The Forty Elephants
Inspired by the true story of Alice Diamond and the Forty Elephants, the first all-female gang of London.
London in the 1920s is no place for a woman with a mind of her own. Gang wars, violence, and an unforgiving world have left pickpocket Alice Diamond scrambling to survive in the Mint, the gritty neighborhood her family has run for generations. When her father goes to jail yet again and her scam artist brother finds himself in debt to the dangerous McDonald crime syndicate, Alice takes over. Fighting for power at every turn, she struggles to protect her father’s territory and keep the people she loves safe from some of London’s most dangerous criminals.
Recruited by the enigmatic Mary Carr, Alice boldly chooses to break her father’s edict against gangs and become part of a group of notorious lady shoplifters, the Forty Elephants. Leaving the Mint behind, she and the other girls steal from the area’s poshest department stores, and for the first time in her life, Alice Diamond tastes success. But it’s not long before she wants more—no matter the cost. And when her past and present collide, there’s no escaping the girl from the Mint.
Bledsoe's impressive debut draws on the true story of an all-female gang of thieves that operated in London from the late 19th century until the 1950s. Alice Diamond supports her family in 1920 by working two jobs. By day, she's a maid in the household of actor Pearl King, and by night, she serves cocktails at the 43 Club. Both positions are covers for larceny; Diamond is scheming to break into the Kings' safe, and she uses her looks to distract patrons of the club while she picks their pockets. Her life changes when her former best friend, Maggie Hill, shows up at the club, and the Forty Elephants, a theft ring comprising entirely women and which counts Maggie as a member, invites Diamond to join. She refuses, despite their promise of steady work and income, until her ne'er-do-well brother, Tommy, runs afoul of the vicious McDonald brothers, whom he stole from to get the funds to bribe a judge to spring Diamond and Tommy's father from prison. Diamond then joins the Forty Elephants, ostensibly on a temporary basis to help Tommy, while also trying to rescue Pearl from her abusive spouse. Bledsoe evokes the feel of the mean streets of London, and the desperation of those living there. Fans of intelligent historical fiction will be eager to see what Bledsoe does next. Agent: Carrie Pestritto, Laura Dail Literary.
Gangs of British Women Shoplifters
Women just as violent and criminal as men organized as shoplifters and plundered the stores in London. The book centers on Alice Diamond , one of the main gang leaders. The shocking thing is that it is actually based on a true person and true events. Can’t imagine why they didn’t get caught and put away early on, but apparently the gangs continued for years.