Callum McLaughlin's Reviews > Snap

Snap by Belinda Bauer
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it was ok
bookshelves: crime-and-thriller

Formulating my thoughts on this book has proven to be more difficult than I expected.

I'll start with the things I liked about it. It has a great concept, good pacing, and a decent amount of intrigue; all of which meant it was easy to keep turning the pages. I liked, and cared about, the three kids at the heart of the story; getting to see their various methods of coping with the trauma of losing their mother (and being abandoned by their father) was definitely a highlight. Put simply, it's a fine enough example of escapist reading, and I actually enjoyed the time I spent with it for what it was.

It's far from perfect, however, as it does feature a number of clichés associated with the genre, including a couple of eyeroll worthy coincidences, plot points that stretch our suspension of disbelief, and unexplained holes in the narrative (like, do these young children not have concerned grandparents who might think to check in on them every once in a while?). I also thought there was a real missed opportunity to explore the impact of the events on the two young girls of the family in greater depth. They are left by the wayside as the story increasingly focusses on the detectives working the case. That brings me to another niggle, in fact, which is that by the halfway point, it's already obvious what happened and whodunnit, and the rest of the novel largely follows the grumpy, unlikable police officers as they scrape together enough evidence to prove it outright - which means there isn't the satisfying or shocking final reveal most people would expect from a crime book.

Now comes the really tricky part, which is that, though I had already bought it beforehand, I read this knowing it was recently longlisted for the Man Booker. Its inclusion on the list created quite a bit of buzz, as thrillers don't often make the cut for major literary prizes. Personally, I was excited to see it there, as it's nice to think the net is being cast a little wider to explore genres and forms that are often overlooked. However, the Man Booker aims to single out 'the best original novel written in the English language' from throughout the past year. For a thriller to be in the mix, I'd expect it to be a fresh, dynamic, and invigorating take on the genre, not to mention a great piece of literature in general. But this felt decidedly... bland. To me, at least. And whilst Bauer's prose serves the purpose of telling a pacy story, it's not noteworthy in terms of any thematic nuance, beautiful imagery, or impressive wordplay - certainly not the best that the English language is capable of, anyway.

I'd hate to be coming off as a book snob. I love genre fiction, and think it more than deserves consideration for prizes. And in many respects, judging a book based on its nomination for a prize seems silly and unfair - it should be judged simply for what it is. But, I'd be lying if I pretended its nomination hadn't coloured my reading experience. Knowing it had received such a rare accolade meant I kept expecting more than I think this book even set out to try and give.

In short, I guess what I'm saying is that this is a decent thriller; nothing more, nothing less. Far from the best of its genre, and certainly not one of the best books of the year, but an enjoyable enough read that may well grip you if you're looking for something easy to get through. I'm glad I read it; I only wish I could have done so before my expectations were raised unfairly high, in which case, I may have been rating it more favourably than I am now.
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Reading Progress

August 3, 2018 – Started Reading
August 3, 2018 – Shelved
August 6, 2018 – Finished Reading
August 15, 2018 – Shelved as: crime-and-thriller

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Rachel Ugh, bummer. I have this on hold at the library so I'll be starting it soon. I completely understand your last couple of paragraphs - this was largely the trouble I was having reviewing Eleanor Oliphant since I'd read it after it was longlisted for the Women's Prize and I couldn't pretend that that didn't inform my reading. But, as you say, genre fiction is wonderful and it's so exciting to see it included on major literary prizes, but at the same time you do expect it to be something fresh and unique to justify its inclusion.

Callum McLaughlin Rachel wrote: "Ugh, bummer. I have this on hold at the library so I'll be starting it soon. I completely understand your last couple of paragraphs - this was largely the trouble I was having reviewing Eleanor Oli..."

Yes, exactly! I'm still happy that a thriller was longlisted in the respect that it may help to take away some of the stigma surrounding crime fiction within certain literary circles. I just couldn't help but wish it had been a thriller that felt a little more original and impactful.

Still, if I'd read this with more neutral expectations, my review would almost certainly have come off more positive, as I genuinely did enjoy the time I spent reading it. So, hopefully you'll get on well with it. Either way, I'll look forward to seeing your thoughts!

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