I try not to be close-minded about reading, but the very thought of the Mystery genre leaves me running. While I, having been raised in America on a television diet that consisted almost entirely of Perry Mason, Hill Street Blues, and countless other cop dramas, am expected to live and breathe police procedurals and courtroom dramas, I in fact abhor them. I still look back on those shows I once watched every night with some nostalgia. I'd consider an In the Heat of the Night marathon if presented with one. But sometime, in the early 90s, I lost interest in ever seriously revisiting the genre in any way again.
So I shouldn't have read Snap. And normally, I wouldn't have. But this year, someone thought it would be a good idea to nominate it for the Man Booker Prize. Before we get into my feelings for the novel, let's talk about this Man Booker longlisting. It was a mistake. Though I wouldn't say this is the worst novel I have ever read to be nominated—there have been a few that were painfully boring or pretentious—Snap is easily the most undeserved novel I have ever read on the list. Why is this? Because this is the Man Booker Prize; I expect to read some dry, cerebral novels; I don't have to like them to respect the craft that went into them. But Snap is entirely different because it's not a crafty play on words, or a fascinating literary treatise on the state of world affairs, or an intelligently drawn exploration of a character's psychology. Snap is your run-of-the-mill mystery and it frankly has no place on the list of traditional Man Booker nominees.
Now let's put the Man Booker nomination aside and consider Snap on its own merits. I thought Bauer's novel started well. In regards to pure story, I actually thought Snap was superior to the average modern mystery for two-thirds of the novel. It wasn't anything special, but I enjoyed some of the characters, found glimmers of beautifully drawn sentences here and there, and was curious what direction the story might go. There were problems with conveniences made for the plot, and cliches ran amok, but I'd expected worse. I had hopes that the author would pull off a decent crime novel, but the final third destroyed any hopes I'd had. The story hadn't been built on much of a foundation and it fell apart. In addition to the problems this novel had from page one, it suffered from preposterous character actions, nonsensical plot points and reveals, and threads left loose by its conclusion.
It wouldn't have surprised me to see Snap nominated for a prize awarding crime novels. Though I can't realistically compare it to others since I read so few, it seemed like a decent (though not award-winning) mystery. But to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize—well, that's alarming. And for the prize to continue without harsher criticism or a demand for transparency, Snap must not be shortlisted.