It's unusual for a crime novel to be longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, and I'm not sure why this one was thought worthy of consideration.
I've enjoyed reading Belinda Bauer before and this didn't disappoint. But knowing something of the controversy surrounding its longlisting marred my experience - I found myself 'evaluating' the story and writing, rather than going along for the ride.
It begins with a terrifying scenario of three young children left in a broken down car beside a busy road. Their mother has left them to get help but time passes and the hot day gets hotter, and their mother doesn't come back.
Fast forward three years and the children are still alone. Now they're at home but their mother was found murdered and their father has abandoned them, unable to cope with his grief. The oldest child is Jack. He's now 14 and has learnt how to steal in order to get what the children need to survive.
In one of his burglaries he discovers a knife which he believes, which he knows, is the knife that killed his mother. In order for the police to investigate he decides to frighten, to threaten, the householder, a pregnant woman, so that she will call the police and they will, too, uncover the knife. But she doesn't ring the police.
Meanwhile, Jack's crimes haven't gone unnoticed. He's been labelled Goldilocks by the police and a special team is pulled together to try and trap him. Will this turn into a murder investigation, as Jack hopes?
There were elements of the book which felt far-fetched - I wasn't sure of the children being able to cope alone and unnoticed for so long, and the police officers were rather comical. But it was an enjoyable read, and I'll read more from this author.
Read my review of 'Exit' published February 2021, here.