Snap by Belinda Bauer

Curate’s egg…

🙂 🙂 🙂

When eleven-year-old Jack and his two younger sisters are left in their broken-down car while their mother goes off to phone for help, Jack is left in charge. This is a responsibility that will weigh heavily on him over the next few years when first his mother never returns and then later his father too disappears. Meantime Catherine While, heavily pregnant with her first child, is terrified when a burglar leaves a knife beside her pillow with a note that says simply: I could have killed you. For reasons of her own, Catherine decides to tell neither her husband Adam nor the police about this episode – a decision she will learn to regret.

Following the outcome of his last case, The Shut Eye, DCI Marvel has been shunted out of the Met, and isn’t best pleased when he ends up in the countryside – not his natural habitat. He’s even more annoyed when the first case that’s handed to him is to investigate a series of burglaries by a perpetrator codenamed Goldilocks. Marvel sees himself as a murder detective and feels his talents are being wasted. But he gets his wish anyway, as he is soon involved in investigating the unsolved murder of Jack’s mother…

I suspect my reading of lots of compact, tightly plotted classic crime recently has made me even less tolerant than before of the over-padding of much contemporary crime fiction. This book unfortunately takes about half its length to reveal what it’s going to be about, and as soon as it does the whodunit along with the how become pretty obvious, so that the second half is mostly spent waiting to see how Bauer is going to handle the ending. The motive is still left to be uncovered which means that it maintains some suspense, though, and there are some little side mysteries along the way that add interest; and Bauer’s writing is always laced with a nice mixture of dark and light so that in the pacier parts it’s an entertaining read. But I found that I was skipping entire pages at about the thirdway point – never a good sign! – because I was tired of the endless, rather repetitive setting up and wanted to get to the bit where the two threads finally came together as it was obvious they would, and we found out what the book was actually going to be about.

Belinda Bauer

Unfortunately I also found I had lots of credibility issues with too many aspects of the book, from the idea of Jack managing to hold his family together in the way he does, to Catherine’s reasons for not saying anything about the threats she’s receiving, to Marvel’s policing methods. I tried my best, though, to switch off my disbelief and go with the flow. And, happily, from about halfway through when the two stories finally begin to converge, it becomes a more interesting read, and I found that finally I was turning pages quickly for the right reasons. The pace improves and there’s quite a lot of Bauer’s usual humour in the interactions between the various police officers on the case. Bauer is always great at making her child characters feel believable, and she does here too with Jack, even though I found his actions less than credible. While the main storyline itself heads on a straight line to exactly where one expects, there’s an intriguing subplot in the second half that kept my interest. But, unfortunately, the thrillerish ending fell off the credibility tightrope again.

So, although there are some enjoyable aspects of the book once it picks up speed, the slowness of the first half combined with the requirement to suspend disbelief more than I could manage left me feeling that it’s not really close to her best.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Grove Atlantic.

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27 thoughts on “Snap by Belinda Bauer

  1. It’s funny, FictionFan, I’ve read mixed reviews of this one. It is Bauer, so I’m not surprised you liked the wit, some of the characters, and so on. But I understand what you mean about the pacing. I really am on the fence with this one, if I’m being honest. Some people I trust loved it, some people I trust, like yourself, weren’t as enthused. Hmm…….

    • My own feeling is that some authors are churning books out too quickly at the moment and not taking enough time to polish them. This had the makings of an excellent book but just isn’t tight enough, I feel…

  2. Interesting to read your reaction. I have this one, but haven’t been inclined to pick it up as yet. I’ve actually not read any by this author though I’ve certainly heard a lot about her books. It is true that crime novels change over time or at least the way the story is told and the way readers tolerate the story. I read a bunch of people thinking the more vintage, shorter reads don’t tell enough. I guess like anything else, there are trends and preferences and then those change. It is ever thus.

    • I really liked a few of Belinda Bauer’s earlier books, but I’ve struggled a bit with the last few. I think it’s due as much to my own fed-up-ness with contemporary crime as the books though, so I wouldn’t want to put you off. Hope you enjoy it when you do read it! 😀

  3. I read Belinda Bauer’s first two books shortly after they were published and really enjoyed them, but for some reason have never read any more! I think I’ll leave this one for now and maybe look for one of her others.

    • I enjoyed Rubbernecker a lot, and The Shut Eye, but I seem to be struggling with her more recent ones. I’m not sure whether it’s her, though – I think I’m just increasingly fed-up with the over-padding of crime novels and these tedious twists that seem to be seen as essential at the moment!

    • Yes, I feel that about a lot of crime fiction at the moment. I suspect they’re shoving them out too quickly, rather than taking the time to polish them…

  4. SHe had an interesting premise; too bad the middle dragged. But hey, at least she finished on a higher note, right? ANd it’s the weekend, so treat yourself to some nice chocolate!!

    • There’s always something in her books that makes them worth reading, but that first half was very draggy. Haha – Rafa helped to take my mind off my bookish woes… 😉

  5. Your first sentence really captivated me. I was disappointed to see there even was a second thread because the first could be really terrifying, especially if the author spends a good amount of time with those children in the car and readers get their thoughts. I’m not sure why detective novels insist on having so many threads. Do one, do it well. If you have a novella instead of a fat novel, so be it.

    • The first chapter, where the kids are alone in the car, is brilliant, and I thought I was in for a major treat. But I’m afraid too many crime novels try to do too much at the moment, instead of just telling a good story well. How hard can that be? 😉

  6. Hmmm, like you, I’m finding my standards for thrillers/crime getting higher and higher, maybe because it seems there are so many out there right now? I find there are less ‘literary’ books, and more thrillers, or psychological thrillers, do you find that?

    Perhaps I need to read a couple classic crime books to cleanse my palate…

    • Yes, even literary writers seem to be turning to crime writing – I guess that must be where the market is, but I think most of the books that are issued these days will be lucky to be still in print even a couple of years on. They’re all basically the same – and the need to have an I-didn’t-see-that-coming twist drives me crazy…!!!

    • Haha – always pleased to be of service! 😉 I’ve decided not to do the 20 Books this year – it conflicts with the big tennis tournaments when I always read and blog less, so I never achieve it. But I’ll enjoy watching everyone else’s journeys!

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