Elizabeth is Missing is a quirky and unusual book, which manages to be funny, engaging and emotional, as well as real page-turner.
Maud is forgetful. She puts things down and can’t remember where she left them. Or even what they are. She digs up gardens with her bare hands and doesn’t know why. She asks questions about marrows and reads roadsigns out loud. Sometimes her daughter seems like a complete stranger.
Maud doesn’t know much. But she does know that Elizabeth is missing. It says so on a note in her pocket. Nobody else seems to realise or even care, but Maud is determined to find Elizabeth. If only she could remember things for more than a minute…
This is a beautifully written book about old age and a failing mind. Written from Maud’s point of view, it flicks seamlessly from life in the present day to her childhood – as memories of the past get triggered by her daily life. Sometimes she forgets who she is and where she is, as her mind flits backwards and forwards and her daughter becomes her mother and then a complete stranger.
She may be confused, but Maud is slowly piecing together the answer to a long-forgotten mystery. Is it really Elizabeth that is missing and will anyone listen to Maud and help her get to the bottom of a seventy-year-old case?
This is a brilliant book, which could be disturbing, but isn’t because the writer, Emma Healey, respects the character of Maud rather than makes fun of her.
It is a crime novel without the drama, which should appeal to readers of literary, crime and humorous novels.
Elizabeth is Missing is Emma Healey’s first novel and a worthy winner of the Costa First Novel Award in 2014.