Elizabeth is Missing, first published in 2014, was the first novel by Emma Healey. It became a Sunday Times bestseller, and won the Costa First Novel award. The book earned much critical acclaim - not least from the late, great Ruth Rendell. Rendell said, "I've never read anything quite like it", and this was not a double-edged choice of phrase. It really is a terrific novel.
I suppose you'd call it a mainstream work of fiction, but it's also, arguably, a crime novel. It's a story told in the first person by Maud, an elderly woman who is suffering memory loss. Maud lives in her own house, but her forgetfulness is starting to become a real cause of concern to her daughter, who overcomes many frustrations and treats her mother, at least for the vast majority of the time, with a good deal of kindness. But we also see how challenging it can be to cope with a loved one who is ageing in this way. The patience of a saint is sometimes required, and very few of us are saints.
Maud has become concerned that her friend Elizabeth can't be found, but she can't get anyone to take her seriously. As she frets about Elizabeth's absence, her mind goes back to her youth, and the disappearance of her older sister. It seems that people suspected that her sister was murdered, and there is more than one possible culprit, but the mystery was never solved.
When I read this book, I didn't regard it first and foremost as a crime story. It's simply a great piece of writing about a wonderfully realised character and her life. At times I found it almost unbearably poignant. Suffice to say that it's one of the most impressive novels I've read in the past few years. I don't know how Emma Healey is going to surpass it, but I'll be fascinated to read her next book. She has tremendous talent.