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Friday, 22 June 2018

Book Review: Snap by Belinda Bauer

I think this is my book of the year - yes I know we're just nudging towards the end of June, but I really can't see another book coming along that touches me in the way this one did. It's absolutely heart breaking in places, but despite the darkness of its subject matter it is full of humour. The main character Jack, a young boy who carries truly Dickensian misery upon his shoulders is a wonderful creation and it would be a very cold reader who didn't develop a strong affection for him; empathise with the incredible burden he carries around.

They say we should never judge a book by its cover, though to some extent we all do. One look at the seemingly bland cover for this book suggest that the publisher must have some confidence in the story between the covers. There's no moody artwork, no mysterious font, instead we get an almost abstract cover with the title set at an odd angle.

1998 - Pregnant Eileen Bright leaves her three children in stifling heat - Jack, Joy and baby Merry - in a broken down car to phone for help, only she is never seen alive again - shades of the real life M50 killing which occurred in 1988 and to this day remains unsolved. This event starts the book and the early section of the story bounces back and forth between this horrendous event and the present day (the present day in the novel of course). Three years have passed since the crime and in that time Eileen Bright's husband has suffered a complete breakdown and walked out on his three children. Jack, the eldest. is determined to keep his family together and he takes to a life of crime in order to feed and clothe his two young sisters. The three child characters - Jack, Joy and Merry are particularly strongly drawn - so well realised are they that the reader's emotions are expertly manipulated each time they tale centre stage.  The book also contains Inspector John Marvel, who is  a recurring character in several of the author's books - I've never really liked him before but in this book he really comes alive and there is a strong chemistry between him and the ever so likeable Jack. The two character become one of the most original double acts in all of crime fiction. When these two share the page the book becomes so much more than a tightly plotted crime thriller - it takes off and leaves no doubt that Belinda Bauer must now be considered among the very best writers working today, whatever the genre.

This is one of those rare books that I didn't want to end, and I'll likely read it again before too long. Absolutely wonderful - a dark psychological crime thriller that ultimately leaves the reader smiling. Now that takes some doing.

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