Written by Cath Staincliffe — Crime writer Cath Staincliffe is well known for her Scott & Bailey books, based on the much loved ITV1 police series Blue Murder. Split Second is one of her standalone novels and it presents a psychological exploration of certain moral dilemmas.
Whilst on his way home one evening Luke Murphy is harrassed and threatened by a gang of youths aboard a bus. The bus is packed but only one person, student Jason Barnes, intervenes. When the youths follow Luke off the bus, he jumps off too. Luke is chased down and a fight breaks out outside Jason’s house. His father Andrew is having a shower at the time, but his mother Val drags him out and he scares off the gang. Luke is on the floor bleeding, however when the police and ambulances arrive it’s Jason who collpses. He’s been stabbed. Jason is rushed to hospital but is pronounced DOA.
The story is told from the perspective of three characters. Firstly there’s Emma, who sees the youths harassing Luke on the bus but does nothing. Then there’s Louise Murphy, Luke’s mother. And finally, Andrew Barnes, Jason’s father, the one who chased off the gang. Moral challenges presented by either intervening to prevent violence, or keeping your head down and staying save present, unfold via these three characters and their emotional responses to the event. All the while you’re taken deeper into the details of each of their lives.
Jason’s parents Andrew and Val are devastated by the loss of their only child and both react in contrasting ways to their grief. Val wants justice and revenge while his father Andrew seeks meaning in Jason’s sacrifice. Their different ways of dealing with it pull them apart and their marriage beings to disintegrate. Val is distant and won’t speak to Andrew about how she is feeling and this distance leads him closer to Luke’s mother, Louise. Luke survived the attack but is in a coma, one from which he may never wake. Louise and Luke’s younger sister Ruby visit him daily, trying to stay strong, waiting for him to awake.
Will Louise, Val and Andrew receive justice for the horrific crimes done to Luke and Jason? Will Andrew and Val manage to piece together their relationship in the wake of losing the one thing that held them together? Well, that’s what the story is all about and Split Second is a well written and emotional book. It’s not your typical crime fiction novel. Catching the offenders, their trial, and getting to the truth all come into play. However, rather than focusing on the crime, its investigation and justice, Split Second is all about the aftermath of the crime and its effects on those close to the victims. It is difficult not to become engrossed in this book, forming a bond with the characters and wishing for justice.
Whilst I enjoyed getting to know the characters from the background provided, at times some of the information seems irrelevant to the storyline, particularly with regards to Emma, the bystander on the bus. I wanted to know more about the event and its aftermath from the perspective of Val, Jason’s mother. She is only spoken about in Andrew’s chapters.
The topic of this book is hugely relevant in today’s society with the increase in gang violence, which sometimes draws in innocent bystanders. It’s a heartbreaking story, filled with raw emotion, and I highly recommend it.
Constable & Robinson
CFL Rating: 4 Stars