There are books I approach knowing they’ll fascinate me, but also with a certain fear. Because I know they’ll push my personal buttons. Birthday Girl, by Matthew Iden, is that kind of book.
Amy Scowcroft is a woman with nothing in her life but a quest. A recovered drug addict, she lost custody of her daughter Lacey, who then – disappeared. Without a trace. People searched, the police investigated, but the girl had vanished.
One compassionate policeman gives her a suggestion… reluctantly. He knows a guy, a former forensic psychologist, who was pretty good at figuring out motives and identifying criminals. His name is Elliott Nash. The problem is, Elliott’s a homeless bum now. He too had had his child kidnapped. And murdered. But there’s a place he might be found.
Amy goes and finds him. At first he resists helping her. He can’t even help himself.
But then he changes his mind. This penniless woman and this homeless man, with no more resources than an unreliable car and a very few bucks between them, start tracing down a few facts. Old facts. Questionable facts. But they have nothing to lose, and are willing to go to whatever lengths they have to, to find Lacey.
Alternating with the plot thread of Amy and Elliott is the thread that tells us what’s happening to Lacey. Because she is alive. But she’s in the hands of a deeply troubled and dangerous person, one who keeps several children in a remote house. That person has a script and a plan for each of the children’s lives… and deaths.
Birthday Girl is compelling and heart-wrenching, with a ticking clock plot and a neat twist at the end. Also inspirational, in a spiritually generic way.
Birthday Girl grabbed me by the backbone and shook me up. It was painful to read, for personal reasons, but I couldn’t put it down.
Highly recommended, with cautions for intense material.