Happy Publication Day to Carol Wyer for ‘The Birthday’. I had the pleasure of reading this book earlier in the month.
Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture and Carol Wyer for the chance to read an arc of this novel.
“One hot summer’s afternoon, five-year-old Ava Sawyer went to a party. She never came home…..”
This gripping thriller begins with a child’s birthday party at a Garden Centre in July 2015. During the party five-year-old Ava Sawyer disappears and no trace of her is found. The story then picks up almost two years later, in April 2017, when a building crew carrying out renovations on the old Garden Centre unearth a child’s body that is identified as Ava.
The next day Audrey Briggs, who also attended the birthday party, goes missing and is found murdered. She is wearing a yellow dress similar to the one Ava had on the day she vanished. Could the two murders be connected? Is someone targeting the little girls that were at the party? Are other children in danger? DI Natalie Ward and her team try to find the answers and whoever is responsible for the girls’ deaths with very few clues and no real leads. Do they have a child serial killer on their hands? Is more than one person responsible? And can Natalie lead the investigation without the residual guilt from a previous child murder case affecting her judgement and confidence?
The book is narrated mostly in the present day by DI Ward but also has chapters that flashback to the killer’s childhood and a few chapters where we see the story from the various victims perspective. Both of the latter are skillfully done as we remain in the dark as to the identity of the killer and where they will strike next. While there were a number of characters that piqued my interest as possible culprits, you are taken on so many twists and turns that even though I had a feeling about a particular character from part way through the book, I found myself doubting the accuracy of it as I’d been duped masterfully about my original suspicion early on. I love when a writer is so skilled that you can’t be sure who the perpetrator is and you’re as unsure as the police hunting them.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I was right to think it would be right up my street as I love crime fiction. It is an edge of your seat thriller that engrosses you from the first pages and you won’t want to put down. It is well written with great characters that you easily affiliate with and can feel the tension, stress and urgency of Natalie and her team as they desperately search for the killer. I can see the seeds being planted in the story for this book to be the start of a series and it is certainly one I will be reading
After the book concludes there is a letter from the author telling of her experience of her son going missing and being found safe quickly when he was just 3 and how it helped inspire the book. I won’t spoil the tale for you but it did remind me of when my own son was the same age and he disappeared at a friend’s birthday party at a play centre. I’d been there the whole time, but when it was time to leave he was nowhere to be found. Myself, other parents and staff members frantically searched the building and rooms for what were the longest few minutes of my life, only for him to be found by another child hiding in the ball pool under all the balls because he didn’t want to go home! While I smile at that memory now, I will never forget those moments of all consuming terror when I thought he was lost and am thankful we were lucky that day.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction, mysteries or thrillers.