Snap by Belinda Bauer

Bantam Press | 2018 (17 May) | 353p | Review copy | Buy the book

Snap by Belinda BauerWhen their car breaks down, Jack, Joy and their little sister Merry try to wait patiently in the car while their heavily pregnant mother Eileen Bright walks to a roadside emergency phone to call for help. But it’s so hot in the car, Merry needs to be changed, and their mum has been gone for an hour. SO 12-year-old Jack makes the decision that they should walk to the phone and find their mum. They do find the phone, hanging loose. Their mother is gone. These are moments that will haunt all three children and, when the police finally come across them and take them back to their father, it destroys his life, too. It’s up to Jack to support them all. Whatever he does, it can’t be enough.

Catherine While is so close to giving birth. Her husband’s away a great deal. Then one night she hears someone in the house and she’s determined to be brave and chase them off. But when she returns to her bed, she finds a knife and a note – ‘I could have killed you’ it says. And that is just the first time in which she is frightened almost to death.

Detective Chief Inspector John Marvel is in disgrace. His methods of policing are dubious to say the least and so he has been sent from London, where he solved murders, to the Devon and Cornwall border where he can chase burglars instead. And so when the chance comes to reopen the case of Eileen Bright, he grabs at it. At last he can redeem himself! If he behaves, of course, which he won’t.

Snap is an absolutely fantastic crime thriller by an author that I’m growing to love more and more with every book. This one is undoubtedly my favourite of those I’ve read and that isn’t surprising – it excels in so many ways. Firstly, the story is superb. It’s clever, goes off in completely unexpected directions and is largely driven along by the most brilliant and memorable characters. Much of the novel takes place in 2001, three years after the disappearance of Eileen Bright, a time before social media, or mobile phones, controlled our lives. DCI Marvel is certainly an old-fashioned detective. He knows how to say the wrong thing and he can’t stop himself. I love, though, how he realises that he shouldn’t do it. That his ill-thought through words make his palms sweat when he thinks on them. There is so much about John Marvel to dislike but it’s so difficult not to like him.

Marvel does make mistakes, big mistakes, and so too does Detective Sergeant Reynolds who is the very opposite of his new boss. His pedantry and his fastidiousness are irritating to Marvel and to us but once again – I found myself falling for him. He is, it’s fair to say, a bit of an idiot, but you can’t help thinking that he’ll improve with time. A lot of time.

But the main bittersweet joy of Snap is Belinda Bauer’s non-sentimental depiction of these three deeply troubled children. Jack is such a wonderful creation but Merry is heartbreakingly loveable, as she clings to her tortoise for comfort and does her best to mow the lawn. Poor Joy is a lost soul indeed. My heart went out to these three while also smiling at their escapades. It’s hard to see how things can turn out well but their strength of character shines through. There are lots of cameo appearances through this novel. Glimpses of characters who are full of personality.

Snap is a novel with so much warmth and compassion. There is humour and wit and also a great sense of pace and tension. The second half in particular is unputdownable as Marvel gets more deeply involved in the case. But what a corking story, told brilliantly well. Belinda Bauer is now one of those authors whose books will go straight to the top of my reading mountain. Snap is definitely one of my top reads of 2018 so far.

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