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I have a confession to make. Until now, I’d never read a book by Belinda Bauer. Strange, because her books are very much my bag (crime fiction with heart and humour) and come endorsed by many writers I enjoy, among them Val McDermid and CL Taylor.

‘Snap’ is Bauer’s eighth novel (or ninth if you include one she wrote under a pseudonym), so the good news is I now have a backlist to enjoy. And enjoy it I’m sure I shall. ‘Snap’ is one of the best books I’ve read this year. If her others are half as good, I’m in for a treat.

The story begins on a hot summer’s day, with two young children in a broken down car waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. But she never returns. Eleven year old Jack is left in charge of his younger sister Merry and soon it becomes clear that this is how things will be from now on.

Fast forward three years and Jack is still fending for the family. Haunted by the memory of his dead wife, whose murderer was never found, Jack’s father has descended into alcoholism and abandoned his children. So Jack does the best he can to keep the family together and off the radar from social services. But he also has a mission – to find whoever killed his mother and have his revenge. 

Then one day he thinks he finds the man responsible. Meanwhile, the police are on Jack’s trail. Will he get to the killer before they get to him?

This is gripping stuff, emotionally truthful but with a light touch and flashes of black humour. I particularly liked the portrait of laddish Jack and his naive ideas about manhood. And readers will love Detective John Marvel, formerly head of the murder team in Lewisham, now “heading nowhere in darkest Somerset”. The story is pacy and the characterisation is flawless. No wonder Bauer is so revered. I’m a convert. Time to get cracking on that backlist.  

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