Celia Dale died on the last day of last year, just a few days short of her 100th birthday. She was a crime writer of some distinction, and yet to the best of my knowledge, this post is the first to note her passing.
Her first book appeared as long ago as 1943. She'd worked at one time, I gather, as a secretary to that fine writer Rumer Godden, and it was quite a while before she began to focus primarily on the crime genre. But when she did so, her spare and highly effective style, coupled with a good deal of insight into human nature, made her a most accomplished practitioner.
She won the CWA Short Story Award in 1986, and her collection A Personal Call and other stories, which gathers 18 stories, is a very good read. Sheep's Clothing and A Helping Hand are excellent novels which I much enjoyed. The late Harry Keating said that she had "the accuracy, understanding and quiet wit of Jane Austen", and Susan Hill lauded her as "a past mistress of the bizarre truth behind normal facades".
Yet, although Faber Finds have happily made a few of her books available again, today Celia Dale is not well remembered by modern crime fans, and I think that's a real pity. She's also been neglected by the crime reference books. When I researched her career for this post, in fact, the only passing mention I found in seven or eight weighty tomes was one by - me, on the subject of her sympathetic portrayal of victims. I do hope this post will encourage fans of quiet psychological suspense to seek out her work. They won't be disappointed.