Staincliffe, Cath - 'Split Second'
Emma is travelling home on a cold winter night cocooned in her own misery when three teenagers burst onto the bus and start intimidating a fellow passenger, a young man called Luke. Emma, and all the other passengers and driver do their best not to draw attention to themselves but Emma is town with doubts. She is fearful for her own safety if she intervenes or even if she tries to call for assistance from the police. She reassures herself that it is just teenagers messing about, no one will get hurt.
The bus stops and Luke rushes off the bus, quickly followed by the shouting teenagers and also by Jason who has just come down from the upper deck and tries to intervene. Emma watches as the bus pulls away and the teenagers run down the road.
Unfortunately, the group catch up with Luke and start to beat and kick him. He has run into Jason's front garden and Jason's parents are drawn out by the noise and ring for the police. As Jason pulls one of the assailants from Luke, his father arrives and the group run away. But a boy is left dying and another seriously injured in their wake.
When Emma reads about the incident, she realises that she cannot stay quiet about what she saw even though she is ashamed of her inaction. She has to face her own demons to find the courage to finally do what she feels is right.
I wasn't sure when I started reading this, possibly because of the violent beginning, but I soon became engrossed. The story moves quickly, being told from various victims' points of view and it is very clearly shown that the victims of a violent crime range from witnesses, to the family and friends of those most immediately involved. The characters are all well drawn and believable; their back stories sufficiently lain out to make their actions and thoughts understandable.
I think this is every parent's worst nightmare and does ask the question "what would you do in this situation"? It is a book that raises questions in the reader – we all hope that in a similar situation, we would act rather than avoid but the book really addresses that. It is about courage in all sorts of ways.
Cath Staincliffe is the creator of Blue Murder the TV crime show starring Caroline Quentin, which I have watched and enjoyed but I haven't read any of her books before. I will certainly be searching them out.
Read another review of SPLIT SECOND.
Susan White, England