With the shortlist for this year’s Booker Prize having been announced just a few days ago, we now know that there is no place for Belinda Bauer’s bestseller Snap. That is no big surprise. A much bigger surprise came when it was announced on the longlist in the first place. Bestselling crime novels don’t often get much recognition from this sometimes elitist and high brow award. It is surely a good thing, then, that a work of genre fiction such as this has forced its way into consideration for one of the most sought-after prizes in literature. It must be a belter. Right?
What a shame, then, that Snap happens to be a pretty bog-standard example of one of fiction’s most exciting fields. And not only is it fairly lukewarm as far as story is concerned, it is also replete with many of the issues that often prevent crime novels from being taken as seriously as they should be.
The clearest example of this, and the biggest problem with the book in general, is the almost non-stop reliance on coincidence. The book opens with Jack Bright and his siblings in the back of a car on the motorway, their mum still missing after going out to look for help over an hour before. Jack, who becomes a burglar after coming to terms with the fact that his mum is gone, will later inadvertently break into the house of the person who may be responsible for his mother’s disappearance. Fast forward to the end of the novel, which I won’t ruin, and the plot conclusion randomly happens to take place in the exact place that the book begun. Other coincidences include the police inspector’s mum moving in next door to Jack during the investigation into his burglaries, Jack randomly breaking into the house where the police live, and people meeting by accident in the same car park too many times to mention. Novelists bread and butter should be plausibility, and it is wholly absent here.
The problems go deeper than this, from characters with names like Detective Marvel to rather questionable representations of mental health and trauma. How it got longlisted for the Booker is more of a mystery than the plot.
Any Cop?: The best thing I can say about Snap is that it’s readable. Maybe even tense at times. But when that tension is almost always built on circumstances that seem too ridiculous to be believed, it does not make for a book worth recommending. Crime fiction deserves a much strong representative than this.