Reading other people’s letters is always a guilty pleasure. But for two West Yorkshire policemen - contemplating a cache of 27 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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