The effect upon a novelist’s career of a nomination for the Man Booker Prize seems, at least to the outsider, to be almost alchemical. Bringing the dual boon of critical kudos and an uprush in sales, to be shortlisted is seemingly to be granted residency in the sweet spot of a Venn diagram that depicts that slender intersection between the bestseller lists and the informed approval of one’s peers. In 2011, however, the formula appeared to unravel. That was the year in which Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, was chairman of the judges and Chris Mullin, a former Labour MP and another of the judges, declared that the panel were looking for stories that ‘zip along’. The brouhaha that ensued saw the birthing of a supposedly more serious award – the Folio Prize, now in its sophomore year – as well as a good deal of greybeard headshaking and broadsheet harrumphing.
A D Miller’s first novel, Snowdrops, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize that year. Concerning the misadventures of an Englishman in contemporary Russia and his doomed involvement with two beautiful sisters, the novel, while certainly thriller-shaped and obeying Mullin’s decree, also artfully combined narrative kineticism with an examination of man’s