Crime fiction and the Man Booker Prize

November 6, 2018 at 5:22 pm (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

   It used to seem like an article of faith for book loving observers: Not only did Britain’s Man Booker Prize not go to a work of crime fiction, but works in that genre were not even considered for that prestigious accolade. Then in 2016, His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet made it onto the shortlist. (It did not win.) And this year, Snap by Belinda Bauer made it onto the longlist (but no further).

I read His Bloody Project shortly after it came out two years ago. I had this to say about it in a post from early  last year entitled ‘Current trends in crime fiction part three, the books: historical mysteries‘:

Wow! A standalone novel of tremendous depth and power. The year is 1869. Amid the oppression of a community of Scottish crofters by cruel and heedless overseers, a young man’s anger and resentment build steadily until they reach the boiling point. His Bloody Project made the Man Booker Prize shortlist for 2016, apparently astonishing certain folk among the ‘literati.’

A word to the wise: if you’re thinking that the title betokens great violence, you would be correct. That violence seems to occur in the blink of an eye; it follows an extended period of almost relentlessly escalating tension and anger. The bloody climax is indeed terrible, but it does not come out of nowhere. Rather, it is the culmination of a cruel and heedless exercise of power over the powerless, one of whom reaches the breaking point, with catastrophic results.

I read Snap some time ago, so its contents are not fresh in my mind. Here’s what I do remember. In this novel, a combination of domestic suspense and police procedural, Belinda Bauer posits two seemingly unrelated story lines. You know they’ll eventually converge, but you’ve no idea how. When it finally happens, you’re treated to one of those ‘aha’ moments so beloved by readers of crime fiction.

Each story line features a young woman who is pregnant. Right away this fact ratchets up the reader’s anxiety level. (I like to think that this would be true for both female and male readers.) And then there’s the wonderfully named Jack Bright, a fourteen-year-old boy who is something of a hero, this despite certain of his actions, which are after all born of desperation on behalf of his two younger siblings.

In searching for reviews, I discovered that Snap was in fact inspired by an actual crime that occurred in 1988 and still has British police baffled. (Fair warning: details concerning that atrocity are fairly well described in the novel’s opening sections. There is no overt violence – just a terrible mystery hanging over the heads of three children.)

Snap is extremely well written, and Bauer tells a very compelling story. Highly recommended.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: