Birthday Girl was published in 2018 by Thomas & Mercer.
Since his daughter’s abduction and murder eight years ago, Elliott Nash has lived under a crushing cloud of guilt. His marriage failed, his brilliant career as a criminal psychologist is nothing but a memory, he’s homeless and lives on the streets. The only constants in his life are nightmares and pain. His natural drive to help people has diminished. That is, until he meets former addict Amy Scowcroft. Amy’s daughter, Lacey, has been missing for almost a year but Amy refuses to believe her daughter is dead. Getting nowhere with the investigation into Amy’s disappearance, the police have closed the case. Detective Dave Cargill, who works for the D.C. Metropolitan Child and Family Services, refers Amy to his old friend and former colleague, Elliott Nash.
Elliott is reluctant but eventually digs deep for reserves he didn’t realise he still had and agrees to work with Amy. Together, using unconventional and interesting methods, they search through piles and piles of old cases of missing children until they get a breakthrough and find a pattern of sorts. It seems Lacey is one of several children from broken homes who disappeared at a certain time. It’s not much to go on initially but the connecting threads begin to mount up and make some sense.
Each chapter is written from a particular character’s perspective, including several of the children, Elliott, Amy, Dave and the mysterious and rather chilling Sister. I really liked Elliott and Amy. There was enough back story for each to flesh them out and give a sense of who they are. Despite their flaws and the horrible things life has thrown at them, they’re decent people who just lost their way and are trying desperately to get back on track. Helping Amy proves to be a lifeline for Elliott.
The story is well plotted and covers a range of disturbing issues, including homelessness, mental instability and abduction, which have obviously been well researched. Elliott’s narrative from the point of view of a homeless person is realistic and eye-opening. It’s very sad when Elliot remarks that homeless people more often than not feel invisible, as though they don’t exist. Having the main male character in such a desperate situation gives an edge to the story and it’s very easy to empathise with him. A quick, enjoyable read and although the perpetrator’s identity is easy to guess once certain facts are known, there’s no lack of tension, suspense and a good twist or two.
Eight years ago, Elliott Nash’s daughter was murdered. Since then, everything the brilliant former criminal psychologist had is a memory—his child, his career, his wife, and his home. Now he lives on the streets around Washington, DC, with only a bottomless well of guilt and nightmares to make him feel alive. Until Amy Scowcroft solicits his help.
She refuses to believe that her daughter, Lacey, who was kidnapped a year before, is dead. To the police, it’s a case gone cold. To Elliott, it’s redemption. In fact, Amy has stumbled upon an unnerving new clue: Lacey is just one of seven children from broken homes who vanished near their birthdays. Right now, it’s all they have to run with. Right now, they have no idea where the chase will lead.
As Elliott navigates the streets he knows so well, he and Amy will discover how dark they are—and how many secrets they conceal. Because in a search this harrowing, everybody has something to hide.