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Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey, Viking, RRP£12.99, 288 pages
Eighty-two-year-old Maud knows that her friend Elizabeth is missing but her severe dementia means that she can’t remember much from minute to minute. Hampered by her ailing memory, she sets out to investigate her friend’s disappearance, much to her long-suffering daughter’s annoyance. In the process, she is sparked into a recollection of her own childhood when her sister, Sukey, also vanished in unusual circumstances.
As Maud scribbles notes to herself (“coffee helps memory”; “no more peach slices”; “where is Elizabeth?”) that confuse rather than enlighten her investigation, a gripping plot unfolds that is part thriller, part crime novel with a literary sensibility.
Emma Healey’s much hyped novel is acutely observed. Maud is carefully and deftly drawn and the bleakness that underlies the novel is leavened by gentle humour. A tremendous debut that deserves its plaudits.