Thursday, 20 February 2014

Snapshot, by Robert Swindells

Swanky new jacket for 2014
After months of saving his pocket money and thinking he was never ever going to have enough, Victor gets a brand new, state of the art camera for his birthday, which very nearly turns out to be his deathday too. Eager to try out his new present, Victor pops out to take a few shots and get a feel for his fancy piece of kit. A few snaps in, he inadvertently photographs a robbery in progress, recognising his best friend's brother as one of the robbers. After he is spotted by the thieves, Victor is almost run down by the getaway car and then tailed through the town and the estate by a masked man, obviously intent on getting hold of the incriminating evidence on Victor's memory card
After giving him the slip in his maze-like block of flats, Victor witnesses an even more horrific crime, forcing him to hand over the memory card to the police. Whatever is in those photos has cost somebody their life and they are obviously incredibly dangerous...but that's the end of that, right?
The author does an excellent job of building the suspense and creating an atmosphere of threat- starting with the robbery, the pursuit, and the murder and finally the break-in, the tension is mounting all the time. It's genuinely gripping stuff. I loved Victor's voice, his personality and his brilliant turn of phrase- Swindells manages to make his character narrate naturally and fluently, with a huge amount of personality and character, but in a way that is not difficult to read and does not get too ambitious with vocabulary. His complaint about saving up his pittance of pocket money being as difficult as "Pushing a peanut up a mountain with his nose" was particularly endearing.
I really liked the way that peripheral characters were presented in this book- the original robbers of the jewellery shop aren't ruthless killers, just a bit dim and almost pitiful. The police are friendly enough, but a bit inept- lucky more than competent, and the truly dangerous, brutal criminals are scary because of how mysterious and discreet they are. It would have been easy to make every character either good or bad, but this book makes the reader aware that there's more to it than that.
It's a really tightly plotted, suspenseful crime story with an excellent narrator, interesting characterisation of the law and the criminals, and a really satisfying read. My only doubt is whether genuine "City Kids" will be convinced by the narrative, as it is a little bit clean in its language and lacks the 'grit' of some other (newer) crime-related stories. I think struggling readers would be over the moon to read this; the book isn't patronising or over simplified, Swindells has succeeded in the difficult task of keeping the difficulty level low, but the interest level high.

No comments:

Post a Comment