Written by Carol Wyer — We’ve reached book four in Carol Wyer’s series featuring DI Natalie Ward and there’s drama at both work and home for the Staffordshire detective. Ward’s husband David is out of work and battling a gambling addiction, while her two children are both showing classic symptoms of being stroppy teenagers. She’s glad to be at work to get away from the stresses of home life, but that’s soon going to be piling on the pressure too.
As the book opens, Roxy Curtis is off for a sleepover with her best friend Ellie, who lives close by – or at least that’s what the 14-year-old tells her mother, Carol. Because Roxy is a little liar, and soon she’s found dead on the other side of town, in the burned out luxury home of two brothers who run a controversial local nightclub. They claim they don’t know Roxy and they have solid alibis for the time of the blaze. What, then, is the connection between Roxy and Gavin and Kirk Lang?
It’s complicated, and about to get even more so when Roxy’s mother goes missing too. Wyer’s already working her plotting wizardry here and it’s about to tax your powers of deduction just as much as those of Ward and her team. It soon becomes clear that Roxy wasn’t the little angel she’s first made out to be and as for the Lang brothers, well they’re an odd pair who don’t seem too bothered that their home has been razed to the ground nor that a young girl perished in the blaze.
In the midst of all the drama we are treated to tantalising glimpses of what really happened. These little snippets are neatly rendered and help to give the book the unsettling feeling that all is not as it at first seems. Fans of Carol Wyer’s crime novels know she is adept at leading us astray, and this book has it in spades.
Alongside the essential police procedural element, we’re also gradually getting to know Ward and her team. They’re all fully rounded characters thanks to their ever-evolving back stories. DS Lucy Carmichael is soon to become a parent with the the arrival of her partner Bethany’s baby and is really nervous about it, while PC Ian Jarvis has a young daughter and is struggling to create a work/life balance to suit his girlfriend Scarlett, to the point of thinking about changing careers. DS Murray Anderson is a straight talking dyed-in-the-wool copper and although he and Ian have had their moments in the past, the relationship between the pair seems to have turned a corner. Whatever their backgrounds though, this lot have their work cut out to sort out their latest case.
The hows, why and wherefores of how they manage it are destined to keep you entertained, and with a few red herrings thrown in for good measure, The Sleepover has enough tricks inside its book jacket to keep even the savviest reader happy.
Carol Wyer has only been writing crime books for a relatively short time, but she is getting better and better with each novel she produces. Coming hot on the heels of the Robyn Carter series, the Natalie Ward books have a lot to live up to. Luckily this author is not one to shy away from a challenge and if anything, this series is better than the first. I can’t wait to see where Ward and her team end up next. And the juicy last minute developments in this latest instalment have me champing at the bit for book five!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars