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Burley Cross Postbox Theft [Hardcover]

Nicola Barker
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 April 2010

From the award-winning author of Darkmans comes a comic epistolary novel of startling originality and wit.

Reading other people’s letters is always a guilty pleasure. But for two West Yorkshire policemen - contemplating a cache of 26 undelivered missives, retrieved from a back alley behind the hairdresser's in Skipton - it's also a job of work. The quaint moorside village of Burley Cross has been plunged into turmoil by the theft of the contents of its postbox, and when PC Roger Topping takes over the case, which his higher-ranking schoolmate Sergeant Laurence Everill has so far failed to crack, his expectations of success are not high.
Yet Topping's investigation into the curtain-twitching lives of Jeremy Baverstock, Baxter Thorndyke, the Jonty Weiss-Quinns, Mrs Tirza Parry (widow), and a splendid array of other weird and wonderful characters, will not only uncover the dark underbelly of his scenic beat, but also the fundamental strengths of his own character.
The denizens of Burley Cross inhabit a world where everyone’s secrets are worn on their sleeves, pettiness becomes epic, little is writ large. From complaints about dog shit to passive-aggressive fanmail, from biblical amateur dramatics to an Auction of Promises that goes staggeringly, horribly wrong, Nicola Barker’s epistolary novel is a work of immense comic range. It is also unlike anything she has written before. Brazenly mischievous and irresistibly readable, Burley Cross Postbox Theft is a Cranford for today, albeit with a decent dose of Tamiflu, some dodgy sex-therapy and a whiff of cheap-smelling vodka.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (29 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007355009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007355006
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 452,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nicola Barker's eight previous novels include 'Darkmans' (short-listed for the 2007 Booker and Ondaatje prizes, and winner of the Hawthornden), 'Wide Open' (winner of the 2000 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award) and 'Clear' (long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2004). She has also written two prize-winning collections of short-stories, and her work has been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in east London. Her latest novel, 'The Yips', was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012.

Product Description


Reviews for Darkmans:

'This is the work of a very fine storyteller indeed.' The Times

'The writing is often hilarious. Barker carves up the suburban dinner party savagely, and anatomises the dodgiest builder on Earth…Nicola Barker's writing is hugely attractive, because it conjures images and ideas from a tremendous wealth of inspiration. It is the product of a powerful, sprawling imagination.' Daily Telegraph

'A loud shout of glorious, untidy, angry, joyous life. Barker is a great, restless novelist, and "Darkmans" is a great, restless novel. At the end of 838 blinding, high-octane pages, I was bereft that there weren't 838 more.' Guardian

‘When a new novel by Nicola Barker arrives, there is a host of reasons to break into a smile. Chief among them is that she is one of the most exhilarating, audacious and, for want of a better word, ballsy writers of her generation. And, in a publishing terrain that often inhibits ambition and promotes homogeneity, there is nobody writing quite like her.' Observer

'A visionary epic.' Sam Leith, in the Spectator 'Books of the Year'

'Darkmans is all about the ebullience of language, the erruption of the past into the present, the seriousness and darkness of jokes. It defies moderation because it celebrates misrule. Highly original and interesting, and doing it with conviction and sharp humour. I know I whipped through its more than 800 pages with attention unbroken. And I know that the very night I finished it, it showed up in my dreams. Seriously.' Literary Review

‘Barker's delightfully Skewed perspective on this world is laugh–out–loud funny' Marie Claire

‘Her creation is a mix of modern–day Cranford with the League of Gentlemen's Royston Vasey…If the reader is willing to suspend disbelief, however, they should find ample reward in Barker's wit and linguistic flair' Rosamund Urwin, Evening Standard

About the Author

Nicola Barker's seven previous novels include Darkmans (short-listed for the 2007 Booker and Ondaatje prizes, and winner of the Hawthornden), and Wide Open (winner of the 2000 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award). She has also written two prize-winning collections of short-stories, and her work has been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in east London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection 30 Nov 2011
By Simz
This is a great, great read. I dont normally do "funny" books but gave this a go and found it clever, hilarious, in parts moving, just perfection...

Great characters, very clever unfolding of interlinking stories and wonderful, fresh writing. The voices in the letters were so convinincing, I just didnt want it to end.

I'll be trying some more Nicola Barker very soon.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly badly written letters 21 Mar 2010
By Mrs. R.
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Nicola Barker has written a book about letters, who stole them and how PC Roger Topping finds out. It's one of those novels whose story is told entirely in letters too. This one is different in that all the writers are incredibly irritating, daft, pompous, verbose, gossipy, selfish, opinionated, annoying and usually a combination of at least two of those. Barker impersonates these characters outstandingly well, defining their voices to a tee, so that you could be reading the real thing. The tone of each letter is crafted to perfection.
The problem is that in real life, you'd do anything to avoid reading these things. The policeman originally investigating the problem was driven to distraction by having to deal with this bunch of people and their missing correspondence. Barker's letters are written in the styles of irritating people, so they end up being intensely irritating themselves. Even the characters who are reasonably pleasant are too dim to write well; Barker impersonates them so closely that I found her own work intolerable to read. It's a fine piece of perfectly formed comedy caricature writing, and I hope that she produces something soon about people who aren't so god awful that you just don't care what happens to their stupid post box.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Northen England madness 4 Feb 2011
By alice
I thought this book was a great read. It is funny and intelligent, it gives a view of a collection of very strange characters who live in a villiage up north who all intermingle in eachothers lives without really knowing it. It was beautifully touching in parts and so heart warming, then completely off the wall, but a thoroughly good read and I have now sent a copy to my sister because she lives up north and will be able to put a setting to the letters immediately as did I.
I recommend you give this a try, then for sure you will fininsh it and be sad to come to the end.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. Philip Harkins VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Fantastic look inside the lives and hidden secrets of the residents of Burley Cross, a small village somewhere on the heart of England.
After the theft of the post box the residents lives are laid bare and opened to inspection as the villages' two policemen have to go through the letters it contained looking for clues.... and maybe taking an enjoyable and unorthodox look at their charges and their ironic, tragic and secret lives.
A great book guaranteed to raise a smile, and an ideal companion to take on holiday too.
Now lets hope they solve the mysteries of The Burley Cross Postbox theft in time!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small Minds and Grand Gestures 10 April 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed Nicola Barker's previous novel Darkmans, an epic tale of old lore and crumbling society. I found 'Darkmans' hard going at first, and nearly put it down, but ultimately found it to be an excellent read. From the description of 'Burley Cross Postbox Theft', I was expecting something altogether more accessible. I was disappointed - this is a novel that requires an amount of effort from the reader before delivering its considerable rewards.

The novel's premise is a simple one. A village postbox as been broken into and its contents stolen. The letters are later found, and a police investigation into the theft begins. This is an epistolary novel, that opens with the a letter from one PC to another, detailing the case and its lack of resolution. There then follows the letters that were stolen from inside the postbox.

The biggest problems with this novel are the first two letters. They are long, rambling and written by two very annoying characters. I found that they both became tedious very quickly. This inauspicious opening, dampened my enthusiasm for what I'd hoped would be an amusing read. More generally, the letters, though cleverly written, nearly all felt like literary exercises, rather than letters real people would write. Also, the inhabitants of Burley Cross are all so strange and idiosyncratic, they became lumped together in my mind as a large strange and amorphous blob - I struggled to remember who was who. About one third of the way in, I was sorely tempted to abandon the novel entirely.

My love of 'Darkmans' generated some loyalty. I pushed on and am glad that I did.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Read...No Better Than That! 19 May 2010
By Mr. D. J. Brindle VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book has been much discussed and hyped in the literary media of late so I was interested to get hold of a review copy, to see if the excitement was justified...

By now you'll know the premise of the book; a sack of letters is discovered by two mildly comedic policemen who then go about sorting them out, and reading them of course. Much hilarity then ensures.

Except it doesn't. This is a book and indeed an idea which promises much but, if you excuse the rather weak pun, it delivers little really apart from some examples of lazy writing and over-tired Les Dawson-esque clichés. Not to mention half baked ideas whereby the plot, characters and subject matter could have been funny; but aren't. In fact, at times the whole thing is a little annoying.

All that said, the book is a decent read if you can suspend both your belief and your normal senses of humour and mirth, and yes, parts of it are well written and not as tired as the rest. And the idea is a great one, even if the author hasn't, in my view, executed it all that well.

But ultimately, this is a tale of a load of letters written by a bunch of objectionables that are normally the sort you'd try your very, very best to avoid reading. Whether you choose to avoid reading this book is up to you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars On Ilkley Moor Bar Talent
Perhaps my title is a bit unfair, because what is most conspicuously missing in this book is 'editing' rather than writing talent. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Roger Risborough
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great to be honest.
This book sounded hilariously funny which is why I ordered it but I have to say I was abit disappointed really. The story was predictable and just not very interesting. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mellow Yellow
4.0 out of 5 stars Top notch literary fiction
I'm a big fan of Nicola Barker - her writing is always intriguing and wholly original. If you're looking for something a little bit different, then you'd do worse than picking up... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Particular Press
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable
Yes, I know that's the ultimate reviewer's cliche, but really true in this case. Ditto 'laugh-aloud funny'--and I don't often do this. Read more
Published 14 months ago by M. READ
4.0 out of 5 stars Burley Cross Postbox Theft
An amusing glimpse as to what can occur in a small village, wittily written I enjoyed it so much I bought this as a gift.
Published 17 months ago by J. Fell
1.0 out of 5 stars Why?
Why is the kindle version of this book almost two times the price of the paper back version of this book?
Published 18 months ago by andy weston
2.0 out of 5 stars Good book. Awful format.
This book was one of the first I bought on my new Kindle Touch. It cost 11 pounds. I didn't get past the second letter/ chapter. Read more
Published 19 months ago by ZFB
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother it's not funny or clever
I picked this book up because it was on an offer. Bad Idea.

TO say this is one of the worst books I have ever read is unfair seeing as how I never actually finished it,... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Welegoo
1.0 out of 5 stars Trying too hard.
Reading through previous Amazon reviews, I found that 'Kartowidjojo' has summed it up perfectly. An unreadable book, irritating and cliched. Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2012 by funnyjaybird
1.0 out of 5 stars Chintzy, Lacy and Smells of Camphor
Epistolary novel! Welcome back to the past! A village post-box is robbed just before Christmas and the seedy minutiae of village life exposed when the missing contents are examined... Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2012 by Kartowidjojo
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