King’s Cross

London’s dark underbelly: Caledonian Road, by Andrew O’Hagan, reviewed

‘The Cally’s named after an orphanage for kids from Scotland or some shit. Didn’t we learn that in school?’ So says Big Pharma (real name Devan Swaby), drill rapper from the Cally Active gang – one of the many characters populating Andrew O’Hagan’s vast and riveting Caledonian Road. The novel opens with a 59-strong cast list, representative of contemporary London society. At the heart of this web, spanning aristocracy, gangs and trafficked migrants via an oligarch and the middle-classes, are the celebrity art historian Campbell Flynn and his student and hacker protégé Milo Mangasha. As with the Cally and its links far beyond the capital, so O’Hagan demonstrates that his

Tea and treachery: Sheep’s Clothing, by Celia Dale, reviewed

‘It was a nice way of living,’ huffs Grace, the fiftysomething anti-heroine of Celia Dale’s devilishly dark 1988 novel Sheep’s Clothing, republished by Daunt Books. Recently released from Holloway prison, and using a demure headscarf and twin-set as cover, Grace teams up with Janice, a former fellow inmate, to rob elderly women. Disguised as social workers, and armed with an illicit supply of sleeping pills, they are after pension money stashed under mattresses, trinkets in shoeboxes and polished candlesticks on mantelpieces. The victims, invariably women (‘even an old man could be surprisingly strong’) often welcome the thieves, happy to have someone to ‘talk at’ and a cup of tea made