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The Birthday

Detective Natalie Ward, Book 1
Narrated by: Diana Croft
Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
4 out of 5 stars (152 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 center, 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 still keeps her awake at night....

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 center 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?

Gripping, fast-paced, and nail-bitingly tense, this book will keep you listening long into the night. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, and Karin Slaughter.

©2018 Carol Wyer (P)2018 Bookouture

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Hamish
  • Rock Valley
  • 23-07-2019

If you're slightly hungover and it's a Sunday...

... and you just want a middle-of-the-road, mildly thrillerish police procedural story that's not going to challenge you or blow your mind (in any way), then Carol Wyer is the writer for you. This book is more-or-less competently put together, but really this stuff is wholly unexceptional. I spend 80 percent of my waking hours listening to audio-books on headphones, so i'll probably end up buying most of her novels, but this is only because A) the reader is pretty good and B) my mind is an insatiably ravening crime-audiobook-eating monster and it's devoured all the good stuff already, so anything remotely passable immediately gets thrown onto the conveyor belt to get chewed up. Having said that, you only need to dust off the surface veneer of this work to reveal an array of glaring flaws, which the writer could probably have spotted and dealt with if she could just have had the passion and persistence to do another 2 or 3 drafts. The characters are sketched rather than finely or boldly drawn; they are only partially developed, so the personal views, opinions and attitudes of the writer can be clearly perceived in the text, like stains that show through under an inadequate paint job. The main character has been knocked together as though following the ikea diagram of a flawed heroine. Her sanctimonious lectures are insufferable, and it seems like the last person to follow her soapbox moralising is herself.
Let's face it, the characters in a story should always be the driving force behind plot because, after all, people, their personalities, choices and behaviour are the reason things happen the way they do. Here it's the other way round: the characters are crammed in to conform to the plotline, which, by the way is virtually identical to The Dare - Book 3.
I mean yeah, it's passable, but there's just no originality to it. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris was written in the mid 80s - and it still has more hutzpah in its little toenail today than all these books. Connoisseurs of great crime writing will find Wyer banal, unoriginal and formulaic, though it must be said that the 3rd book was better than the 1st ( i haven't had a go at 2 yet).
Yes, you're patently familiar. Flawed cop heroine with murder squad investigates, she's conflicted and tortured by the pain and emotion of it all and whatnot, she's rollin' rocks uphill, trying to do right in a man's world, juggling work, colleagues and family, and all the while the killer is out there, and yes, you did meet him briefly early on, and after a few red herrings, she sniffs him out. I mean, come on. It's just so predictable. You can't just rip off Midsomer Murders like this and get away with it! At least not without getting pulled up for it!
I give it 52 out of 100...

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyed this read

Thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. Could feel the heartache in the detectives narrative as she was searching for the killer.
Will be looking for the next book by this author.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the most extraordinary books I've read

I loved the reality of a police team under pressure and working to see a child alive and well again.. Very suspenseful and thrilling!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good but not great

This one took a while to get into, I just couldn't quite connect with Detective Natalie. The story it self was interesting enough to kill some time but over all found it a bit generic.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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a bit trite

I struggled with the story here. Could have been really intriguing, but fell at the last hurdle. Just not believable, and the chatacters not relatable. The language was 1970s trite.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Good until it wasn't

this book started off ready good, but ultimately the reasoning for the killings was weak and disappointing

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  • W. Pate
  • Glen Waverley, Victoria Australia
  • 08-06-2019

Gripping.

The story had me interested all the way, though for a brief moment I thought it was dragging. No obvious holes in the story and a really enjoyable listen.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Terrible

Absolute waste of time.....I didn’t even bother to listen to the last hour. Dragged on and on. Convoluted story badly told.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent listen

Great writing, really enjoyed the story. The narrator did a good job with the different voices.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A B grade attempt at a police procedural

I had a few issues with this book. Firstly, I didn't love the narration. It didn't add anything to the writing, and in some places I found it hard to distinguish between characters during conversations. But I've heard worse.


The story itself. Eugh. The use of technical terms was sloppy, and unnessary at times. Why would a character who is a cop and/or detective would need to clarify to another cop/Detective the procedure they were using? As a device to inform the reader it felt forced and unnatural.

The main character was not particularly appealing, and the whole team seemed to be composed in a way that mimics more successful police procedural novels. Kim Stone comes to mind foremost.

The author tries so hard to throw up viable suspects that, in turn, almost instantly fall apart. The whole thing felt forced, like a clown car chase, but instead of failing to be funny, it failed to capture the sense of urgency it was meant to convey.

It could have been good, the bare bones of the plot were viable; but it was just annoying and often unengaging. So many of these novels use the same sorts of cliches, but at the end of the day, they only really become unacceptable when the writing is no good. I stan a lead detective with a tortured past anyday, but not Natalie. I stan a good, dependable mentor/side kick. But Murry barely made an impact.

*SPOILER WARNING*


The innaccurate way forensics is presented also irritated me. Cause of death on a severly decomposed corpse is rarely easy to establish, and even then a forensic pathologist or anthropologist wouldn't make definitive claims about it. In this case saying the hyoid bone of a severly decomposed body of a small child was broken, and therefore she was strangled? Damage to the hyoid can occur without death. In children it's even more dubious as ossification is not complete and the hyoid is still pliable, so hyoid fractures are rare. This really annoyed me, along with various other bits and pieces. Since when do pathologists make absolute claims so easily? Apparent cause of death, anyone?

As a police procedural you'd think there would be consistency in the application of actual police proceedures. But not in this book. The only time anyone is cautioned is towards the end. The interviews with suspects were all over the place... honestly. It was cringeworthy at times.

The thing that really got up my nose was the fact that they apparently think that a gay, former sex addict is somehow synonymous with child killing paedophile. Screwing around with consenting adults has literally nothing to do with paedophilia. Are modern coppers not up to date with psychology in their discrimination?


I did not like this book. I stuck with it purely so I could write this review. I seriously thought of chucking it several times *figuratively speaking*

If you're not a particularly picky listener, then this book may be your sauce. Otherwise, you may wanna give it a miss.

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  • K. Byrne
  • 15-11-2018

I don't know why I kept going

It was rambling and didnt keep my attention. still confused about why I didnt return. No surprises...not clever...just a winding tale that goes nowhere.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Debbie De
  • 29-10-2018

The Birthday Killer

This audiobook was excellently written & by Carol Wyer & gracefully narrated by Diane Croth.
Story

Storyline and blot was robustly written with oranization. Great weekend thriller....waiting on Book two.
A DeAnn DeVille Review

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • E. Miller
  • 24-10-2018

One dimensional DI who only knows how to bully

The lead character is just awful and the narrator makes her sound even worse. I understand that she is investigating child murders but she acts no better than dirty Harry when it comes to that investigation. No nuance whatsoever. Frankly, I couldn't stand her and will be returning this book, something I've done only once before.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Maine Knitter
  • 12-12-2018

First in a new series

The shoes on the cover kill me. So sad. The book involves the murder of children so it can be disturbing.

I’ve read the author’s first series and enjoyed those books. All are a bit dark but interesting. I didn’t care for this book as much. I listened to the audiobook, as I had with the previous series, (which was done fairly well) but I had a hard time keeping the characters straight. It’s not as easy to go back and find earlier mentions of a character. I listen to over 100 audiobooks a year so it’s not that I’m not used to them. This book just made it difficult for me.

The main character, DI Natalie Ward, is determined to solve these crimes especially because of a similar crime in her past. She seems like a typical working mother, trying to juggle career and family all in the midst of a murder investigation. I look forward to seeing how she manages and to learning more about her team.

One thing I did notice with the narration (and this occurred in an earlier book by the same author): Nike trainers were pronounced like Bike. Is that a British thing?

Overall, a captivating book which could have ended in any of several ways. It kept me guessing through most of the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • wbc
  • 10-10-2019

Not well researched.

There were numerous procedural mistakes that anyone with a basic understanding of police work would catch. None of the characters were well developed and there were many loose ends. I would not recommend this book. It reads like an amateur effort. The narration was good.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-07-2019

Great storyline but

Dragged on way too long. Ending wasn’t very exciting but the story itself was a really good one.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Christie Folsom
  • 22-05-2019

Great Listen!

Not my first Carol Wyer book, but my first Detective Natalie Ward Series book. It was great with clever twists. Now onto Book 2.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Deedra
  • 16-03-2019

The Birthday

This book kept me on the edge of my seat for the duration.It reminded me of 'Broadchurch' in a way.I loved it! Diana Croft was an excellent narrator. I was given this book by the narrator,author or publisher free for an honest review.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-01-2019

read if you want to try and guess the villain!

it was suspenseful, intriguing and didn't know who did it until the very last. Carol Wyer made you feel anxious, I had to start cleaning to get to the end while listening. She gives you enough details if you go back and relisten to the book to see her clues. Very exciting and thrilling.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • LR
  • 13-01-2019

Not Good

One character after another and none of them are memorable. If I can't get to know at least one character, I quickly lose interest. This book dragged on for hours! As soon as a key piece of evidence was presented it was easy to guess who did it. I had hoped I was wrong and there'd be a big surprise or twist coming but No, there wasn't.

i wish I had passed on this one. There's so many good books out there why waste time on one that's just okay?

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  • Nia Ireland
  • 30-09-2018

Intense and chilling

This is a procedural crime thriller, the first in a new series featuring Detective Natalie Ward.
The detective is a multi-dimensional character and doesn’t fall into the common cliché categories I tend to expect in a police procedural novel – she isn’t a maverick, she isn’t better at her job than everyone else and she isn’t an angsty character with a dark past and a drinking problem.
What she is, is a woman trying her best to balance her incredibly stressful and important job with her home life. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like, trying to find a killer who targets children while making sure your son gets the cool new trainers he really wants in time for his birthday.

The story itself is heart breaking, being about the abduction and murder of little girls, but somehow the procedural side of the writing takes the edge off and stops it getting too dark. There are no graphic details about the crimes, but we do get some insight into the past of the killer and what drives him – eventually tying in with the main storyline and coming to a solid conclusion. The author’s writing style is excellent, making the main character very easy to relate to and the mystery compelling, without dropping deliberate red herrings to put you off.

The narration of this book was out of this world, Croft covers a range of different accents and character voices; from little girls to old men and everything in between. Every single one is distinct, which is ideal because there’s a lot of dialogue in this book and could easily become confusing in audio. I would particularly recommend picking up the audio of this book if you have a chance, it’s hella intense.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • J Taylor
  • 21-01-2019

Just ok

The story was a bit long winded and technically not very good
It was ok but not great

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Emma
  • 17-03-2019

Fantastic

First time reading this authors book and I was extremely impressed a most read. You will not be able to put it down A****

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • stink
  • 06-02-2019

Enjoyed

Enjoyed this story kept me interested from start to finish the character's were believable maybe a little corny.the narrator was very good so give it ago.😉😉😉

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • S
  • 30-01-2019

excellent 'who done it "

kept me guessing ! love the pyschological twist throught the story .Just enough of Detectives personal life ...too much drowns story out

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Gwyneth Smith
  • 19-10-2018

A good read but not brilliant

Enjoyed this book but I've read better. The ending though is unpredictable so keep going!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-05-2019

narrator annoying

voices put on by narrator are very annoying and not realistic at all, didnt like this

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Ruby
  • 07-05-2019

Dragged on

The premise of the book sounds good, the first in a new set of books "DI Natalie Ward" I usually love these sort of things.
A young girl goes missing some years ago, as more girls start going missing it is up to DI Natalie Ward to solve the case.

A whodunit, but oh so boring, I found it hard to listen and it wasn’t gripping at all, I carried on to find out what happened but even that was a let down.

I did enjoy the narrator who had a lovely relaxing voice. But I wont be continuing with the series.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Ninecatz
  • 28-01-2019

Mediocre

Bought on the strength of reviews... next time I'll use Fakespot analyser for a true idea, as the story is far from 'gripping.' If you like a fluffy detective story, buy it, but be warned... it has as much grit as a tarmac road... and is twice as boring.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sally
  • 13-01-2019

A Gripping story

I had already read this book as I have of most of Carol Wyer’, but found it more compelling by listening to it. It became very believable almost as though it was really happening. The narrator did an excellent job with the different characters bringing them to life. I’ve aleady ordered the next audible book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful