March 20, 2018

Thomas & Mercer

A good thriller is only as good as it’s hook, and with BIRTHDAY GIRL, Matthew Iden hooks the reader right in the heart.

Iden introduces us to Sister, one of the most chilling villains I’ve yet come across. Sister is collecting children. She’s plucking them from broken homes in the DC area. She brings them home and locks them in her rundown house. The one on the edge of the woods with the boarded up windows and locked doors. She dresses them in old time-y, Howdy Doody-style clothes. And almost worse of all, she renames them. She gives them the names of her lost family. And then she makes them call her Sister. Because they are now a family. HER family. And damn the family that she ripped those kids away from.

While Sister and her new family are locked away in her warped fairytale nightmare, Amy Scowcroft is searching downtown DC for her daughter that disappeared from her life over a year ago. Scowcroft is a single mom who has been pushed to the very edge, she literally has no where else to turn to. The DC cops have given up trying to find her daughter Lacey. Scowcroft is a woman without options, without direction, but she refuses to give up hope.

Elliott Nash has been living on the streets of DC for eight years. Once a respected psychologist, Nash’s life spun out of control when his daughter Cee Cee was abducted out of a city park by a lunatic. His sobriety crumbled along with his practice, and eventually Nash ended up on the streets. Still a man a science and reason, Nash provides assistance to anyone else living on the streets whenever he can. But in truth, he’s holding on the best he can, day by day. Because of the work he did assisting the police back when he was still a practicing psychologist, the police send Scowcroft Nash’s way when they reach a dead-end. Two broken individuals who have both known unbelievable pain and loss will now do everything possible to bring closure to Scowcroft’s life. Hopefully, that means bringing Lacey home.

Scowcroft is a self-proclaimed hippie spiritualist, living her life through numerology and superstition. Nash, of course, is a man of science, reason, and deduction. Iden clearly was enjoying throwing these two together in crisis after crisis. Watching them figure out how to put their differences aside to find Lacey is an absolute joy. And in the middle of these hard truths, there is one brilliant moment of humor that absolutely shines though.

Iden takes the harsh reality of life on DC’s streets and perfectly fits it together with the unreal nightmare of life inside Sister’s home. It’s this unlikely pairing, coupled with Iden’s masterful pacing, that makes BIRTHDAY GIRL such a compulsive read. Not only is the novel a compulsive page-turner, but it has one of my favorite covers of the year. It’s no surprise Thomas & Mercer released this thriller the day before Spring: BIRTHDAY GIRL is the clear choice for the perfect summer novel.


Dan Malmon