One Puzzling Afternoon – Emily Critchley | Book Review | #OnePuzzlingAfternoon | @EmilyMCritchley @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

A captivating mystery perfect for fans of Joanna Cannon and Elizabeth is Missing

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 . . .

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 . . .


My thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the tour invite and to the publisher for the review copy. This appealed straight away and I’m delighted to share my review today. One Puzzling Afternoon is published by Zaffre Books in ebook, audio and hardback (25 May) with the paperback following on 3 October 2023.

82 year old Edie has kept a secret for 67 years. The problem now is that she has forgotten that secret and needs to remember. As a 15 year old she had a friend, Lucy Threddle. Eddie has had a fleeting glance of Lucy outside the Post Office. But Lucy disappeared in 1951 and her whereabouts has remained a mystery ever since. Edie knows she must find out what happened to Lucy but with a failing memory, this is no easy task. Edie is determined to retain her independence and feels that if she can successfully solve the mystery, she will show that she is capable of remaining to live in her family home.

Emily Critchley’s debut adult novel moves effortlessly between two timelines – 1951 and 2018. We meet the two schoolgirls in 1951 at the beginning of their unlikely friendship which initially began as a result of a secret – Mayor’s daughter Lucy and Edie, the daughter of a seemingly fraudulent medium whose seances make Edie the butt of cruel bullying at school. The ups and downs of their friendship together with the family and personal dramas that both girls have to deal with make for such an engrossing story. The story is also a social commentary on life and choices, especially for women, in the 1950s.

One Puzzling Afternoon was such an engrossing read, especially the historical part where the lives and friendship of these two schoolgirls has a coming of age undercurrent combined with an intriguing mystery. Edie and Lucy were very different in personality but both so compelling on the page. I had my own theories about Lucy’s disappearance however I was blindsided by the final unexpected conclusion.

Edie’s distress over her memory issues are sensitively written as are the concerns of her family at her increasingly unpredictable behaviour. Having experience of a loved one with dementia I thought Edie’s first person voice extremely moving as she moves between lucidity and confusion.

It sounds wrong to say I enjoyed a story that focuses on such a devastating illness but the superb tender characterisation together with the intriguing mystery element just makes for a fantastic read. Beautifully written, this is one to recommend.


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.

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