Snap by Belinda Bauer

Snap Belinda BauerThe opening chapter of ‘Snap’ by Belinda Bauer presents a chilling premise based on the unsolved murder of Marie Wilks. On a hot day in the summer of 1998, eleven-year-old Jack Bright is left in a broken-down car by the side of a motorway with his two younger sisters, Joy and Merry, while their pregnant mother, Eileen, goes in search of a telephone for help. However, she never returns and her body is eventually found stabbed to death. 

Three years later and abandoned by their father who was unable to cope, Jack turns to burgling houses to provide for his sisters and escape being noticed by social services. On the other side of town, a young pregnant woman, Catherine While, discovers a knife next to her bed with a note that reads “I could have killed you” but she decides not to tell her husband about the break-in or report it to the police. Elsewhere, DS Reynolds who does everything by the book and DCI Marvel who takes a slightly more unorthodox approach towards detective work are investigating multiple burglaries and the identity of Eileen’s killer who still hasn’t been caught and are in a race against time to solve both mysteries.

Jack and his siblings are emotionally traumatised and there is a lot of focus on the impact of Eileen’s murder on the family left behind which is sensitively written. As with her fourth novel Rubbernecker, Bauer juggles three separate plot strands before later revealing how they are all connected. However, I think this was achieved more successfully in ‘Rubbernecker’ whereas in ‘Snap’, the identity of the killer becomes obvious fairly quickly with no real red herrings standing in the way.

‘Snap’ has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize but I think it is unlikely that it will progress to the shortlist. Looking beyond yet another debate about the place of genre fiction on a literary award longlist, I think the first half of ‘Snap’ is better than the second half – the intrigue is set up well (albeit at a relatively slow pace) but the plot relied on too many unlikely coincidences in order to tie all the different strands together. The tightrope between originality and credibility can be a difficult one to walk in crime fiction and sometimes Bauer stretches the latter too far. Although I haven’t read any of the other longlisted books yet, I also doubt that Bauer’s spare prose style would compare favorably to the likes of Sally Rooney or Michael Ondaatje’s latest novels if the reputation of their previous work is anything to go by.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Snap by Belinda Bauer

  1. I entirely agree. The debate about genre literature will rage and rage, but until a crime novel of the calibre of say, Willie Collins, comes along nearly all crime novels (and Snap in particular) do not bear reading twice, which hardly puts them in the same bracket as Ondaatje. Have read and posted on all but four so far of the long list. Still to go The Water Cure (read but not posted), the Rooney and Edugyan (not published when I collected the others) and The Overstory which is here with me on holiday
    Some good reading, some very good reading and no total disasters except the graphic novel. Which I could not finish.

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  2. Thanks for the review. I’ve been wondering about this book since it was longlisted.

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  3. Col

    I’d read this on the back of the Booker longlisting expecting great things but I didn’t come anywhere near it for me. I’d agree that the first half is better but as you say the book is riddled with the most unlikely and unbelievable of coincidences! I don’t think the debate about crime as literature matters to me – I just enjoy books – but as a contribution to any debate on it Snap is a really poor example to put forward in my view – to be honest I thought it was a pretty poor crime novel too!

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  4. I have found Bauer a difficult read in the past and so hadn’t initially picked this up. The publicity it has received since the longlisting has made me rethink and it is now on my book pile but I notice that I’m not moving it up as quickly as some others.

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  5. I loved the Guardian’s interview with this author. She seemed like a really interesting person and it made me want to pick this up. I’m disappointed to hear about how coincidence heavy it was, but I may still eventually try it for myself and see 🙂

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