A little bit late to the party (Joanna Cannon’s second novel has just come out), The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was one of the big debuts of 2016.
Mrs Creasy was still missing on Tuesday, and she was even more missing on Wednesday, when she’d arranged to sell raffle tickets for the British Legion. By Thursday, her name was being passed over garden fences and threaded along the queue at shop counters.
What about Margaret Creasy, then? someone would say. And it was like firing a starting pistol.
Set on one street in an East Midlands town, the story is mostly told from the point of view of ten year old Grace. The year is 1976 and it’s a blazing hot summer. When Mrs Creasy from number 8 goes missing, it’s all the neighbours can talk about. Grace and her best friend Tilly decide to investigate and soon find that more than one person is keeping a secret…
Seeing events unfold through the eyes of a ten year old allows Cannon to broach some quite dark topics while keeping the tone of the book light. I think she gets hits the right note with Grace’s voice, though during the third person sections, following the adults on the avenue, were quite simplistic when tackling such things as alcoholism and abuse. In some ways, since Grace was always sticking her nose in, I would have preferred to see these things through Grace, letting the adult reader put the pieces together from what the child sees.
The main mystery, Mrs Creasy’s disappearance, is what everyone is talking about really it is concerned with what happened in the past. The narrative frequently flits back to December 1967 and the build up to a terrible event that still haunts the inhabitants of the avenue. What did actually happen, and could Mrs Creasy have found out? At over 450 pages, the plot was quite stretched out but just about held my attention throughout.
This is a quirky and charming novel, the sort of book that brings a smile to your face. Everyday goings on seen through the lens of a child make a refreshing change and the various plot strands are resolved satisfactorily at the end. Not a challenging read but perfect for a quiet winter weekend.