Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review of Snap by Belinda Bauer (2018, Black Swan)

When their car breaks down on the motorway, Jack’s pregnant mother sets off in search of an emergency phone leaving her three children in the car. Eleven year old Jack is left in charge of nine year old Joy and baby Merry. After half-an-hour they set off in pursuit, but their mother has disappeared. A few days later her body is found, but her murderer is not identified. Three years later and Jack is head of the household, his father having walked out, the three children acting out a fantasy for their neighbours that everything is okay. To make ends meet, Jack has turned to a life of crime, breaking into houses for food and goods to sell-on, turning himself into Tiverton’s most wanted criminal. In another part of town, Catherine While is expecting her first baby. She wakes one day to find a knife by her bed with a message that states ‘I could have killed you.’ Instead of calling the police, she decides to nothing. But the messages continue and she’s unsure what to do. Jack and Catherine’s worlds are about to coincide, with Jack sure he might be on the trail of his mother’s killer.

While Snap does contain Detective Inspector Marvel, a character from a previous Bauer novel, this can very much be read as a standalone story. The story focuses on two households – the Brights and the Whiles – and snap decisions that link them. The Bright’s have been devastated by the murder of Eileen Bright, who was pregnant when she was stabbed to death. Three years after her death, her grief-stricken husband has abandoned his three children, with her fourteen year old son Jack looking after the family, determined that they are not going into the care system. The While’s are expecting their first child. Adrian is away a lot as a travelling salesman, leaving the expectant Catherine at home waiting for her due date to arrive. Her world though is about to be turned upside down by a stalker who seems intent on scaring her and demonstrating how vulnerable she is. Rather than go to the police, or tell her husband, she decides to keep the incidents to herself. The tale is very nicely set up and Bauer spins it out, adding a third spoke in the form of the police intent on finding a serial burglar who has hit over a hundred houses in the previous couple of years. The way the story is told there are no major surprises or twists, with the identity of the murdered well-telegraphed. Instead, it is the characters and their intersections that drive the narrative along. Indeed, Bauer does a very fine job of creating a set of interesting and believable characters, especially the three Bright children, Jack, Joy and Merry (which as a trio were a delight). Overall, an entertaining, nice written coming-of-age crime drama.

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