Belinda Bauer's Snap opens in August 1998, with three kids sitting in a sweltering, broken-down car, waiting for their mother to return from the call box up the road. After more than an hour, the children, ages two to 11, go searching on foot for her, finding only a phone with the receiver dangling by its cord.
Their nightmare continues three years later, when the children are living alone in their house, trying to avoid attracting neighbors' and social services' attention by keeping the lawn mowed and lying about their father. Jack, now just shy of 15, takes care of his siblings by stealing food and other necessities from nearby homes. In one, he makes a chilling discovery that indicates the owner might know what happened to Jack's mother.
Bauer once again delivers a fast-paced, suspenseful, and heartbreaking story laced with extra-dry humor and well-defined characters. Detective Chief Inspector John Marvel returns from The Shut Eye with his grump and thirst for a good murder case intact, though he's been exiled from the Met in London and sent to Somerset to investigate burglaries. Jack and his sisters, Joy and Merry--ironic names--are complex in ways one would expect of traumatized children. Bauer does not tug at readers' heartstrings; she simply shows how harsh life can be for the most vulnerable and youngest among us. The detectives can be a bit slow to pick up on clues, but thriller fans should snap up this one. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd