x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Neighbourhood watch

If the residents of Britain used to take a small sliver of national pride from the efficiency of the Royal Mail, the nation's postal service, then Nicola Barker's Burley Cross Postbox Theft, may have opened the book on a genre of novels charting the woes of what is now referred to as "broken" Britain.

If the residents of Britain used to take a small sliver of national pride from the efficiency of the Royal Mail, the nation's postal service, then Nicola Barker's Burley Cross Postbox Theft, may have opened the book on a genre of novels charting the woes of what is now referred to as "broken" Britain. Burley Cross ("Little England writ large") is a sleepy community populated by the kind of misfits most likely to be found in British TV comedies such as The League of Gentlemen, before it becomes embroiled in the investigation of the theft of a chunk of personal correspondence from the village postbox.

When police retrieve a substantial haul of the stolen post a few hours later, PC Roger Topping is handed the task of identifying the culprit using clues in the impounded correspondence. These letters are presented in full in Barker's novel. Reading the Burley Cross Postbox Theft is akin to opening a loved one's diary and guiltily devouring its pages. It is also a delicious reminder of the often seething insanity of seemingly ordinary people.