Publication: 17 May 2018 from Bantam Press
SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS . . .
On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.
Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .
I have a mixed history with Belinda Bauer’s books; some I have loved others not quite so much, though her writing is always superb. But I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Snap.
Snap has everything you look for in a novel; engaging and interesting characters that are really well drawn and whose development you can follow through the book. A brilliant storyline, extremely well executed and which rises far above the norm of psychological thrillers to be captivating and utterly immersive.
What makes this book work is the attention to characters that Bauer pays. There is Jack Bright, the young scallywag, to all intents and purposes orphaned and in charge of Joy and Merry, his two sisters. He has to keep them nourished and clean and educated, though his method of doing so isn’t quite as orthodox as social services might have liked, had they been aware of the children at all.
But the other star of this book is undoubtedly DCI John Marvel. Marvel has arrived in Taunton after years of dealing with murder cases in the Met, but he has fallen out of favour – he’s not the most subtle of policemen and his methods have ruffled a few people the wrong way. Now he is exiled to Somerset and is horrified when the first case he is called out on turns out to be a house burglary, something he considers to be way beneath his rank.
Now Marvel isn’t one for making friends. He’s irascible, dishevelled and an old fashioned copper who likes to make his mark. So when he meets smooth, well groomed, officious DS Reynolds, it’s clear that this isn’t a match made in heaven. That first impression isn’t helped by Marvel’s caustic remarks about Reynolds policing abilities and his obvious disdain for everything about Reynolds from his strict adherence to the rules to his shiny shoes.
Yet it is the exchanges between these two that make for some fabulous contrasts between policing methods and approaches and their exchanges are sometimes pure gold. You need this degree of levity later in the book, when what turns out to be a series of burglaries morphs into quite another case, one which is much darker, more violent and emotionally very fraught.
It is Bauer’s genius that cleverly starts off in one direction and then lets the narrative lead us slowly and carefully into something quite different and remarkable. She takes the seeds she has sown in the beginning and creates a tremendous flowering of a story into one of the most compelling stories I have read for a while.
How a series of burglaries dubbed the ‘Goldilocks cases’ leads to a cold case investigation is cleverly and rather beautifully done, and the sense of repressed violence and menace that emerges is chilling and tense.
Jack Bright is one of those characters that linger long in the mind. Street smart, emotionally vulnerable and absolutely determined, he makes a deal with the devil to ensure he can capture the attention of the police and ensure that he gets what he has always needed.
Redolent with violence and darkness, yet emotionally engaging and sometimes really very funny – there are some cracking moments with D.S. Reynolds’ mother – this is a book I loved for everything that it has to offer.
Brilliantly plotted, wholly immersive, and a cracking read, it sucks you in until you are completely invested in it. One for the must read category.
Och, just buy it.
About Belinda Bauer
Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa and now lives in Wales. She worked as a journalist and a screenwriter before finally writing a book to appease her nagging mother. With her debut, Blacklands, Belinda was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year. She went on to win the CWA Dagger in the Library for her body of work in 2013. Her fourth novel Rubbernecker was voted 2014 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her books have been translated into 21 languages.
Follow Belinda on Twitter : @BelindaBauer