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The Crack Magazine

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Sheep’s Clothing by Celia Dale

Celia Dale died on New Year’s Eve 2011, just a couple of weeks shy of her 100th birthday. Her first published novel was ‘The Least of These’ in 1944, which detailed the experiences of an “ordinary” family living through The Blitz. Her last published novel was this, ‘Sheep’s Clothing’, her 13th, which came out in 1988. And ‘Sheep’s Clothing’ has just been re-issued by Daunt Books, which gets a tip of the hat from me, because it’s an enthralling and engrossing read. We’re in London and Grace (older) and Janice (younger) are paying a visit to Mrs Davies who lives in a block of council flats. They have good news for her. The government has been underpaying her pension and she’s due a lump sum. Unbeknownst to Mrs Davies however, Grace and Janice are not from social services. They actually met in prison and on release concocted a plan to drug single pensioners (by slipping something into their tea) and then rob them blind. It’s a scam that snares them a liveable haul, but when Grace spots a chance for an even bigger mark-up, she makes her play. Dale very effectively draws the environs – the dowdy rooms Grace and Janice share; the tidy council flats; the middling pubs – and while reading it I realised just what a different world the 1980s is to the present. No internet, no mobile phones, no surveillance cameras. Celia Dale’s later novels (including ‘Sheep’s Clothing’) were the kind of psychological thrillers that saw her win a whole new audience. I’m late to her oeuvre, but if the rest of her stuff is good as this, you can put me down as a fan. RM

Daunt Books

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