One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley

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,

isolated life.

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

nominated author.


‘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.

20 Years of Writing Books!

In 2003, I self-published a collection of the poems I had written over the years. I had tried to interest a publisher, but they were very exact in their requirements, whereas I knew exactly which poems I wanted to publish. Mine are a mixture of rhythm and rhyme, on a variety of topics, and I was satisfied with my decisions. So to keep control, I turned to self-publishing through the website (

Over the years, I self-published these four books of poetry and/or short stories and also took the cover photos. From Darkness Through Light features a photo of my daughter Emilia, now finding fame as lead singer of The Menstrual Cramps.

As my parents were journalists, I have always found writing factual books much easier than fiction. I often wrote little bits for my local newspaper, school magazines and gymnastics magazines in the 1980s.

In 2010, my book Un-Conventional: 13 Years of Meeting the Stars of Doctor Who was published by Hirst Books and I toured it around the country, appearing at different Doctor Who events. I later wrote about this experience in the sequel The Other Side of the Table. In 2015, my biography of the actor Anthony Ainley The Man Behind The Master was published by Fantom Publishing, first in hardback then later in paperback and audiobook.

My main love in life is gymnastics, which I discovered through watching Nadia Comaneci and Elena Davydova at the 1980 Olympic Games when I was ten years old. I now run a 16,000 member group on Facebook called Gymnastics – A Golden Era which has many famous gymnasts in it, including Olga Korbut, Nellie Kim and Natalia Yurchenko.

Because of my contacts in the sport, I decided it would be a wonderful opportunity to combine my love of gymnastics, history and writing by interviewing gymnasts who had competed for their countries over the decades. After all, everyone has a story to tell. How did it feel to win Olympic gold? How did you feel when you got injured and missed the Olympics? The Gymnasts in Conversation series was born. Their words, their photos, their stories. Some gymnasts have told me it’s the first time they’ve ever been asked certain things and what a privilege it is to be able to get their story in print. For me, it’s the best job in the world!

When I was a child, I loved getting my copies of The Gymnast and International Gymnast magazines and read every page. So, as an adult, I decided to make my own magazine featuring gymnasts’ own photos, interviews and articles I had written about various competitions and events of the past. Classic Gymnastics magazine was the result. If you had told my teenage self that I’d be writing and publishing a gymnastics magazine in my fifties, she would have been cartwheeling for joy!

The only thing to elude me was writing a novel. I have written several half-novels over the years, before having a huge crisis of confidence and running away shouting “I’m rubbish! I can’t write!” and I have loads of ideas written in note form on my laptop.

But in 2021, I finally finished a whole novel, thanks to my wonderful supportive writing friends online (Abi Yardimci, Anita Faulkner, Chick Lit & Prosecco girls – you know who you are!) and watching loads of online author interviews. I followed the excellent advice of “Just write the damn thing!” (other expletives are available) and stuck to a minimum of writing 1,000 words a day, every single day.

Welcome to Whitlock Close was finally finished – a kind of soap opera in a book set in the 1980s in a cul-de-sac in a Lincolnshire village. I sent it out to some agents and publishers and got as far as one requesting to see a full manuscript, but after waiting a year without success, I decided it was time to self-publish and get it into the world. It came out in May 2022 and has some lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

This year, after doing a brilliant RNA online course with the outstanding Jessica Redland, I wrote my second novel Starting Again in Silver Sands Bay which came out in April 2023. I learnt so much from the course and this novel is a second chance romance between two single parents of eleven-year-old children. It takes place at the seaside and there are caravans, amusement arcades, cafes, a boating lake and the beach. It has lots of things going on, some drama and I have been told some readers have cried, but there are more laughs and a happy ending, so hopefully it’s a fun and uplifting read.

Out of all my books, I think I am most proud of these novels, because it took so long to get one finished and I had to work through so much. The inner critic has a lot to answer for! But I love it when people read my books and let me know what they think to them.

So, here are twenty years’ worth of my writing. Here’s to hopefully another twenty years or more. Oh and if anyone would like to offer me a publishing contract, let me know, ha ha!

Karen Louise Hollis xxx

A Stepney Girl’s Secret by Jean Fullerton

It is 1940. Prudence ‘Prue’ Carmichael is twenty-three years old and a vicar’s daughter. At the start of the book, we meet her and her family as they move house from rural Bedfordshire to London, where the Revd Hugh Carmichael is taking over a parish in Stepney. They move into St Winifred’s Rectory. Father David Harmsworth is the curate and also lives at the Rectory, where he is quickly enchanted by Prue.

Twenty-eight-year-old Jack Quinn works as an engineer on the London and North Eastern Railway. Despite his job being a reserved occupation, he applies to his manager every week to be allowed to leave and join the army. As soon as he hears the government asking for volunteers for the new Local Defence Volunteers, he signs up.

As Prue and Jack begin to fall for each other, will Jack’s past spoil things?

I got into the story right away and really liked Prue from the first page. I was interested in the story and the setting, especially with the family moving to London in the early part of World War II. I really liked the refugees moving in and finding out more about Prue’s developing friendships with the women of the area (especially Sister Martha) and at work.

Her dilemma over her suitors was well written too. While one is perfect for her on paper, he doesn’t make her world rock like the more unsuitable choice. What will happen? You have to read to find out.

I felt the book was very well-written, the historical aspect felt authentic and the story was well paced too. I was happy to read this book, found it very enjoyable and I look forward to reading more in the Stepney Girls series.


A Stepney Girl’s Secret

A brand new heart-warming and atmospheric saga fiction series from Jean Fullerton, charting the loves, hopes and heartaches of three women who move into a rectory in Stepney, East London during WW2.

East London, 1940. At the outbreak of war, hopeless romantic Prue Carmichael and her sister must leave their rural parish behind when their father is posted to a church in Stepney. To Prue, the blitz-ravaged streets of London seem an unlikely place for love to bloom – until a chance encounter throws rakish engineer Jack Quinn into her path. But as their connection deepens, his troubled past begins to emerge, and Prue realises Jack has secrets to hide . . .

Luckily, in between starting work at a railway yard and helping her mother house Jewish refugees in the parish, Prue manages to keep her mind off love and on the wartime effort. However, Jack isn’t the only man who’s fallen for Prue – and when he is recruited into Churchill’s secret underground army, an unexpected suitor offers a fresh distraction.

As air raid sirens sound and the Battle of Britain rages overhead, Prue Carmichael must face some of the greatest horrors of her young life. Meanwhile, she is waging her own battle – the fight between her heart and her head . . .

Amidst the ruins of war, will Prue and Jack’s love find a way to flourish?

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US –

Author Bio – Born and bred in East London Jean was a District Nurse by trade and ended her thirty-year career in health care as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies in London Southbank University.

She had published twenty sagas all set in East London with both Orion and Atlantic the most recent of which is the highly successful Ration Book series. She has also recently released her autobiography A Child of the East End.

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Preloved by Lauren Bravo

Released 27th April 2023 | Hardcover | £14.99 @laurenbravo #Preloved


Gwen is in her thirty-eight years old, newly unemployed and trying to work out what to do with her life. She decides to volunteer in her local charity shop, where she meets a lot of interesting people and encounters many interesting items. The characters are beautifully described, especially Suze, Gwen’s childhood best friend. I really liked Gwen and could understand her confidence issues.

In-between the main story, we have little vignettes telling the back stories of some of the items brought into the charity shops. These are beautifully written and often thought-provoking. I thought the Scrabble one was particularly poignant. These are often linked to the main story, so note the characters’ names.

The writing style is clever, observant and witty. I’m sure Lauren Bravo knows my mother, because she’s uncannily similar to Gwen’s mum Marjorie! Her character descriptions are astute and sensitive and each one comes to life from her words.

I also love charity shops and the novel very cleverly shows how multi layered they are – there’s the back story of the item and its owner, there’s what it means to the charity shop workers (how high they price it, where they put it, etc.) and then it’s new life when another owner buys it. Plus the whole theme of recycling! The proof copy of the book I received was fully recyclable, though I have no plans to do that at all, I shall pass it to my family members to read and enjoy.

The story covers lots of topics like loss, bereavement, family relationships, romantic relationships (or lack of) and finding your way in life. So many themes are interwoven in this novel, there is plenty to think about on the pages and it is a story that will stay with you after reading the book.


Gwen’s life has stalled. She’s in her mid-thirties, perpetually single, her friends are busy procreating in the country and conversations with her parents seem to revolve entirely around herbaceous borders and the council’s wheelie-bin timetable. Above all she’s lonely. But then, isn’t everyone?

When Gwen’s made redundant from a job she drifted into a decade ago and never left, she realises it’s time to make a change. Over what might be the best – and most solitary – meal she’s ever eaten, Gwen vows to find something meaningful to do with her life, reconnect with her family and friends – and finally book herself a dentist appointment. Her search for meaning soon leads her to volunteer in a local charity shop where she both literally and metaphorically unloads her emotional baggage.

With the help of the weird and wonderful people she meets in the shop and the donated items bursting with untold stories that pass through its doors, Gwen must finally address the events and choices that led her to this point and find a way to move forward with bravery, humanity and more regular dental care.

Brimming with life, love and the stories bound up in even the most everyday items, Preloved is a tale about friendship, loss, being true to oneself no matter the expectations – and the enduring power and joy of charity shops.


Lauren Bravo is a freelance journalist who writes about fashion, popular culture, food, travel and feminism, for publications including Grazia, Refinery29 UK, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, easyJet Traveller, Time Out, Delicious, the Telegraph and the Guardian.

She is the author of two non-fiction books, What Would the Spice Girls Do? (2018) and How To Break Up With Fast Fashion (2020).

Lauren lives in East London, and Preloved is her debut novel.

Find out more on her website

The Librarian by Valerie Keogh

I have previously read The Widow and The Lodger by Valerie Keogh and was excited to read another of her books – The Librarian – which is her latest release.

We first meet 29-year-old Ava Warrington when she is babysitting for her sister Judy and her husband Harris’s children – their son Cody and daughter Melissa. The next day, Ava is talking to her friend Poppy about how often her sister takes advantage of her and Poppy tells her she must start to say no. We discover the same is happening at work. Ava is head librarian at the Tate Modern.

When Ava and Poppy go to a restaurant together, Ava feels ill and leaves early, but is asked to go for a drink with a handsome stranger. Recalling her discussion with Poppy about being a pushover, she repeatedly tells him no, she doesn’t want to. As she walks away from him, he warns her “You’ll be sorry.”

Following this, strange things keep happening to Ava and she wonders if Bistro Man (as she calls him) is behind it all…

The start of the novel immediately draws you in and you feel Ava’s anxiety and tension. When you read that something happened a decade before at University, involving a man called Simon Loder, it is intriguing and you want to find out more about this secret Ava is carrying.

There’s a constant kind of tension and unease about the story, which makes you feel unsettled. It keeps you reading to find out what is happening and find the answers to all the many questions. I really felt sorry for Ava and wanted her to have a happy ending, but also knew she was keeping secrets of her own which would have to come out sometime too…


The Librarian

Since that fateful night I have always kept myself to myself. Reserved. Private. Alone.

Some people think I am too quiet. That life is passing me by. But I know there is safety in my own company. That no one can hurt me if I don’t let them get too close.

Until the day I meet him. A handsome, charming stranger. A chance for me to take a risk…finally?

Or a man who threatens everything I’ve worked so hard for?

You’ll be sorry…

And that’s when my whole life begins to fall apart….

Don’t miss the brand new thriller by Valerie Keogh! Perfect for fans of Sue Watson, Shalini Boland and K.L. Slater.

Purchase Link –  

Author Bio –

Valerie Keogh is the internationally bestselling author of several psychological thrillers and crime series, most recently published by Bloodhound. She originally comes from Dublin but now livesin Wiltshire and worked as a nurse for many years. Her first thriller for Boldwood will be published in August 2022.

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Death on Cromer Beach by Ross Greenwood

This is the first in the new DS Knight series by Ross Greenwood and was published by Bookouture on April 26th, 2023.

The book begins in early April. Dora Thorne and her chihuahua Happy are having their regular walk along the beach when they stumble across something unexpected… Well, it was definitely an interesting start to the story, as it makes you want to read on and find out what has happened.

The setting of Cromer in Norfolk is a great place for a novel. You think of a pretty seaside place, which contrasts well with the murders that happen there.

Detective Sergeant Ashley Knight is the main character here and her partner is new guy Detective Sergeant Hector Fade. We get to know the main members of the police team throughout the book, building up a picture of their professional lives and glimpses into their private lives. I enjoyed this aspect of it and also many of the other characters. I especially loved Geoffrey the fisherman and Ashley’s elderly neighbour Arthur.

I loved how the investigation developed, trying to pick up the clues and work out who the murderer is. As you’d expect from this genre of book, the story is full of twists and turns. It’s also very well-paced and exciting, but you get chance to know the characters too, it isn’t just action by any means.

I was happy to keep reading and stayed up late two consecutive nights to find out what was going to happen next. It didn’t disappoint! I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series.


Death on Cromer Beach

A brutal double murder on a Norfolk beach horrifies the town of Cromer. The way the victims died is chilling and so Norfolk’s Major Investigation Team task DS Ashley Knight to manage the case.

It soon becomes clear that the murders were carefully planned and the finger of suspicion points to an organised crime gang, but as the evidence mounts, a far more sinister theory emerges.

Ashley has been allocated a young but opinionated partner in Hector Fade, and sparks soon fly. Annoyingly for Ashley, Hector is no pushover and looks destined for great things.  When the pair delve into the case, they struggle to understand who would inflict such suffering on their victims and hope the crime is a one off from a deranged and dangerous individual. But then another body is found.

There’s a killer on the loose who wants them to believe that the beach has a memory. They must be caught, or others will meet their end by the sea.

Purchase Link –

Author Bio –

Ross Greenwood is the author of crime thrillers. Before becoming a full-time writer he was most recently a prison officer and so worked everyday with murderers, rapists and thieves for four years. He lives in Peterborough.

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The Scottish Ladies’ Detective Agency by Lydia Travers

This book is described as “A gripping cozy mystery set in the Highlands” and is published by Bookouture. This is the first book in the series.

The story begins in Edinburgh in August 1911. Twenty-five-year-old Maud McIntyre and her lady’s maid Daisy Cameron (24) have just set up their detective agency. After a spate of jewellery robberies in country house parties, their first case involves attending one of these parties at Duddingston House to hopefully prevent another theft. But when a crime happens, there’s a murder to solve.

The book feels well-researched and the time period feels authentic. It’s interesting to see the sexism of the time and how some people feel a woman couldn’t be a detective. I found it slightly overly descriptive at times, especially regarding the clothes people were wearing, but that’s just my taste, not a big criticism.

I liked the main characters. Maud and Daisy are very believable and I enjoyed the dynamic between them. They are both strong, female characters and feisty before their time, which is fun to read about and I enjoyed seeing how they had to rein themselves in at times.

I enjoyed the way the novel combined several different things they were asked to solve and the big denouement at the end. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series soon.

8 out of 10


When Maud McIntyre sets up her own private detective agency, she never imagines her first case will involve murder… A mystery in the Highlands? The Scottish Ladies’ Detective Agency is on the case!

Edinburgh, 1911: When Maud McIntyre and her lady’s maid, Daisy, form a detective agency, they never dream their first case will take place at a glamorous house in the Scottish Highlands. But when the Duchess of Duddingston, concerned that a notorious jewellery thief will target her lavish weekend party, employs Maud to go undercover as a guest to find the culprit, the agency has its first case to solve…

Undercover with Daisy as her maid, Maud follows a trail of clues across the Duddingston House estate. And as she meets the weekend guests, she hopes one of them will reveal themselves as the jewellery thief. But when one of the house guests is discovered dead, Maud and Daisy realise they’re not only hunting precious gems, but a murderer…

As Maud and Daisy investigate, they realise that a connection in Edinburgh might hold a vital clue that will help them solve the case. Travelling back to the city, Maud hopes that what she and Daisy uncover will help them piece together the murder mystery at Duddingston House…

But when Maud receives a telephone call from the Duchess requesting urgent assistance, she realises that the murderer didn’t have just one victim in mind. Speeding down the drive to Duddingston House, Maud and Daisy hear gunshots ring out across the estate. Will they reach the Duchess in time to save her? And will they catch the murderer in the act?

PROMO : Conviction by Jack Jordan

I am so excited about this book coming out! I loved Jack Jordan’s novel Do No Harm and you can read my review here –

It is one of the best books I have read in a long time and I have already pre-ordered Conviction, which I am sure will be equally as good. It is out on June 22nd.

The blurb sounds brilliant!


Wade Darling stands accused of killing his wife and teenage children as they slept before burning the family home to the ground. 
When the case lands on barrister Neve Harper’s desk, she knows it could be the career making case she’s been waiting for. But only if she can prove Wade’s innocence. 

A matter of days before the case, as Neve is travelling home for the night, she is approached by a man. He tells her she must lose this case or the secret about her own husband’s disappearance will be revealed.
Failing that, he will kill everyone she cares about until she follows orders.
Neve must make a choice – betray every principle she has ever had by putting a potentially innocent man in prison, or risk putting those she loves in mortal danger.

For fans of Steve Cavanagh, Linwood Barclay and Gillian McAllister, introducing the latest novel from the master of the moral dilemma, Jack Jordan.


‘When you pick up a book to read the first page and then can’t put it down . . . ‘ SARAH PEARSE 

‘Thriller fans will be in heaven’ LOUISE CANDLISH

Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer

We meet 29-year-old Isaac Addy when he is standing on a bridge in the cold, deciding whether or not to jump off it. When he hears a strange scream from the nearby woods, he goes to investigate and finds a giant egg.

I don’t want to tell you anything else about the story itself. You really need to read it, because it’s beautiful. It’s sad, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, it’s very poignant. The idea of a grieving man on one sofa, a strange egg creature on the other, is both bizarre and emotional. Two lonely things supporting each other from a distance. I have never read anything quite like it. It is unique.

It definitely has a kind of fairytale element to it and it’s a book I think readers will remember, long after they have finished the final page. It has a kind of comforting presence to it – the book, the story, the characters. Some people describe a good novel as a “hug in a book” but this is more like a therapy session in a book, in the best possible way. If you have ever suffered grief, agoraphobia or depression, you will find things here that resonate with you.

Egg is adorable. I think I may have fallen in love with it a bit. I guess this is a book where it could be allegorical and you can see the egg as other things, maybe the personification of Isaac’s grief, but I’ll let you decide that when you read it. For me, I just took the egg at face value and loved it for what it was. A whole lot of egg and a whole lot of heart. And a side order of burnt baked beans.

As for this book. “Beep oh bah wom?” (Keep or pass on?) Definitely BEEP! This is the kind of book that could save the world – one soul at a time.

Perfection. 10 out of 10.





‘Truly one of the most beautiful stories you’ll ever read’ Joanna Cannon

‘Mad, sad and funny’ Patrick Gale

Heartbreaking and heart-stealing, this bestselling modern-day fable is an unforgettable novel about sorrow, joy, friendship and love.

When Isaac Addy walks into the woods on the worst day of his life and finds something extraordinary there, he already knows he’s going to take it home.

A grieving Isaac and his curious new friend are unlikely companions. They don’t even speak the same language. But their chance encounter will transform Isaac’s life in ways he cannot yet imagine.

And maybe he will finally be able to tell the truth.

Sometimes, to get out of the woods, you have to go into them. Isaac and the Egg is one of the most hopeful, honest and wildly imaginative novels you will ever read.


‘I read it in one breath… true and tragic and funny and hopeful and big – big enough somehow to contain all of our stories and all of our lives inside it’ JOANNA GLEN

‘I laughed, I cried, I sat quietly and thought about what I’d read… a future classic’ CLARE MACKINTOSH

‘This book is just magic’ KATE SAWYER

‘A tender, funny and surprising meditation on grief and hope . . . like nothing I’ve ever read before’ STYLIST

‘Fresh, original and beautifully written’ RUTH HOGAN

‘An utter sparkler of a novel… highly imaginative, extremely funny and profoundly empathetic’ SUNDAY INDEPENDENT

‘Will stay with me for a long time’ MARK WATSON

‘Heart-wrenching yet oddly soothing, this is utterly beautiful’ PRIMA ‘Book of the Month’


‘An extraordinary story . . . brimming with magic and – perhaps most importantly hope’ GLAMOUR

‘Wonderfully playful… exquisitely written’ i NEWS

‘A mesmerising debut, capturing everything that’s funny and sad about real life’ DAVID WHITEHOUSE

‘Moving and clever… Although it starts with a death and darkness, it’s a story of hope and embracing newness’ JUSTIN MYERS, THE GUYLINER

‘Clever and imaginative’ WOMAN & HOME

‘Quirky and raw’ GRAZIA

‘Measured, comic and moving… A sad, funny and original novel about grief, loss and embracing change’ DAILY MAIL

‘One of the most eagerly awaited books of the year . . . an incredibly moving and at times heartbreaking – and sometimes funny – book’ HELLO!

‘A strange but beautiful tale about grief, which can make you laugh and cry all on the same page’ IRISH EXAMINER

‘A bold, beautiful undertaking’ POORNA BELL

‘Bizarre, beautiful and like nothing else I’ve ever read’ ANNIE LORD

The Lost Daughters of Ukraine by Erin Litteken

One of the best books I read last year was The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken, so when I heard she had a new book out, I really wanted to read it. This is a sequel in some respects, as Katya and Alina from the first book are included (Katya is Halya’s mother), but it’s easy to read as a standalone, as these stories are self-contained and set in a later time period.

The story follows the lives of three daughters of Ukraine – Liliya, Halya and Vika.

It begins with Liliya in Soviet Ukraine, June 1941. She is fifteen years old and lives with her parents. She is with her eighteen-year-old brother’s dead body. The Soviets have occupied Ukraine for two years and this is just one thing Liliya hates them for. They are also under attack from Nazi Germany.

We then move forward in time to August 1941 and meet Halya who is in Kyiv, Soviet Ukraine. She is nine years old and overhears her parents talking about Stalin’s scorched earth policy. She likes climbing her favourite tree and reading her poetry book there.

Finally, we meet Vika in December 1941, in Volhynia, Reichkommisariat Ukraine, controlled by the German Army. Vika is married to Maksym and they have three children – Slavko (12), Sofia (10) and Bohdan (8). After Liliya moved to Kholm, Vika and her family moved into their house.

We follow these three girls through the 1940s.

The characters in this book are beautiful – such strong women, all dealing with the worse situations of war, grief, loss and fear. Their whole lives are torn apart, yet they go on. So inspirational. Although a work of fiction, the author says parts of the story are based on the experience of her own family and the realism shines through.

While parts of the novel are violent, depressing, terribly sad and incredibly unfair, this isn’t the main thing you feel while reading it. The themes of war and death are alongside strong, positive themes of family and love and these bring joy into the story. Despite everything, parents look after their children and people fall in love.

It is an emotional read and not an easy one, but it is well worth the effort because it feels an important story and one which really brings the history of Ukraine to life. While they are currently at war, thanks to Putin, this reminds us how badly they have been treated in the past by the Soviet Union as well as by Nazi Germany and Poland. But it also beautifully illustrates the braveness and resilience of the Ukrainian people.


The Lost Daughters of Ukraine

A story of the strength of the human spirit, the personal cost of conflict and how love can be found even in the darkest times.

Summer 1941. War rages in Europe. The Germans march towards Ukraine. Halya, Liliya and Vika are no strangers to sorrow. They lost family during the Holodomor, loved ones in Stalin’s purges, and war looms once more on the horizon.

Vika lives in fear for her children. She and her sister survived the terror famine by leaving their whole family behind. Now, years later, many believe the Germans will free them from the Soviets, but she’s not so sure. Should they stay in Volhynia or flee the approaching Eastern front?

Liliya has lost too much in her 17 years. As those around her join the resistance, Liliya wonders how she can fight for her friends, family, and country. When the choice is made for her, can she find the will to survive and protect those still with her?

Twelve-year-old Halya is struggling to discover who she is. But as the war escalates, can her mother Katya’s tactics keep her safe from the Nazi soldiers rounding up slave laborers? How can a child survive the horrors of war on her own?

These daughters of Ukraine will face devastation and loss as they fight to survive and protect the ones they love.

A gripping page-turner of love, loss and resilience for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

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Author Bio –

Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children.

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