again.
Carol has very cleverly built together the intertwining cases, there were plenty of clues and red herrings. I was convinced I knew who the killer was, several times… Only to be totally shocked near the end. I loved the writing and the structure of the book – the way the chapters went chronologically through the days of the current case, but with clear dives back into the past as we piece together a psychological profile of our killer and the triggers that drive them to commit these horrific crimes. Loved, loved, loved!
I love some dark and gruesomeness in my crime fiction reads and Carol really didn’t disappoint on this one. There were plenty of cringeworthy moments along with dark and twisted passages that I lapped up and made me addicted to reading more. I’d love to know more of what inspires Carol!
Along with the cold case and current murders, there is a very present sub plot of hauntings from Natalie’s past case in Manchester, where she was too late to save Olivia, a school girl who went missing and was found dead. This drives her even more to push herself, and her team to leave no stone unturned this time to avoid the same outcome.
I really enjoyed this dive into her past, helping us to build a better picture of Natalie.
Natalie is a layered individual; She’s dedicated and totally driven by preventing crimes and ensuring justice. She’s not as strong as she may think. She definitely has a soft, emotional side to her too. Her home life is difficult, her relationship with her husband is definitely strained, I think she still loves him though, despite maybe not being in love. She had a moment of weakness in the recent past, after discovering her husband’s gambling debts and redundancy. She slept with Mike Sullivan, in charge of the forensic unit, who she has known for 20+ years. He gets her understands the job and the impact this has on personal relationships and life outside of work. I believe they both still crave each other, and I’d love to see where their relationship takes them in next instalments. Carol has interjected just the right amount of romance into the book to not be too distracting but gives us a bit of a quiver.
Natalie is also a mother of two teenagers. This drives and contributes to a lot of emotions she has in this plot. The thoughts and fears of something happening to her own children. She works a lot and therefore isn’t at home as much as she would like to be, or her family would like her to be. This further drives a rift between her and her husband. I really feel I relate to Natalie, our personalities seem quite similar, and in my own life I can relate to the work/life balance struggles she faces. I really connected with her on an emotional level and think this is what made the book even more powerful and absorbing for me.
Whilst on the characters, Carol has also given us a great set of supporting cast to get to know:
Sergeant Lucy Carmichael, young, fearless, confident, courageous.
Murray Anderson, I’m still trying to understand him, but he’s a good guy, will go above and beyond for his loved ones.
The final member of Natalie’s immediate team is PC Ian Jarvis. The youngest on the team, he’s bright and dedicated and has a cheeky streak to him.
There’s a few other characters that play an important part too, such as Mike, who I’ve touched on – a sexy, strong man with commitment issues, in charge of the forensics unit.
Ben Hargreaves, pathologist and Naomi Singh, top forensic anthropologist.
I loved all the characters and I am super excited to be able to dive straight into book number 2: The Lullaby to get to know them more and see how the next case pushes them all to their limits.
Also loving DI Natalie Ward? Book 2, The Lullaby is already out… And look out for my participation on The Dare’s (book 3) upcoming #booktour in April!