71wtI34-tjL   A pregnant mother walks up a British highway to phone for help, leaving her three children in the broken down car; when the children follow her trail later they find a phone receiver dangling from the hook but their mother has disappeared.  With this opening Belinda Bauer’s SNAP slowly unravels into a compelling murder mystery with a thrilling twist.

As the eldest, eleven year old Jack is in charge of his two younger sisters; their father is too devastated to cope. When their father does not return one day from his run to the market to get milk, Jack turns to burglary to sustain the household and keep his younger siblings from being discovered and sent to foster homes.  Five year old Merry mows the front lawn to keep up appearances, while Joy hoards newspapers, clipping articles about her murdered mother.

Their lives are brave but pathetic. Known as the Goldilocks burglar because he naps in the rooms of children, Jack looks for books on vampires he can steal for Joy to read.  He delivers his stolen goods to the neighborhood fence, Louis, another unlikely criminal who proudly pushes his baby son around in a stroller.  With Louis’ connections, Jack can target only empty homes where the owners have gone on extended vacations, but one day he  enters a house where he finds not only a pregnant woman in her bed but also the knife he somehow knows killed his mother.

Bauer cleverly weaves her characters together, introducing each in a different context unlikely to arouse the reader’s suspicion, until they overlap.  Her red herrings become real clues to the murderer’s identity and motive, as Jack and police detectives Marvel and Reynolds make missteps as they close in on the suspect.  The subplots overlap and unravel quickly into a compelling tale filled with survival, manipulation, violence, and murder.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, SNAP has an unconventional but satisfying ending, and  Jack is now one of my favorite fictional characters. With so many possibilities for discussion,  I considered SNAP as a candidate for book club lists, but after some thought, I decided I would rather keep my own images of Jack, Marvel, and the Whiles in my head, without dissecting them.  Read it and let me know what you think..

The Man Booker Longlist – On Second Look

Although I have anticipated the Man Booker Longlist every year, this year I read the list of thirteen books selected, and moved on.  Nothing seemed appealing – despite the first ever graphic novel – Sabrina – on the list.

Searching for a book on audible, I decided to revisit the list, mostly because I was sure to find a British narrator among the six UK finalists or perhaps some lilting tones among the two finalists from Irish authors.

Unknown-3  Snap by British author Belinda Bauer is now on my iPhone, ready to entertain me with a suspenseful tale of three children whose lives are forever changed when their mother leaves them in a hot car and never comes back. Three years later, Jack, the eldest,  is still in charge – “of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.”

41lzVtKHUkL._SX406_BO1,204,203,200_  Sabrina, the graphic novel by American author Nick Drasno, deserves to be read turning the pages, but is out of stock at the bookstore – a byproduct of being named to the famous list – but I will wait for it.  “Sabrina is the story of what happens when an intimate, ‘everyday’ tragedy collides with the appetites of the 24-hour news cycle; when somebody’s lived trauma becomes another person’s gossip; when it becomes fodder for social media, fake news, conspiracy theorists, maniacs, the bored.”  Sounds timely.

I’m not sure if I will read any of the others on the list.  Do any appeal to you?

The rest of the list includes:   (Go to the Man Booker website  for a synopsis of each.)

  • Milkman by Irish author Anna Burns
  • Washington Black  by Canadian author Esi Edugyan
  • In Our Mad And Furious City  by British author Guy Gunaratne
  • Everything Under by British author Daisy Johnson
  • The Mars Room by American author Rachel Kushner
  • The Water Cure by British author Sophie Mackintosh
  • War light  by Canadian author Michael Ondaatje
  •  The Overstory  by American author Richard Powers
  • The Long Take by British author Robin Robertson
  • Normal People by Irish author Sally Rooney
  • From A Low And Quiet Sea by Irish author Donal Ryan