Staincliffe, Cath – ‘Split Second’
Hardback: 320 pages (Apr. 2012) Publisher: Constable ISBN: 1849013454
SPLIT SECOND is a very moving account of an apparently impulsive crime and its aftermath, told from the point of view of three characters. Emma is a shy young woman who witnesses some teenagers yelling abuse at a boy sitting opposite her on the bus as she returns home from work. Frozen in fear, she does nothing. A young man comes down from the top deck and tries to stop the attack – the bus stops, all the participants run off, and tragedy occurs.
Andrew is the father of one of the boys involved; Louise is the mother of another. The book tells the story of the ensuing events from both their points of view, as well as from that of Emma. By use of this device, the reader is drawn into the criminal justice system and how well or badly it deals with apprehending criminals, supporting witnesses, and helping relatives of victims.
The novel is more than just an account of these events. The reader experiences the unbearable emotional responses of two separate parents who are coping with the aftermath, as well as Emma’s internal conflict. As each of the three characters reflects on the situation and decides what to do, one gets to know more about them as people, as well as about their families and their lives at work. Hence, all three of them are fully rounded portraits, and by the trial at the end of the novel, we really care about the outcome on much more than an intellectual level.
Cath Staincliffe has used a similar narrative device in her previous novel, WITNESS. In her hands, it is extremely effective in both cases. SPLIT SECOND is a truly insightful, thoughtful book – it is short and unpretentious, and very well worth reading, both as crime fiction and as a poignant insight into the apparently mundane but, under the surface, deeply individual lives of people confronted with an issue they never thought they’d have to face.