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  1. I came to Snap as a bit of a fan of crime novels. They are escapist, often wildly improbable, but often quite good fun and when done well, offer some insight into quirky characters. Snap, despite the gushing comments on the cover, is a decent read but it is nothing terribly remarkable. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Marie Wilks murder, Eileen Bright breaks down on the hard shoulder of a west-country motorway, leaves her young children in the car, and heads off to find an emergency telephone. An hour later, the kids set off in search of her and find the phone cord dangling. There’s a bit of back and forth from 1998 – the year of the disappearance – and 2001 when Inspector Marvel, formerly a murder detective from London, rocks up in a provincial police station and is tasked with investigating a spate of burglaries. Many coincidences later, Marvel finds himself on the hunt for Eileen Bright’s murderer. On the plus side, there is a good mystery scene set up quite early on – we have the police investigations; Jack Bright, aged 14, trying to support himself and two younger sisters in a house full of mice and newspapers; and Catherine While, a pregnant woman who disturbs a burglar… The various strands of story interweave and one or two of the characters (well, Jack) shows some sign of developing complexity. But on the minus side, the writing is a bit wooden, and the balance tips too much towards tell and away from show. Most characters are not given the space to develop any complexity; they are like characters in a Carry On film with their individual tic or prominent trait, but with nothing behind it. Apart from the murder three years before, nobody has any backstory. The mystery is resolved at about the halfway point and the second half of the book is about collecting the evidence. There’s not much suspense. The whole thing relies on some police making very stupid calls, on coincidences of the highest order and a killer who operates with no apparent motivation. And just like so many killers in crime novels, this one uses a murder weapon that is unique and easily traceable – and the case is ultimately solved using information that was available to the police at the time of the murder. None of which goes to make this a bad novel. It zips along. It is good fun. This reader, at least, was pleased to go along with the journey even when things got a bit preposterous. But billing it as something exceptional; putting it forward for literary prizes; dissecting its plot is unfair to both the author and the reader. It simply can’t live up to the hype, and was never intended to. ***00
  2. Steven's family, such as it is, was fractured by an event long before his birth. His uncle Billy was abducted when he was 11 years old and never seen again. One year after his disappearance, by chance, a serial killer Arnold Avery was captured and sentenced to life for killing young children. The bodies of the missing were found on Exmoor, but Billy was never found and Avery has never told the police the location of 3 missing children. Now, some 18 years later, Steven lives with his mum, (Billy's sister), his nan and his younger brother Davey. Ever since Billy's disappearance, Steven's nan has watched for his return, but all she sees is Steven's return from school. The vacuum created by Billy's disappearance is keenly felt and Steven resolves to dig in the moor until he finds Billy, that way his family will be at peace and all will be well. At school Steven is commended for his letter writing by his teacher, and this collides with him finding out details of Billy's disappearance, so he decides to write to Arnold Avery in prison to ask him the location of Billy's body. And so, the young boy and the predator enter into a coded dialogue, each trying to swing the power in their favour in order to get what they want. Problem is, Avery is much smarter that young Steven and this isn't going to end well. This is an assured and confident debut from Bauer, a gripping read that plunges headlong into a denouement that you feel is inevitable. The location and mention of the moors and child-killings obviously recalls Brady and Hindley and Bauer doesn't shrink from some of the more horrible details. It's a perfectly solid and decent crime novel, however, I felt that Avery was painted very much the archetypal villain. There wasn't much given to fleshing him out, or making him slightly complex - he is just a bad guy, a horrible bad guy in this cat and mouse chase. Which prevented this book from being elevated to a superior crime novel. Still, it will be interesting to see what Bauer does next. ETA - Bauer does say at the back that she was interested primarily in what happens to the future generations of abducted children, how the families progress, and to that end, I think she drew a very sad and realistic portrayal in Steven's family. And also - we all know how much we hate the book club stickers ala Richard and Judy, this book, which apparently is part of that new Book show, has the sticker and a page inside advertising the show, the book club and the fact that it's all sponsored by Specsavers. Is this what our lovely books have come to?
  3. Patrick has Asperger's and is obsessed with anatomy, so much so that he signs up for an anatomy course at Uni - not intending to actually be a doctor. His group are tasked with finding out why they are working on died. Interspersed with Patrick's mission is the narration of a man in a coma. The two strands collide and a murder-mystery of the curiously fuuny and macabre follows. Billed as a successor to Haddon's hugely popular Curious Dog...I found this novel to be very dark and blackly comic. At times I felt the pace could be stepped up a little but my interest never waned. Patrick is a difficult character to align oneself to, he is very irritating and concern for his poor mother really wears you out. Still, gripping crime novel with a curious edge.
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