I first wrote about Barbara Vine’s The Birthday Present a few weeks ago when I’d almost got to the point of giving up reading it. But I decided to read a few more pages and ended up finishing it. It wasn’t too bad even though the plot depended upon too many coincidences and I thought it was rather lifeless.
Ivor Tesham, MP decides to give his married girl friend, Hebe a birthday present, one with a difference. He arranges to have her ‘kidnapped’ and delivered to him bound and gagged. It all goes wrong when the kidnap car crashes and Hebe is killed. Ivor is then consumed by worry that his part in the affair will be exposed, but everything he does only gets him into deeper trouble.
The story is narrated by Robin, Ivor’s brother and by Jane, Hebe’s friend who gives her an alibi when she is out with Ivor. I think the problem for me with this book was that both narrators seemed detached from the events. Jane’s story is told through her diary and she lives in a dream world. She’s lonely and bitter and I was in two minds whether I felt annoyed and amazed at her stupidity or sorry for her low self-esteem. Ivor is amoral and both characters are selfish and self-obssessed. I was exasperated at Robin’s drawn out recital of his brother’s rise and fall, and it was obvious that the fall was coming well before it happened. The book for me could have been shorter and it was all so predictable, which is why, in the end, it was a bit disappointing.