It came as a shock to me just how many crime novels Belinda Bauer has written as I only encountered her work a couple of years ago on first reading Rubbernecker.
Snap is her latest, a cracking read containing some stereotypical police characters of the type we all recognise, but also some tear-jerking and ‘edge of the seat’ moments. It has its irritations like all books, but her focus on the psychologies of victims and perpetrators rather than their actions is her key characteristic as a writer. That the main character is a child only strengthens this tale of dark personalities. It is also a fictional reminder of how significant adults frequently fail the children who fall through the system.
Given Belinda only made her debut in 2009, Snap is her eighth book. Quite an achievement as her books are polished but not formulaic; they are highly readable and gripping until the end. Sure, she writes in down to earth non-convoluted language which perhaps at times lacks richness and depth, but it sure helps move the plot along, and the books are meant to be crime novels/light reading.
Talking once about crime writing at an Appledore Book Festival event, Belinda mentioned that you do not have to dig too deeply to find any person’s darker side. We all have one. This is probably what makes her books so believable. Extraordinary events among very ordinary people are convincing. Often in south-west settings (Snap, for example, is based around Tiverton), they are even more appealing to those of us living down here.
Snap has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 2018, which sent the New Statesman off in a snooty huff about quality, and depth. Popular fiction is supposed to be below the radar of the judging panel, you see who should focus on the literary fiction genre, it seems.
Her novel is intelligent, not intellectually pretentious, her observation skills immense. There are some plot weaknesses due to occasional ‘wet’ characters, but despite all this, her key characters are portrayed sensitively and convincingly. She makes a very decent job of characterising three children who lose their mother to murder and their father to sad incompetence.