Member Reviews

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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I really enjoy books with a dual timeline, and reading Edie's life both as an elderly woman struggling with memory loss, and the young Edie who befriended Lucy prior to her disappearance in the early 1950's was interesting and intriguing. Racing against time before all her memories are gone, Edie wants to solve the mystery of her missing friend. Clues were paced well in each chapter, but I did think the pace of the story itself was a little slow at times. Overall, this was a solid read, but just not my personal favorite.

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Today, eighty-four yr old Edie Havercroft is clearly entering the throes of dementia, but she’s started remembering parts of an incident relating to her then 15 yr old friend Lucy disappearance in 1951. Her family thinks with her current mental state that she’s just confused, but Edie is sure she knows something about what happened. A page-turner for sure.

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Edie Green is 84 and suffering from dementia. She has started to see her friend from childhood, Lucy Theddle around town. Lucy disappeared when they were children and the case was never solved. Whether it's the dementia or knowing her time with her memories is limited, seeing Lucy has brought back some stories from the past. Now Edie is determined to find out what happened to Lucy so many years ago. I really liked Edie and how the people she's close to try and help her. The mystery itself was a little predictable to me. I also question why Edie would wait so many years to dig into the past. But overall it was a quick and enjoyable read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me a digital review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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2018 - Edie has started losing bits of memory, a word here, a name there, why she is in the kitchen and did she eat breakfast. But even as she loses more and more of these moments, her memories of the day her best friend, Lucy, disappeared 67 years ago begin to return after she is sure she sees her on the street although still young. Now, as so much of her life is fading, she is determined to find Lucy.

1951 - Edie is fifteen years old. She is a shy girl without friends, often bullied by the other girls. One day, she accidentally witnesses another girl’s secret. The girl. Lucy, is very popular so just knowing her secret makes Edie feel closer to her. She usually eats her lunch alone but, when she arrives at her usual spot, she finds Lucy there. They strike up a conversation and the pair become unlikely best friends. Soon, Edie becomes the keeper of all Lucy’s secrets right up until the day of Lucy’s disappearance.

One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley is a quiet, compelling, and often heartbreaking story told in the two alternating timelines. Edie is a very likeable but unreliable narrator due to her developing dementia which Critchley describes with deep compassion and empathy. The mystery, itself, was well-constructed and kept me guessing until the satisfying ending.

I received an arc of this book from Negalley and Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

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Edie Green, an elderly widow, has begun to show signs of dementia. As her son and his daughter try to help her navigate this challenge, Edie lives more in the past – particularly 1951 when she was befriended by one of the most popular girls in school, Lucy Theddle. But, then Lucy disappeared and was never found. Now, eighty-four-year-old Edie believes she has seen Lucy and knows that she is the only one who can, after all these years, find her missing friend. And, she knows her time is limited.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading One Puzzling Afternoon. It’s a well-conceived, well-written, and unique mystery with great characters. But it’s more than that. It’s heartwarming, emotional, and sometimes quite sad, and the author handles all of it quite brilliantly. As the reader, I could feel Edie’s frustrations and fears. But, I also cheered for her small triumphs such as remembering a word that alluded her. I could also feel the array of emotions that her son, Daniel, and granddaughter, Amy, felt as they watch Edie slip further away. It would seem that Ms Critchley has captured the effects that dementia has not only on its victims but on family members as well.

This book stayed with me long after I turned the last page. I’m looking forward to reading more books by this talented author. NetGalley provided an advance copy.

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A good story told well.

I looked at the cover and the title and I assumed it would be a cozy mystery about a little old lady that solves a neighbourhood crime, while helping herself to buckets of tea and tons of biscuits while she does it.


Do not judge this book by its cover the way I did. Whoever approved this cover and title has done this book a great injustice, because some people are bound to judge it the way I did, and dismiss it as a cloud of fluff. Please don't.

This is a wonderful story that is told in two timelines.

In the present day,i.e.,2018, our main character Edie is in her 80s. One afternoon, she believes that she sees her best friend Lucy outside the post office, and she looks exactly the way she did in 1951. How is that possible? And where did Lucy go? She can't remember what happened to Lucy, because she went missing at the age of sixteen, and now she's shown up again after all these years.

She's determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Did Lucy die? Did she run away? She can't remember, and it's all quite puzzling, but she knows that the answer is buried somewhere deep inside herself.

You see, Edie has a secret that she has kept for all these decades. The problem is that she has now forgotten that secret and needs to remember. Edie's dementia is progressing, and she is determined to retain her independence and prove to her family that she can live by herself and doesn't need constant help and supervision. To do that, she needs to remember what happened to Lucy and solve the mystery of her disappearance. Then she knows her family will believe that her mind is still as sharp as it used to be.

In the 1951, Edie and Lucy are best friends, and Edie knows a secret about her friend-two secrets, in fact, that will greatly endanger her family's reputation and prestige. Edie's stepfather is a horrible man who she wants to escape from, and so both of them decide to catch a train and leave their little town forever, to go live together in London. However, on the day, Lucy doesn't show up at the train station, and Edie never gets on that train.

There is a search for Lucy, but she is never found, and Edie eventually carries on with her life, until now-until she sees Lucy outside the post office, and she knows she must find her.

It's a lovely story about friendship, and friendship is not only about the good times. It's also a commentary on life in the 1950s and the choices that women had to make because of their circumstances, and because of how society judged them.

I did have an issue with Edie's decision to go along with every single thing that Lucy said, and also with her decision to not reveal the truth after her parents had separated, and even after there was no need for her to defend or protect anyone anymore.

I was relieved and happy that Edie had a good son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter to take care of her and who didn't leave her alone in her old age, especially with the onset of dementia.

The truth of where Lucy went and what happened to her is finally revealed, as Edie recalls everything by the end of the book.

It was such a good story, with well-etched characters, and so engaging! I was totally absorbed in the flow of the narration, and so invested in the lives of these two girls.

Would definitely recommend!

Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for a digital ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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It is 1951, and 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 mayor's daughter befriends her, she thinks life will be better. But then Lucy goes missing.

One Puzzling Afternoon is set in two time periods. 1951 is when Lucy goes missing and is never found. The other period is 2018 and Edie is 82 and dementia is leaving her muddled. It also takes her back to that fateful afternoon in 1951 when Lucy is supposed to meet her at the train station but goes missing.

Edie is very likable, and my heart went out to her as dementia steals more and more of her present. She is an unreliable narrator, though. How much of the past is she clearly remembering?

We are only given snippets of the past. The novel opens with Edie waiting at the train station but the next time we move back to 1951, it is shortly before Lucy and Edie become friends. We pretty much get new information as Edie remembers it in 2018, but with more detail when we go to 1951. That means we don't quite know what happened and there are a couple of top suspects.

The story flows well back and forth between the two time periods. All the characters are interesting and feel real.

I enjoyed Critchley's writing. I've not read her other books - I think this might be her first book for adults. The Bear Who Sailed the Ocean in an Iceberg looks cute so I might have to read it.

If you are looking for a great mystery, I definitely recommend A Puzzling Afternoon. I did start to strongly suspect one of the characters towards the end and turned out to be right, but what I liked most about this novel was Edie's trip down memory lane. I'm really happy that the epilogue was included as it bridges the life Edie was living in 1951 with what we know of how her life turned out by 2018.

My review will be published at Girl Who Reads on Friday -

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This is a wonderful book which shows how this tragic disease affects one and how to disturbing to recognize that you are loosing your memory. Hard to out down and thank you to the author.

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The premise of the book really grabbed my attention with this line: I kept your secret Lucy. I've kept it for more than sixty years . . .

This book tells the murder mystery of events that happened during 1951 when Edie was just 15. Today in 2018 she is 84 and finds her memory not what it used to be. She believes she is seeing her childhood friend Lucy looking the same as she did back then. Then remembers there was a secret but can’t remember what it is. This story is an emotional mystery. I really enjoyed the character of Edie. The story was a great read- mysterious and captivating. Many thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for the digital review copy of this novel. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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It is 1950 Edie Green is a lonely 15 year old girl. She gets befriended by the most popular girl in school, Lucy, and must keep her secret that she discovered. One day Lucy goes missing and her disappearance is still troubling Edie 67 years later.

It is 2018 and Edie is experiencing symptoms of dementia and she feels that if she solves her friend’s disappearance, she can prove to her family that she doesn’t have to move out of her home. Then Edie starts remembering…

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It turned out darker than I expected, but that is not a bad thing. Parts of it were on the slow side but if you’re looking for a solid mystery, this is it.

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This was a beautiful and heartbreaking story. I was hooked in finding out what happened to Lucy, and I liked that it was revealed in dual timelines.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Edie is feeling the horrible void of a missing word, thought, moment, more frequently and even more upsetting, she is often aware of her lapses. It is the times when she doesn’t recognize her confusion that is so troubling to her family and ultimately to herself. She believe that if she gives herself a brief rest, has a cup of teas, it will all come back to her. She knows she must keep a secret - one that she has harbored for almost seven decades to protect her best friend. But are there other secrets which Edie is holding close? If only she could find Lucy - everything would make sense, everything would be fine. But where is Lucy?

There is then - 1951 when Edie was a schoolgirl sworn to secrecy about so many things - it was more than a young girl should have to shoulder. There is the present of 2018 - Edie is an octogenarian, still keeping those secrets which are threatening to surface as her memory is disintegrating. Her moments of clarity are fraught with confusion, distress, some humor and a stubborn determination to solve a very old mystery. If only she could find Lucy.

Told with an even, compassionate and honest look at the progression of dementia, Ms. Critchley has written a very well crafted mystery within a heartbreaking story. Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for a copy.

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This was the first book I have read by Emily Critchely. I always love a good puzzle mystery read so when I saw this book I wanted to see what it was all about. This was a good murder mystery with dual timelines. I thought this book had a good flow to it and had you feeling like you were a detective. This was definitely a fun read. I would recommend this if your looking for a good murder mystery.

Thank you NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for allowing me to read this ARC for my honest opinion.

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One Puzzling Afternoon is a wonderfully, sensitive, beautifully told story in which the main character, Edie, in the early stages of dementia tries to remember something she knows was very important which happened to her best friend Lucy back in 1951. This riveting read which flashes back to that mysterious day, and what led up to it, to the present day which in this case is 2018, follows Edie’s desperate journey as she tries to put the pieces of the puzzle together as to what happened to Lucy before her crumbling memory makes it impossible.

As 84-year-old Edie walks down the street, she suddenly sees a young girl who looks exactly like her best friend from when they were teenagers. She knows it’s her! But her best friend Lucy would be the same age as Edie, so she is confused. But that sighting sets Edie on an incredibly difficult adventure.

Edie realizes she knows something about Lucy which no one else knows. But for the life of her she can’t remember what it is. Lucy disappeared one afternoon back in 1951 and was never seen again. There were so many theories on what happened to her, but Edie for some reason feels they are all wrong.

So, Edie tells her family about Lucy, although she knows she’s confused while explaining the story. Her family feels Edie is just confused as she has just been diagnosed with dementia and is forgetting quite a great deal. So much so she can’t really live alone anymore, and they are selling her house and buying one so she can live with them.

Growing up in 1951 Edie was a teased teenage girl with no friends whose father had died and whose mother did the best she could to make money. She worked as a psychic with Edie’s help and that was frowned upon back in the day. And then when her mother remarried, Edie’s life was made even more miserable by this overbearing man who had such distain for her.

And then for some reason Lucy Theddle, a popular, beautiful, rich girl became her friend…and her world changed! They were inseparable and told each other all their secrets. Well Lucy told Edie. And then something happened. And Lucy was just gone.

And now it’s up to Edie to figure out what happened that day. She remembers parts, but not all and what she remembers is jumbled. One thing for sure, she knows she promised Lucy she would never tell. But what was it she was not supposed to tell? What does Edie know?

For Edie, she knows it’s a race against time to figure this out and without the support of her family she just hopes she’ll be able to do this for Lucy before all is forgotten.

One Puzzling Afternoon is a unique story which looks at what happens when someone’s brain begins to fail them, and the despair of their family as they try and navigate a situation which will never get better, only worse.

Thank you #NetGalley #Sourcebooks/Landmark #OnePuzzingAfternoon #EmilyCritchley for the advanced copy.

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This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be. By the title and cover, I was thinking light-hearted cozy mystery. I guess I should have paid a bit more attention to the description? The mystery was good and I liked the juxtaposition of the 1951 and 2018 timelines, but Edie's progressing dementia and Lucy's affair were definitely not light-hearted fare.

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So this was an interesting one. I had a really hard time getting into it at first and struggled for the first hundred pages or so. I really can't put my finger on why either. Something wasn't clicking for me and I'm not really sure what? But after that, I did read the rest of the book in a day so I guess it clicked for me after all?

This was such an interesting concept for a mystery. Pretty much all of the pieces were internalized in the main character so there wasn't really any ~outside sleuthing. It was more just internal monologue and letting the reader in through flashbacks. It was really interesting.

Though. I've known several people with dementia and they all remembered their childhood/younger years perfectly. So I thought it was pretty weird that Edie couldn't remember what happened to Lucy? Especially since that was such a traumatic and formative event in her life. Unless she just blocked it out as she got older so she wouldn't remember? Idk. I get that for this whole story to work, she had to forget. But just based on what I know of dementia, it just seemed strange.

But I will say, the dementia slide was INCREDIBLY well done and so hard to read. As Edie continued to forget, this got harder and harder to read. Dementia has always absolutely terrified me and seeing it from the inside is always such a jarring experience. This captured that SO WELL and by the end of this book I was both frustrated and completely heartbroken.

As for the mystery: it wasn't exactly groundbreaking but it was interesting. It was pretty easy to guess where this was going and the reveal wasn't particularly shocking. It was more the journey getting there that was interesting.

All in all, this was an interesting concept. It wasn't my favorite but it was enjoyable (well, kind of). If you're looking for a mystery to cozy up with this winter, pick this up!

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review!

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One Puzzling Afternoon is Emily Critchley's new novel. I quite liked the cover, it looks like a puzzle.

Edie Green is fifteen years old when we meet her in 1951. She's waiting for her friend Lucy at the train station. But Lucy never shows up - anywhere. Now, in 2018, Edie is 84, and she's certain she has seen Lucy. She needs to find her. But...

"It's there at the back of my mind, a persistent, anxious flutter, like a moth trapped under glass: there is something I should know, something I need to remember."

Critchley had given us an unreliable narrator in Edie. It's heartbreaking to watch and listen to Edie trying to hold on to her thoughts and memories before they are gone. Dementia has touched my family and I think Critchley has done a wonderful job portraying this insidious condition, from not just Edie's point of view, but from her family and friends as well. There's a good cast of supporting players. I quite liked her granddaughter Amy.

And then there's the mystery of whatever happened to Lucy. Can Edie hang on to her memories long enough to find the clues? I had an inkling about what the final pages might bring us, but I was only partially right - and surprised at the rest.

One Puzzling Afternoon is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. A wonderful read on so many levels.

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Edie Green May hold the key to what happened to her childhood friend Lucy. The problem is, at 84 years old, she’s dealing with dementia. So, she can’t remember just what it is she knows. But she’s sure there’s something…..

This is an enjoyable mystery with a twist, as it gives us a unique view into the mind of someone suffering from dementia. I found myself occasionally confused right along with Edie, feeling much of what she must be feeling. It was both engaging and at times hard to read- but all the more worthwhile for it.

Thank you Emily Critchley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for providing this ARC for review consideration. All opinions expressed are my own.

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