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Burley Cross Postbox Theft

May 6th, 2010 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

The other week I finished reading Burley Cross Postbox Theft by Nicola Barker, another of the books Amazon send me for reviewthrough its Vine programme.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but with free books I feel more inclined to leave my comfort zone and in this case it was worth doing so.

The whole story is based in the area where my sister lives up in Yorkshire, but in a village a lot smaller than the one she lives in. I was picturing somewhere a lot like the one down the road from where we went camping the other year.  It certainly helped me visualise everything.  Anyway, here is what I wrote about it in full:

This is a very clever book which works a lot better than I thought it would. The story is told entirely through the medium of a bundle of letters stolen from a postbox and recovered, along with a covering letter from one policeman to another and a couple of letters from the other policeman at the end.

The point of the book is not really about the postbox theft or who committed the crime, but rather about what the letters reveal about life in a small West Yorkshire village and the people who inhabit it.  In such a small village gossip is rife and so several characters crop up in different letters and also write their own.

The fascination is in seeing the same events described from different perspectives and with different prejudices and the writer has used the format well to wring every last drop of dramatic irony out of those events.

One advantage of the form is that with the changing styles and voices, if you find your interest flagging you know the next chapter is going to bring a change of pace.

Towards the end I was starting to wonder how on Earth the story was going to be resolved, half afriad that there was going to be no satisfying conclusion, so I was delighted to find a proper ending, even if one or two mysteries remain. We never did get to the bottom of the dog poo question for example – although I have my own theory.

Some of the letters seem unfeasibly long, particularly the first covering letter, but then it is fiction so some artistic licence is allowed, and one of the longer letters is an absolute comedy tour de force – the one that describes the charity auction and all its disastrous consequences.  That letter would stand alone as brilliantly funny short story, although then you would miss the extra layers added by subsequent letters – and the clues leading to the final resolution.

By the end I wanted to know more about the eccentric inhabitants of Burley Cross and would happily read a sequel set there, whether in the form of another epistolary novel or a more straightforward story.

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