One Puzzling Afternoon – The most compelling debut reading group mystery of 2023 – by Emily Critchley
After an intriguing prologue, the action begins in 2018. Edie Green is now eighty four years old and needs to find out what happened to her friend Lucy Theddle, who has been missing for sixty years.
We also follow events happening back in 1951, when Edie and Lucy were teenagers, both attending Ludthorpe Grammar School for Girls. Edie lives with her mother and later a not very nice stepfather.
Edie is a wonderful character. I loved finding out about her childhood and teenage years in the 1951 chapters and comparing them with elderly Edie in 2018. As you might expect from someone in their eighties, she’s a bit wobbly, a bit deaf and her memory’s not what it used to be. She is very endearing and you admire her resilience as she tries to solve a mystery she can only partly recall the details of.
I got into the book straight away. It’s a great idea for a book and Emily Critchley’s writing is a delight! It’s a gentle read but there’s so much going on. I absolutely loved it! I was invested in finding out what happened to Lucy too, coming up with various theories while reading the book.
This novel is a rather special one, I think it will stay with me for a long time. It pulls you in and you experience all sorts of feelings and emotions while reading it. Edie is a typical unreliable author and you aren’t quite sure what she is remembering, as her memory isn’t so good these days. But you desperately want her to find out the answers before it’s too late.
A truly beautiful, wonderful, enchanting read and Edie must be one of my favourite characters I have ever found in a book.
On a suburban street filled with secrets, 84 year old Edie Green must look back into
the past to discover what happened to her friend Lucy, who went missing years
before . . .
A mystery she can’t remember. A friend she can’t forget.
I kept your secret Lucy. I’ve kept it for more than sixty years . . .
It is 1951, and at number six Sycamore Street fifteen-year-old Edie Green is lonely.
Living alone with her eccentric mother – who conducts seances for the local
Ludthorpe community – she is desperate for something to shake her from her dull,
When the popular, pretty Lucy Theddle befriends Edie, she thinks all her troubles
are over. But Lucy has a secret, one Edie is not certain she should keep . . .
Then Lucy goes missing.
2018. Edie is eighty-two and still living in Ludthorpe. When one day she glimpses
Lucy Theddle, still looking the same as she did at fifteen, her family write it off as
one of her many mix ups. There’s a lot Edie gets confused about these days. A lot
she finds difficult to remember. But what she does know is this: she must find out
what happened to Lucy, all those years ago . . .
A darkly compelling treat, One Puzzling Afternoon is an irresistible small-town
mystery for fans of Elizabeth is Missing, Joanna Cannon and Small Pleasures
by Clare Chambers.
A captivating debut adult novel from the Carnegie and Branford Boase prize
‘Completely captivating. A real page turner. Eighty-two year old Edie is a
wonderful protagonist, desperate to solve the mystery of her friend’s
disappearance sixty years earlier.’ – Louise Hare
‘Marvellous . . . a special gem of a book, a perfectly executed double timeline
mystery with a twist you don’t see coming. One Puzzling Afternoon has one of the
most unusual and endearing protagonists in recent crime fiction. In this dual
time-line novel, Emily Critchley wonderfully weaves together a modern crime
narrative with the sunny, idyllic childhood memories of her protagonist. Post-war
nostalgia is perfectly evoked – until the darkness at the edges of Edie’s and Lucy’s
story draws is quickly like a summer storm. As Edie slowly unveils the lies and
secrets surrounding Lucy’s disappearance, she must confront difficult memories of
her own childhood, and the terrors it held. One Puzzling Afternoon is a dark and
delightful lock box of riddles, secrets and memories. A spellbinding novel that
enchants and unnerves in equal measure.’ – Inga Vesper, author of The Long, Long
‘An uplifting, bittersweet story with a page-turning mystery at its heart. Emily
Critchley writes about ageing and memory with huge warmth and compassion,
and I was drawn in to Edie’s world from the very first page. A beautifully
atmospheric and endearing book.’ – Freya Sampson
Emily Critchley grew up in Essex. She has lived in Brighton and London and now
lives in Hertfordshire where she works as a librarian.
She has a first class BA in Creative Writing from London Metropolitan University and an
MA with distinction in Creative Writing from Birkbeck University of London.
Her YA debut Notes on my Family was nominated for the Carnegie, long listed for the
Branford Boase, and book of the week in the Sunday Times, and her middle grade novel The
Bear who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg was published in October 2021, both by
independent publisher Everything With Words.
One Puzzling Afternoon is her debut adult novel.