I look around the room . . . “Elizabeth is missing,” I say.
“When it was the Chophouse. For lunch.”
“Her phone rings and rings.”
“The Chophouse. Remember? Oh never mind.”
Helen sighs. She’s doing a lot of that lately . . . I know what she is thinking. That I’ve lost my marbles, that Elizabeth is perfectly well at home and I just don’t remember having seen her recently. But it’s not true. I forget things – I know that – but I’m not mad. Not yet.’
In Emma Healey’s ingenious crime novel, Elizabeth is Missing, Maud is suffering from dementia, and it is by no means clear that Elizabeth really is missing. Through no fault of her own Maud is the ultimate unreliable narrator. There are huge gaps in her recent memory and yet events of seventy years ago when her sister disappeared are recalled in brilliant detail.
It’s a great idea, but an idea isn’t enough: it has to be well executed and this one is. We witness Maud’s increasing and painful confusion in the present as she slowly unravels the events of the past. The novel is gripping, sad, very well written and cleverly plotted – and, yes, I wish I’d thought of it!