Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 433, Paperback
Belinda Bauer’s novel ‘Snap’, inspired by the murder of a pregnant woman, Marie Wilks, on the M50 in 1988, was longlisted for the Man Booker prize. It’s extremely rare for crime fiction to make it to the Man Booker list. But Snap isn’t a run-of-the-mill crime fiction either. In an interview, Bauer said she was more interested in victims than in crimes and, true to her words, Snap focuses more on the repercussions of the crime, in terms of the impact it has on the family of the victim, rather than on the crime itself.
Set in a small British town of Tiveron, Snap tells the story of 14-year-old Jack and his younger sisters following the murder of their mother. After being abandoned by their grief-ridden father, the three children live in a house stacked with newspapers that carry news of their mother’s murder. Jack’s sister continues to collect the papers in what is a macabre way of holding on to her mother’s final memory. Jack has to deal with the trauma of losing his parents while shouldering the responsibility of keeping his family together. It’s a lot for any teenager but Jack manages to keep the family afloat by breaking into homes and stealing whatever he can. There is a horde of other interesting characters whose lives become inextricably linked by this one unsolved murder.
Bauer worked as a journalist and then as a screenwriter before, at the age of 45, she finally sat down to write a book. Better late than never because Snap has both the edge-of-your-seat suspense as well as the turbulence of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s not just a wonderfully crafted novel about a teenage boy’s hunt for his mother’s killer. Bauer also explores how a single crime has so many ripple effects, and how it can affect different people differently. You find yourself pondering how life has the potential to fall apart and maybe eventually come together.
Bauer said that she had “never read anything that was actually marketed as a crime book” and that she started her journey of writing crime fiction “possibly on a different footing to someone who was immersed in the genre”. You are glad it was that way because what’s come out of it is an intriguing tale of loss, trauma, and familial bond, one that alters the way you view life.