The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin
Publishing Date: 30th November 2017
Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 364
Genre: Suspense, Mystery
Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea
Come and join me for my fortieth birthday adventure weekend, full of mysteries and surprises the like of which you can’t imagine.
When Joanne’s friends reluctantly accept an invitation to her birthday party, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to this weekend than they are expecting.
One of them is hiding a secret.
And Joanne is planning to reveal it…
A weekend away in a cottage in the woods sounds like fun – until no one can hear your cries for help.
A party to die for.
Who will survive?
After reading “Sister, Sister” by Sue Fortin I was impatiently waiting for this author’s next release, so when “The Birthday Girl” was offered to request on NetGalley I didn’t hesitate long, quickly downloaded it to my kindle and almost immediately started reading this another compelling, hooking read.
The story follows four friends, Carys, Andrea, Zoe and Joanne. The first three have been invited to a mystery birthday weekend by Joanne and reluctantly they arrive at the very remote place. Why reluctantly? Well, lately their friendships haven’t been as good as they used to be and, as it turns out, each of the women had a grudge against the other ones. However, for the sake of the friendship and relationships, they agree – but they are going to regret it, as Joanne feels wronged and she has conjured a plan to expose some of her friends’ secrets.
The relationship between the four women is brilliantly described and very complex – the author knows when and where to add another red herring to change our perspective and to start thinking differently. She can also perfectly well capture the atmosphere, that was changing from very frosty to very heated to full of mistrust. The characters are really not immediately likeable ones, and some of them aren’t likeable at all but this only makes the whole story even more gripping and interesting. They are also all so very different which – I think – is a great thing as it only makes the story so hooking. Joanne is reserved and cold and – in my opinion – unpredictable, Andrea is outspoken and straightforward, Zoe is bouncy and optimistic and easy going and Carys is a very complex person, with a complicated past, with plenty of survival skills, that she’s going to need during the weekend.
It brilliantly describes how a female friendship works, with all its petty jealousies but also bigger and more serious dramas – just as it usually is within groups. The writing style is brilliant, and the author so skilfully builds layer upon layer of secrets, misunderstandings to gradually unpeel the layers and reveal the overall picture. It is very fast paced and it keeps you tightly in its grips, you just can’t put it down as you want to know what’s going to happen next. Also, the setting already adds tons to the atmosphere of uncertainty and fear – in remote woods, far away from inhabited places, it creates this feeling of foreboding and danger.
I can’t stop comparing those two books, though, “Sister, Sister” and “The Birthday Girl”, and I am really sorry for this, I probably shouldn’t be doing this as they are two totally different novels, so please forgive me, but in comparison “The Birthday Girl” was not as full of this palpable tension as “Sister, Sister”. What is the same, however, is the fact that the author incredibly professionally and skilfully makes each and every character suspicious. Guys, really. I was changing my mind instantly and with every new character entering the scene I was suspecting them. While I guessed the main suspect, I haven’t guessed their motivations, and also the author of the few hate letters between chapters directed to Carys was a great surprise to me. She skilfully played with our minds and I was all the time asking myself whom should I trust – is it Carys, as we mostly get the story from her point of view, or is she really hiding something? Shall I believe her version of events or those of the others? I loved this, this feeling of uncertainty and of anything being possible.
Altogether, “The Birthday Girl”, though not as good as “Sister, Sister” (sorry. Sorry!), was a brilliant, compelling and suspenseful read, full of twists and turns and it surprised me more than often. I was very intrigued what the secrets that each of the woman kept were and couldn’t wait to discover them. This book is filled with dramas, feelings and emotions, it is complex and clever, and it ends with a terrific grande finale. However, the very end seemed a tad too flat in comparison to the whole story. Nevertheless, it was a great novel and I can’t wait to read more from the great Sue Fortin. “The Birthday Girl” – recommended!