Review: SPLIT SECOND by Cath Staincliffe

split secondOn a Manchester bus one evening three teenagers start picking on 16 year old Luke Donnelly. When Luke runs off the bus chased by his tormentors 18 year-old Jason Barnes, the only passenger to go to his aid, follows them and the fight continues in the front garden of a nearby house. Soon one of the five is dead.

Telling the story of this sad, unnecessary death and the people whose lives it changed forever, SPLIT SECOND makes for very compelling reading. There can few readers who would not identify with one or more of the three people from whose perspective events unfold and Staincliffe is to be congratulated for making non of them overt, unbelievable heroes or villains. They are ordinary people caught up in unimaginably horrid circumstances and they cope, or not, without benefit of superhuman abilities or life-chaging Oprah moments.

Emma is a shy young woman who is a passenger on the bus and who agonises over whether or not to intervene in the harassment of Luke. Her fear is palpable and becomes more and more understandable in retrospect as we learn about her and her family history. Louise is Luke’s mother, struggling to raise two mixed-race children, Luke and his younger sister Ruby, on her own. Andrew is Jason Barnes’ father and must deal with the aftermath of the events with his wife who becomes increasingly withdrawn. As well as offering three very realistic and nuanced character studies Staincliffe uses their voices to explore the justice system from the perspective of accidental participants who find the things they might reasonably have expected – support, information, guidance and justice itself – in very short supply.

SPLIT SECOND is not crime fiction in the traditional sense as the official aftermath of the death – the investigation and legal manoeuvrings – are not the central focus of the story. For that reason, and because it is a well-written, decently paced novel about people any reader could recognise, I’d recommend it to readers of all genres.

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Thanks to my reading fairy godmother who sent me her copy of this book a few months ago but it languished in a moving box until just recently, more’s the pity. You can read her review at Euro Crime

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 4.5/5
Publisher Constable [2012]
ISBN 9781849013451
Length 12 hours 42 minutes
Format paperback
Book Series standalone
Source a gift
Creative Commons Licence
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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10 Responses to Review: SPLIT SECOND by Cath Staincliffe

  1. angelasavage says:

    This story sounds sadly reminiscent of the recent, awful Frankston bus incident. Thanks for the review Bernadette. Sounds well worth reading.


    • Indeed Angela. What struck me about the story and Emma’s part in it was how realistic a depiction it was of something that must go on all the time. It is easy to be outraged about this kind of violence on talk back radio or via the comments section of the local paper but I’m sure a far less simple proposition when you are confronted with such a thing in real life. I’m sure we’d all like to think we would intervene but it’s so hard to know until you have faced it. It made for compelling reading anyway.


  2. Kathy D. says:

    Am very glad to see your positive review. I put this on my TBR mountain and now I’ll give it an extra boost.


  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    Bernadette – I think this sort of thing happens more than any one of us wants to admit that it does. And I’d say most of us would like to think we’d intervene. I give Staincliffe a lot of credit for not depicting the choice as that easy. In real life it isn’t. You’ve done an excellent job with your review here, and I hope that means the book gets wider readership.


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  5. Sarah says:

    The author spoke about this book at Crimefest in May and she made it sound very appealing. It is on my radar but I have so much to read I haven’t really done anything about it. I will look out for it next year I think.


  6. Never heard of this one but you totally piqued my attention, adding to TBR for sure. Bullying is so scary and unfortunately very real.


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