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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

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Finished this. I liked it a lot, though I was unaware of any hype or deeper analysis. I liked the fact that the police were a bit incompetent, a bit unobservant. And I liked Marvel and Reynolds as characters, and would like them to return in other books. 

I don't agree that the crime was solved using evidence available at the time: it all hung on

the ledger proving that Adam While bought a replacement knife after the crime. And his motivation, while pathetic, was just his anger.

But I agree that, if you read this expecting a genre-busting crime story of great complexity and depth, you'll be disappointed. For me, it had something of Jess Kidd and something of Christopher Brookmyre.

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I seem to chime with everyone else here. I had read Bauer's Rubbernecker and Blacklands previously and see that I gave both three stars which isn't usually enough to keep with an author, but I was surprised to see this nominated for the Booker and thought that Bauer had hit her stride, this being a genre-defying crime novel. Disappointingly it wasn't. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it because I absolutely did. I found Jack's life post Mum going missing was very interesting, how the family had fallen apart, how he did what he could to keep the family going and more importantly together. I found the opening scenario of a mother going for help, leaving her children in the car quite terrifying. But...and it's a big but, how Jack reconnects with his mum's murderer just felt clumsy. It is explained and seems just plausible but it just doesn't feel right. The murderer has no depth - merely placeholder for the 'bad guy' because the story required one.

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