Clever, complex but satisfying crime novel

In Snap by Belinda Bauer Jack and his two younger sisters wait in their broken down car on the hard shoulder of the M5 whilst their mother goes for help. But she doesn’t come back. Several years later their father has left the family too and the three children are struggling to survive and avoid the attentions of Social Services and their new, nosy neighbour. Meanwhile, pregnant Catherine wakes up from sleep to find a knife by her bed and a threatening note. She is terrified to tell anyone about it; not the police or her husband. The police are searching for a young burglar who sleeps and eats in the houses he robs.

The author brings Jack, Catherine and her husband, and the police officers investigating the burglaries together in a series of events which will, eventually, reveal what happened to Jack’s mother and who might want to kill Catherine. It seems like a complex plot but you begin to see the connections quite early in the book and you can then watch the plot unravel and the investigation continue.

All the characters in this book are flawed and face challenges. Jack is heavily involved in the criminal underworld and there is one new police officer who doesn’t want to be in the area and whose techniques alienate his colleagues. Catherine is beginning to have doubts about her marriage and wonders if she can trust her husband. Even minor characters have their part to play in the story and, in the end, the author makes sure many of their problems resolved by what happens.

From the beginning on the hard shoulder of the M5 to the ending in precisely the same spot this is a fast paced and interesting book. I have read many, many crime books and am usually good at working out what is happening but I didn’t anticipate all the events of this book – although there is not one huge twist in the plot but a series of revelations spread throughout the story. When first published this book gained much acclaim and was even chosen for the Booker Prize Longlist but don’t think that this makes it impenetrable – it is, in fact, clearly written and easy to follow. Once started you need to keep on reading to find out what has happened.

I have read a few books now by this author. You can read reviews of three of them here, here and here. Each of them is slightly different from the norm and she seems to specialise in young, male and vulnerable main characters. I will always have a go at any of her books because each of those I have read has been interesting, clever and ultimately satisfying.

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