Audiobook: The Birthday (Detective Natalie Ward #1) by Carol Wyer, narrated by Diana Croft


Published by Bookouture

5 stars


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?

I must confess, I got an ARC version of this book from NetGalley but when I heard on the grapevine (Twitter) that Diana Croft was going to be narrating the audiobook, I decided to hang on until the release day of the audio so I could get my fix that way. Croft is on my list of go-to narrators, so I knew it would be worth the wait.


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.

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