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One Puzzling Afternoon

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Member Reviews

Didn't finish this, was not at all what I expected from the synopsis. Certainly not bad, but don't feel that we need this in our collection.

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Extremely well done. One Puzzling Afternoon takes the story of Edie, told in two timelines, and makes it a one woman show. One storyline is when Lucy is a teenager in high school, the other when she is in her eighties and showing signs of dementia.

The story was a little bit of a slow start for me but by halfway through I was invested. Edie simply refuses to give up her search for answers about Lucy’s disappearance despite everyone around her dismissing her because of her condition.

I think the author did a great job and handled dementia with care. She showed how hard it can be to have the condition and to love someone who has it.

I don’t always gravitate to mysteries but I will absolutely be recommending this story to others—it’s a gem. Absorbing and absolutely underrated.

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A unique take on the elderly sleuth cozy mystery trope, with thoughtful things to say about memory and how the past interacts with the present.

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As publisher, I requested One Puzzling Afternoon for background reading for a review on BookBrowse. See link to the review

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I really enjoyed this bit of a unique spin on the dual timelines and unreliable narrator. I found it clever that the narrative moved fluidly through the timelines as it was playing out in Edie's mind - and the juxtaposition of her reliability in each timeline. I was sympathetic to Edie's character and appreciated her determination to "solve" the mystery of Lucy's disappearance amidst her growing awareness of her worsening dementia. Some twists and turns I didn't see coming for sure - and it held my attention right up to the final reveal.

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Have you ever had a memory so vivid you swear it just happened? That's the heart of One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley!

Edie, an octogenarian grappling with dementia, is haunted by a sighting of her childhood friend Lucy who vanished decades ago. But no one believes her, attributing it to her fading mind.

Determined to uncover the truth, Edie embarks on a journey through past and present, piecing together fragments of a long-buried secret. Is Lucy truly alive? What happened all those years ago? Can Edie solve the puzzle before it's too late?

This captivating novel is a mix of:

Mystery: Unravel the layers of suspense as Edie chases the truth amidst doubt and disbelief. ️‍♀️
Family drama: Explore the complex dynamics of family secrets and the impact they have across generations.
Coming-of-age: Witness Edie's personal growth as she confronts her past and rediscovers her strength.
Emotional journey: Prepare to be touched by Edie's resilience, vulnerability, and the bittersweet nature of memory.
If you enjoy:

Stories that twist and turn, keeping you guessing
Exploring the complexities of aging and memory
Characters who defy expectations and find new purpose
Heartfelt explorations of family and friendship
Then "One Puzzling Afternoon" is a must-read!

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Super dark, so you need to be in the right mood for this, but it works if you are! I love reading about forbidden relationships but could be a trigger for others!

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When your 84 year old memory is failing, how do you find a friend that went missing when you were 15?

One of the best books I have had the pleasure of reading. This move between the past and the present but does so flawlessly. Highly recommend this beautiful and at times heartbreaking debut book to anyone wanting a good story. Great selection for bookclubs.

I sincerely hope to see more by Emily Critchley as she has a gift.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the E-book advanced edition in exchange for my honest review.

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"Perhaps it's enough to be in this moment.”

My thoughts: This book was a great intriguing mystery with all the secrets close to bring completely forgotton, with the only person alive who knows them suffering with memory loss! This book had a different setting to it and characters you love and love to hate! I definitely suggest to check this one out! Please check for trigger warnings!

I give One puzzling afternoon by Emily Critchley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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In 1951, Edie Green lives in a small English town with her widowed mother, who conducts seances in the evenings to make ends meet. Edie is unpopular and lonely. When she sees something forbidden involving wealthy, pretty and popular Lucy, she mentions it to the girl. Immediately, Lucy brings Edie into her confidence. Edie is pleased to have a new friend, but the secret she knows starts to get out of hand. And then Lucy disappears.

In 2018, Edie is still living in the same small town. One day, she thinks she sees her old friend Lucy, and she can’t shake her worry about her. Whatever happened to her? The mystery has never been solved. While Edie is getting confused about a lot in her life, she knows this: she has to figure out what happened. She owes it to Lucy.

One Puzzling Afternoon is a mystery as well as a window into the mind of a woman with ever-worsening dementia. Edie is frustrating her family and befuddling strangers, and she is determined that her life is fine; they are all wrong about her memory. She is also very determined to make sure everyone listens to what she has to say about a 60-year-old case of a missing friend. If she could just remember…

The story alternates between the present and the past, as pieces of Edie’s memory are dislodged and float to the surface. This novel is billed as similar to Elizabeth Is Missing, which it is, but the difference is that in this book there’s no question that a character is missing, and in the other, it’s only the unreliable narrator who thinks the friend is missing. Both are good. I feel this was somewhat more straightforward, as it led toward a solid resolution of a mystery.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the eGalley to review!

I must warn readers first and foremost that a huge plot point for this story is a full-grown, married teacher having an "affair" with his 15-year-old student. Aside from the grooming and statutory rape, he's also emotionally abusive. There is also multiple kinds of abuse happening to Edie's mother by her stepfather, a section about abortion, and other traumas.

Other than that, this was an interesting read. It goes back and forth between 2018 with "present day" Edie and 1951 with fifteen-year-old Edie. 2018 Edie is an unreliable narrator, her dementia making her forget things immediately after telling them to us. Like I said, it's an interesting read, as it gives us a look into how this disease can affect the thought process. 1951 Edie remembers everything, telling us as though transcribed directly from her diary. She tells the events that happened up to Lucy's disappearance and afterwards straight and in a matter-of-fact way, while 2018 Edie is all over the place as she struggles to remember not just her attempts to remember what happened to Lucy nearly 70 years ago, but what happened literally a minute ago. She's trying desperately to solve her disappearance so she can prove that she's capable of continuing to live independently.

I had many theories as to what happened to Lucy, and while two of them turned out to be correct at the same time, the actual series of events is different than I had thought they'd go! It was actually quite surprising. I must admit, the first half of the book was quite slow and hard to get myself motivated to continue, but the second half I read all in one sitting. I just had to know if any of my theories were correct! As for the ending, I felt not upset, per se, but maybe sad. It's supposed to be an ending and epilogue with a happier note, but I just feel sad for Lucy.

So tl;dr, an interesting read, yes, but also a sad one. I'm glad to have read it, though.

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The day Edie saw Lucie Theddle, she started remembering the things she had forgotten. Lucie disappeared years ago when the girls were young, and now, at 82, Edie's dementia riddled brain sees Lucie and vows to tell the truth of what happens. If she can remember the secret she was keeping. As Edie's family begins making the painful decision to move Edie into their home and relocate, Edie is more determined than ever to maintain her independence and avenge her friend.

Told in the present with 82-year-old Edie suffering from dementia and in the past when teenage Edie was befriended by popular Lucie until her disappearance, the puzzle-piece flashes Edie remembers slowly come together and the whole truth is finally revealed regarding Lucie's untimely disappearance.

This was a fun, unique read. My heart broke for poor Edie and her family with the difficult decisions they are being forced to make, and for the burden of the secret she kept for all these years. Great read and an engaging story line.

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When Edie sees her friend Lucy Theddle outside the post office, confusion threatens to overwhelm her. The last time the 82 year old Edie saw her friend was when they were teenagers and yet, Lucy looks exactly the same as she did the day she disappeared. Determined to solve her friend’s disappearance before dementia strips away her remaining memories, Edie confides in her family, but quickly realizes she must uncover the mystery on her own.
One Puzzling Afternoon is told in a dual timeline between present day and the 1950s when Edie & Lucy’s friendship begins. Overall, I enjoyed the story and found Edie’s present-day plight against an unseen disease absolutely heart-wrenching, although Emily Critchley handled the topic well. This novel is perfect for those who enjoy a true mystery, a story that feels authentic from page one and a novel examining the bonds of friendship.
*Thank you to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for providing this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

**Review also posted to

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In 1951, fifteen-year-old Edie Green discovers a secret that initiates a tenuous friendship with popular Lucy Theddle. However, Lucy goes missing, and in 2018, eighty-four-year-old Edie spots her on the streets, unchanged since 67 years ago, prompting her to reopen the cold case despite her faltering memory.

The book's vibe captivated me from the start, with the dual timeline working seamlessly. The '50s atmosphere, viewed through Edie's innocent eyes, was perfectly captured. Edie's role as an unreliable narrator in 2018 added an intriguing layer.

All characters were uniquely crafted, displaying complex motivations and emotions, surrounded by a hint of mysticism that gave the narrative a fairytale quality. While the plot wasn't mind-blowing and the story's direction was predictable, it didn't diminish my enjoyment. The 1951 timeline held the most allure, although I anticipated the reveal in 2018 and looked forward to their convergence.

The pacing could have been adjusted slightly, offering more insight into Edie's home life and extending both timelines for a more comprehensive conclusion. Nevertheless, the characters and immersive setting made it an engaging read. I'd recommend it, especially to fans of historical young adult mysteries.

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"One Puzzling Afternoon" is a bittersweet tale of the lasting impact of early friendship across decades. There are two timelines, 1951 post-World War II and 2018. It begins with an unlikely friendship between two young girls. There is an affair between a schoolgirl and a married teacher with unseen repercussions, a girl gone missing and never found, and her best friend, now an old woman with dementia, who is convinced that the answers are buried in her somewhere. I recommend "One Puzzling Afternoon" to readers who enjoy mysteries and family dramas.

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I really liked Edie. Both her young and old versions. I just wanted to give her a hug. I appreciated looking through the world through Edie's memory confused eyes. My Mom has dementia and it allowed me to step into her shoes for a moment. I could relate to her son and granddaughter.

Told in dual timelines of the present when Edie is in her 80s and the past when she was just 15 and her friend went missing. In the present, Edie goes on a quest to find out what happened all those years ago. But she's at a disadvantage with her memory. I was wrapped up in the mystery and learning more about Edie's quirky and somewhat heartbreaking youth.

This was a great change of pace read for me.

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i enjoyed this book very much, loved the positive representation of mental disability, the beginning was a bit boring and the end needs a bit of work but overall it was a great book

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Set in 1951 and 2018 in a fictional English village, One Puzzling Afternoon unspools the events leading up to the disappearance of fifteen-year-old Lucy. The story’s told through patchy memories of Lucy’s friend Edie, now that Edie is eighty-two and suffering from dementia. Elderly Edie is suddenly struck by the need to find Lucy to demonstrate to her son that she is still capable of living independently. The reader stays sympathetic to Edie and her mystery-solving mission even while recognizing with growing certainty that Edie has already lost the battle for independence. But however irrational her justification to herself is, her need to know what happened to Lucy has a deeper, emotionally driven source that becomes more compelling as the novel proceeds. Critchley succeeds in depicting Edie’s dementia realistically, with all the inherent frustrations for her and everyone around her, while keeping the reader solidly on Edie’s side.

The twisty, emotionally complex, character-driven mystery at the novel’s heart provides page-turning forward momentum. The gentle, loving depiction of Edie, both as a lonely, wounded teenager and slipping adult, adds depth without cliché or oversimplification. Critchley explores the repercussions when a teenager compels a friend to keep a dangerous secret as well as the corroding effect of that promise as it ripples across Edie’s life, however well lived. A passage from the first chapter shows Critchley’s graceful style while introducing both these themes and the central focus on memory: “I…pop one of the tiny disks in my mouth. The taste is sweet and soapy. They remind me of spring flowers and warm days, of cycling down to the sea with the sun on my face, of secret whispers and kept promises.”

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While One Puzzling Afternoon is a graceful novel about cognitive deterioration, the story’s beauty is how it elegantly unpacks memory, friendship, and regret. Written by British novelist Emily Critchley, the story embraces the painful experience of dementia, its relentless ride through the grays of the world when colors have long ago disappeared.
Edie is in her eighties, has lived in Ludthorpe, England all her life, and has a “foggy brain.” It’s a struggle to remember the day-to-day details of her life and she resents her loss of independence. That a woman named Josie comes to help with household chores is one more thing to bristle at and her reaction is layered. When Edie feels like herself, she knows it won’t last.
One day during a bout of brain “fogginess” she sees her childhood best friend Lucy standing in front of the post office exactly as she appeared in 1951. But seeing Lucy isn’t possible.
Lucy disappeared at the age of sixteen when British girls either leave school for jobs and a husband, or continue with their education, perhaps to train to become a teacher. Before she could make that choice Lucy vanished and was never found despite a withering number of searches and posters and trying. Edie believes that seeing Lucy is an inheritance of her mother’s gift, the ability to speak with those who have passed. (Lucy’s mother Nancy was a grocery clerk by day and a medium at night.)
Author Emily Critchley prioritizes the polar ends of Edie’s life with alternate chapters: the teenager Edie in 1951 and the aged Edie in 2018. In 1951 Edie was a teenager, mostly an outsider, someone with few friends, who was often called “freak.” She was shy and insecure and punished for how her mother made money. One ordinary day Edie, who suffers from forgetfulness, realizes she has left a tea tin in one of her classes and she goes back to retrieve it.
Upon entry into her classroom when mostly everyone has gone home, she sees something forbidden. Lucy Theddle, the mayor’s daughter, is kissing their history teacher Mr. Wheaton. “If I walk quickly enough, I might just be able to erase what I’ve seen, because surely such things don’t happen in real life, not at Ludthorpe Grammar School for Girls, not to girls like Lucy Theddle.”
Tall, popular, perfect Lucy, a daughter of privilege, confesses to Edie that she and Mr. Wheaton are having an affair. Edie reminds her “He’s our teacher. He’s married.” But Lucy can’t be convinced her behavior is risky. She says that Max Wheaton adores her.
“I know we shouldn’t be doing it, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it is. I get this delicious pain in my stomach just thinking about him.” Not surprisingly, Lucy doesn’t feel sympathy for Mr. Wheaton’s wife and begs Edie to keep her secret, a promise that binds the two unlikely girls to one another.
Decades later Edie is lonely and confused as dementia’s grip on the mind is intractable. She wakes one morning and truly believes Lucy is in trouble. Desperate to save her, she walks to the house where Lucy once lived with her wealthy parents only to surprisingly discover new owners in residence. Feeling sorry for Edie, the new owners allow her inside despite the interruption of breakfast with their children. It is there that Edie looks down at herself and notices she is in her nightdress, she didn’t bother to wash and put on decent winter clothes.
One of the flaws of such a bittersweet story is that it doesn’t make the distinction between old age and dementia. There is a sense that Edie’s brain is a mess because she is old instead of her brain being a mess because of her addled neurons. She has a disease.
An easy read, One Puzzling Afternoon is page turning, enjoyable, and likeable as a novel. The quaint portrait of a small village not far from London with its shops and bakeries and the British Red Cross is the sweet part of the story. That Lucy disappears in such a small place magnifies the novel as a mystery. Where was Lucy?
For her part Critchley leaves nothing undone and nothing to guess at later. Her pace is exceptional as she unpeels the story of Edie which is also the story of her mother Nancy. All the pieces fit neatly. Lucy’s wealth and status. Edie’s insecurity and strange mother. A bully of a man, Lucy's stepfather, the only man in the story Lucy truly loathes. And the secret that keeps two girls bound to one another.
Where the sadness comes to play has to do with the brain and the flinty things it does to the elderly. As bemusing and sweet as Edie can be, as gentle and tender, she’s losing her memories and her sense of time and place, and it’s painful to experience, even as a reader, painful yet familiar. The experience of aged parents or grandparents who can no longer remember where they knew us from is heartbreaking. It is what makes One Puzzling Afternoon such an honest portrayal of a woman’s absent memory. Despite the fictional telling it feels, almost, like a cautionary tale of what possible may happen to those we love as they enter the last trimester of their life.

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ONE PUZZLING AFTERNOON is a mystery on a couple of different levels. The most obvious is the question of what happened to Lucy Theddle, who disappeared from her small British town in 1951. A more unusual mystery is that of what is happening in Edie Green's mind in 2018, as she tries to figure out where Lucy went all those years ago even as she descends deeper and deeper into dementia. Over the course of the book, we move between the two timeframes, as does Edie. She struggles to remember details from the past, as she harbors a belief that by solving Lucy's decades-old disappearance, she can convince her family that her mind is not in a "muddle." However, she IS truly in a muddle in 2018, making the sequences that take place in 1951 the only entirely clear narrative.

Edie and Lucy's friendship in the 50s is one between classes, and Lucy (upper class) befriends Edie (lower class) out of need for her silence and assistance. They become mutually interdependent, and the crossing of class lines ultimately results in the events behind Lucy's disappearance. In the two young girls and their relationship, Critchley creates strongly developed characters that we come to care about. Many of the supporting characters are wrought finely enough that they transcend their beginnings as simply background to the girls' stories. Others remain caricatures that help ground the book in its two time frames.

The book has a prologue/epilogue structure that seemed superfluous to me. As is often the case with books that begin with a prologue, I went back to reread it after finishing the book, and it made a great deal more sense read that way. It also included a nearly word-for-word copy of some of the text from the conclusion of the book. The epilogue jumps to 1954 and gives us an image of Edie after Lucy has disappeared. The epilogue works as a sort of bridge between the unreliability of witnesses after a disappearance and the unreliability of experience in dementia patients, but the author has already made her point effectively throughout the book.

I'm not sure that anyone truly knows what goes through the mind of a character who is losing their memory, but Critchley provides us with one possibility. Some of the writing about Edie's "muddles" is humorous at the start of the book, confusing in the middle, and comforting at the end. Critchley places us inside Edie's mind as she endures the flowing and mixing of threads from both her present life as an octogenarian and her past life as a teenager. It's a disorienting place to be, but one that ultimately results in the settling of the various puzzle pieces that have been bouncing around in Edie's mind into a clear picture of what happened to Lucy Theddle.

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