Man Booker Prize Goes to Gold Rush Murder Mystery 'The Luminaries'

Elizabeth Catton became the youngest winner of the British Commonwealth's most prestigious literary prize with her novel set in 1860s New Zealand.

The Luminaries, a murder mystery set in the New Zealand Gold Rush of the 1860s, won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday. 

The Booker is given annually to the best novel by a writer from the British Commonwealth.

The prize comes with a £50,000 payment, enormous prestige and a sales bump that generally far exceeds U.S. prizes like the Pulitzer and the National Book Award.

Just 28, author Elizabeth Catton, became the youngest winner in the history of the prize, which dates to 1969.

At 832 pages, it is also the longest winner. The Luminaries is Catton's second novel. 

It tells the story of Walter Moody, who arrives in New Zealand in 1866 to find his fortune prospecting for gold but meets a group of a dozen men discussing the intertwined story of the disappearance of a wealthy man, a prostitute who attempted suicide and a newly discovered fortune.

Moody quickly gets sucked into solving these intertwined mysteries. 

The book was published to rave reviews. The Guardian called it a "consummate literary page-turner."

Publishers Weekly called the novel a reminder of "the excitement of storytelling."

London's Independent forecast a surefire screen adaptation. "Yes, it's big. Yes it's clever. But do yourself a favour and read The Luminaries before someone attempts to confine its pleasures to the screen, big or small."

She received the award from Prince Charles' wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at a black-tie dinner in London.

This year's ceremony was somewhat overshadowed by a controversy surrounding next year's prize.

Rule changes announced earlier this year open the prize to any author writing in English, meaning the prize is open to American writers for the first time. Many British writers think Americans will dominate the award and undermine British literary culture.