the birthday party by wendy dranfield // book review

Charlotte waves at her mother across the crowded lawn. Little red boots on, cowboy hat crooked over her blonde pigtails, she’s been looking forward to this party for weeks. Moments later, she disappears without a trace…

Kathy Hamilton drives away from her sister-in-law’s pristine-white suburban house in Maple Falls certain she’s left her daughter in safe hands. On the hottest day of the year, a birthday is the perfect excuse to gather friends, family and neighbors around the pool for a barbecue. But when she returns hours later to find her little girl has vanished, her world shatters.

Nobody laughing and drinking in the garden that day saw anything unusual.

Kathy’s eldest daughter is anxious and hardly eating. Is she sick with worry for her sister, or hiding a terrible secret?

The phone rings and rings, but why can’t Kathy get hold of the babysitter?

And is she imagining it, or when her husband rushed from work to join the search, was he wearing a different shirt to the one she saw him leave the house in that morning?

As the temperature rises, and long-buried secrets begin to surface, it’s clear that even the most perfect families keep devastating secrets. But in a town as small as this, is there anyone you can trust?

A totally gripping and utterly addictive page-turner that will have you racing through and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and Teresa Driscoll, it will keep you up reading all night long!

this book was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. what i expected to be a simple mystery of a missing child was actually both a full-blown family drama with a mystery element to it. in short, the story revolves around a family who drops their youngest daughter, charlie off at her cousins’ birthday party from which she goes missing and no one knows where she might be. the babysitter who was supposed to pick her up from the party was also attacked by an unknown suspect and left unconscious in her house when this happened. with kathy’s marriage falling apart and her husband, who is a real estate developer behaving suspiciously the cops have their work cut out as every adult at the party was drunk and no one seems to be revealing the full truth of their whereabouts. the initial 40% was actually quite thrilling as the mystery develops and more characters’ lies were unraveled.

however, past the 50% mark the book develops into some sort of family drama (which i’m all in for usually) but there are way too many twists which made everything quite convoluted. i am personally a huge fan of books with wild twists and the slow reveal of characters’ pasts to use those details to help solve the mystery but in my opinion, this book took it a bit far. if the author had built up the story to these twists, it would have made them more relevant and enjoyable instead of randomly peppering the entire second half with weird twists that did not make sense to the story. i also felt that these started to overshadow the mystery and almost made this seem like a sub-plot towards the end.

overall, as a mystery this book was great but the twists were something i did not enjoy too much. however the book as a whole was definitely a good read and i recommend this to fans of extremely convoluted family drama along with a good mystery!

**arc provided by netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.**

have you read this book? what are your thoughts on mystery/thriller novels that rely heavily on elements from past family drama to solve the mystery?


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