For a debut novel, Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing is remarkable. The book combines understanding and empathy for dementia with mystery and suspense. Maud Horsham is in her 80’s and while still living in her own home with the assistance of her daughter and a daily caregiver, she struggles with the challenges of memory loss and confusion associated with geriatric dementia. She writes copious sticky notes to herself which she stuffs into her pockets to prompt her memory while her caregiver and daughter leave similar notes stuck to walls and doors around the house to help Maud retain a sense of reality and perspective.
When Maud cannot contact her only remaining friend, Elizabeth, she enters a world of fear, confusion and frustration when no one takes her concerns seriously. She has stopped by Elizabeth’s house, contacted Elizabeth’s son, gone to the police and even placed an ad in the local paper to help locate her friend. This loss is tumbled in her brain with the loss of her beloved only sister Suki after World War II, a disappearance that was never adequately explained.
The early half of the book was at times a bit slow as the reader wades through lengthy internal dialogues Maud engages in to try to make sense of her thoughts and actions. While I understand it is all part of setting the scene, I became frustrated at times with the lack of progress. This little stumble in my opinion is minor compared with the overall cleverness of the plot. It was a fast read and as it picked up momentum toward the end I couldn’t put it down. I’d give it eight out of 10.