LONDON -- Judges are choosing the winner of Britain's most prestigious literary trophy from a shortlist that includes novels set in the court of King Henry VIII and the opium dens of Mumbai.
Hilary Mantel is favored to win the 50,000 pound ($82,000) Booker Prize for a second time with "Bring Up the Bodies," a tale of Tudor treachery that follows the fates of the king's right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell, and the monarch's second wife, Anne Boleyn. It is the second book in a planned trilogy and a sequel to "Wolf Hall," for which Mantel won the Booker in 2009.
Mantel would be the first British author to win the Booker twice, joining double winners Peter Carey of Australia and J.M. Coetzee of South Africa.
She told the BBC she considered a repeat unlikely, "but it would not be human to not want to win."
Britain's Will Self _ a well-known and often acerbic journalist _ is also a strong contender for the century-spanning stream of consciousness "Umbrella," a novel about a woman with encephalitis. The book, which has no chapters and few paragraph breaks, was described by the Booker judges as "moving and draining" and "much less difficult than it first seems."
Indian poet Jeet Thayil is nominated for his first novel, "Narcopolis," set among 1970s heroin addicts, and Britain's Alison Moore for "The Lighthouse," about a middle-aged man's life-changing ferry trip to Germany.
The other finalists are Malaysia's Tan Twan Eng for "The Garden of Evening Mists," which centers on a survivor of a World War II Japanese prison camp; and South Africa-born Deborah Levy for "Swimming Home," a portrait of the devastation wreaked by depression.
A judging panel that includes Times Literary Supplement editor Peter Stothard and "Downton Abbey" actor Dan Stevens meets Tuesday to pick a winner, which will be announced during a dinner ceremony at London's medieval Guildhall.
Established in 1969, the award is open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies, and usually brings a huge sales and publicity boost for the winner.
It also sparks a flurry of betting, and a blaze of literary debate. Last year's jury, which gave the prize to Julian Barnes for "The Sense of an Ending," was accused of dumbing down after the chair of the panel said finalists had been chosen for "readability."
This year's list appears more adventurous. Only Mantel has been a finalist before and Self is a relentlessly modernist experimenter, while Tan, Levy and Moore are all published by small independent publishers.
The prize is officially known as the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC.