This is the first book I read in what I consider ‘summer mode’. Do you find your reading tastes/expectations change when summer comes around? I do. I want to read mysteries, YA, contemporary more than classics and the ‘buzz’ books of the season. I think it’s all so fun. Elizabeth is Missing is definitely a buzz book. I’ve been hearing good things about it for months now and it is the #1 LibraryReads pick for June.
The entire novel is told from the viewpoint of Maud, a woman in her seventies who has dementia. Is she the ultimate unreliable narrator or is her friend Elizabeth really missing? She hasn’t seen her friend in months and on the many notes she keeps to jog her memory she finds she’s written the phrase ‘Elizabeth is missing’ over and over again. She tells her frustrated daughter Helen, calls Elizabeth’s son in the middle of the night, even goes to the police department many times to report the disappearance. In the midst of her forgetting and then suddenly remembering that she doesn’t know where Elizabeth is, her mind dwells in the past, in her teenage years.
Maud was a teen during the post-war years in England when her young married sister Sukey disappeared from home. She and her parents searched and waited, always suspecting Sukey’s husband of hurting her, yet there was no evidence and he seemed just as devastated as they were. The police believed Sukey purposefully ran away and couldn’t devote any man hours to investigating.
As the two parts of Maud’s memory weave together, seamlessly moving forward, there is doubt that these events are true. Did Sukey really disappear, is Elizabeth missing? After all, Maud can’t even remember where she is half the time – is she accurately portraying these dismaying events?
This is a clever and very tightly written novel that propels the reader forward, desperately wondering if either or both of these mysteries will be solved. Though it’s much slower paced than a typical mystery novel it summons just as much suspense and that eerie and subtle feeling of dread that the best thrillers contain. I marvel at Healey’s ability to make both the past and present storylines compelling and to create such smoothly flowing transitions between them.
Elizabeth is Missing was a great start to my summer reading. It will be published this week in the UK and Australia and next week in the US.
Do you already have plans for your summer reading?