Book Review: SNAP by Belinda Bauer

Book - Snap by Belinda BauerA Guest Review by Mary Le Bon

SNAP is a haunting but very satisfying crime novel. I found it hard to put down, despite the fact that I didn’t allow myself to read it at bedtime. It is the story of three young children, left in a car on the hard shoulder while their pregnant mother goes to phone for help, and what happens when she doesn’t return. She leaves her eleven-year-old son (Jack) in charge, and he takes this responsibility so seriously that he is still in charge three years later, struggling to provide food for his younger siblings and trying to keep the house looking neat and tidy on the outside so that no one will guess the chaos within.   

The title reflects one of the main themes of the book – that a snap decision made on the spur of the moment can change the rest of your life. There are several examples of this in the story, in particular the decision of Jack’s mother to get in a stranger’s car. Another recurring theme that haunts Jack is that no-one stopped to see what was the matter, no-one wanted to get involved.

The heartbreak of the three children is treated sensitively. Bauer explores a young boy’s reaction both to the trauma and to the responsibility placed on his shoulders. At times he hates his mother with a deep intensity but secretly wishes she would come home. He fears sleep because of the recurring nightmares, but he shows himself to be alert, quick thinking and practical.

Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer at the Cardiff Crime & Coffee Festival in 2018

New characters (Catherine and Adam) seem at first to be irrelevant to the main story and to run parallel, but Bauer skilfully weaves their stories together and we gradually begin to guess how they are connected.

The police officers provide humour in their bungling attempts to capture a serial burglar. The self-important and defensive Reynolds thinks he follows the letter of the law exactly, but he is really more concerned about what his colleagues think of him. By contrast, his boss (Marvel) is large and unkempt in appearance, colloquial and blunt in his expressions. Fresh from inner London, he is bored with mundane burglaries and keen to get his teeth into a murder investigation.

The language is concise and wit peppers the narrative. The plot twists are ironic and there is humour in the contrasting situations of the police officers:

“In reality, Rice had gone to the movies with Eric, and Reynolds was spending the weekend with his mother. They’d had breaded hake with peas, oven chips and a lemon wedge. She’d been eating the same thing for supper since 1992.”

I enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it despite the horror of the initial incident and the poignancy of its memory.

SNAP by Belinda Bauer is published by Black Swan. Buy the book here.

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