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Monday, 19 November 2012

‘Split Second’ by Cath Staincliffe

Published by Robinson,
19 July 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84901-346-8

Staincliffe has jumped to fame as the author of the brilliant Scott and Bailey, police procedural, television hit series. Split Second is not a Scott and Bailey story. It is a stand-a-lone, the only similarities being that it is set in Manchester and revolves around a murder. A young black boy is travelling alone on a bus, when four youths verbally and racially abuse him, and just one passenger comes to his defence. When the black youth makes a dash from the bus, the four youths pursue him, and the passenger who came to his defence, pursues them. There is a fight and two boys are stabbed. The four youths have run away before the police arrive and no one is sure who they are. There was a witness on the bus, who was too afraid to get involved, but after reading in the paper what happened, she comes forward and agrees to give evidence in court. 

This scenario is a slice of modern life- something that is happening every day, on our streets. Staincliffe’s story is well observed and well researched, and much, more. It is powerfully emotive and pulls you in, quickly and fully, as the main characters are clear, real, and all victims. This really is the story of the people affected by this crime. Firstly a caring and loving first year university- student, his life lost in seconds through a fruitless argument. There are the parents of both the stabbed victims, one whose marriage is in jeopardy, and the other a single parent who faces the possibility of the death of her son, alone. The witness on the bus, who eventually comes forward to give evidence, has her whole life affected, and the sister of one of the victims- whose only dream was to become a pop star. Then there are the police who run the case. It is a story of tragedy, and of hope, of broken marriages, of new affairs, all wrapped around the despair of wasted lives. Staincliffe’s characters are real and heartfelt. Staincliffe’s writing is nothing short of brilliant. This book will make you sit up and think. It left me thinking about the situation for a long time after I closed the book. Did it have a satisfying ending? I’ll leave that to you to decide. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
Reviewer: Linda Regan

Cath Staincliffe was brought up in Bradford and hoped to become an entomologist (insects) then a trapeze artist before settling on acting at the age of eight.  She graduated from Birmingham University with a Drama and Theatre Arts degree and moved to work as a community artist in Manchester where she now lives with her family. Looking for Trouble, published in 1994, launched private eye Sal, a single parent struggling to juggle work and home, onto Manchester’s mean streets.  It was short listed for the Crime Writers Association’s John Creasey best first novel award, serialised on BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour and awarded Le Masque de l’Année in France.  Cath has published a further seven Sal Kilkenny mysteries.
In 2012 Cath won the CWA Short Story Dagger for Laptop, sharing the prize with Margaret Murphy with her story The Message. Both stories featured in Best Eaten Cold, a Murder Squad anthology. Cath is also a scriptwriter, creator of ITV’s hit police series, Blue Murder, which ran for five series from 2003 – 2009 starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. Cath writes for radio and created the Legacy drama series which features a chalk-and-cheese, brother and sister duo of heir hunters whose searches take them into the past lives of families torn apart by events.
Trio, a stand-alone novel, moved away from crime to explore adoption and growing up in the 1960s.  Cath’s own story, of tracing and being re-united with her Irish birth family and her seven brothers and sisters, featured in the television documentary Finding Cath from RTE.
Dead To Me, a prequel to the popular Scott & Bailey TV show, sees the two women detectives thrown together for the very first time as they investigate the brutal murder of a teenage girl. Cath is a founder member of Murder Squad, a virtual collective of northern crime writers.  She is an avid reader and likes hill-walking, messing about in the garden and dancing (with far more enthusiasm than grace).

Linda Regan is the author of six police procedural crime novels. She is also an actress. She holds a Masters degree in critical writing and journalism, and writes a regular column, including book reviews, for three magazines. She also presents the book-club spot on BBC Radio Kent. She is an avid reader, and welcomes the chance to read new writers.

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