Friday, October 01, 2021

A Ripper Yarn for the Win

Much to my surprise, at least, the winner of the 2021 Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award, announced today, is People of Abandoned Character (Head of Zeus), a tense historical thriller by Clare Whitfield. Sponsored by London’s Goldsboro Books, this accolade is “awarded annually to a compelling novel, of any genre—from romance and thrillers, to historical, speculative and literary fiction—with brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realized.” In addition to great publicity, this victory fetches Whitfield £2,000 and “a beautiful, handmade glass bell.”

Goldsboro Books reports that choosing People of Abandoned Character “was pretty much unanimous. Clare Whitfield’s thrilling debut impressed the whole team for its fresh and unique take on the Whitechapel Murders. Told from the point of view of a woman who wonders whether her violent and manipulative husband could be Jack the Ripper, it’s also a thoughtful and compelling exploration of the endless violence faced by women of all walks of life. We’re delighted to award this year’s Glass Bell to Clare Whitfield—a hugely exciting new name in fiction, we know that she will go far!”

When I say this decision surprises me, it is primarily because Whitfield’s novel faced four remarkable rivals for the Glass Bell: The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré (Sceptre); The Court of Miracles, by Kester Grant (HarperVoyager); Apeirogon, by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury); Eight Detectives, by Alex Pavesi (Michael Joseph); and The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton (Raven). I would’ve put my bet to win on either Turton’s high-seas whodunit (one of my own favorite works of 2020), or McCann’s story rooted in the tragically ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict to triumph.

Last year’s Glass Bell Award recipient was Taylor Jenkins Reid’s coming-of-age tale, Daisy Jones and the Six.

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