Review: Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey


Emma Healey’s first book is an interesting and addictive thriller full of twists and surprises that will keep your attention till the very end.

Maud is a pensioner who suffers from dementia and who lives on her own, constantly supervised by her daughter and a nurse. Her life is a routine but a complete chaos, because she constantly forgets things she has to do and she even has to write notes to herself trying to keep an order in her life, something that doesn’t seem to be possible.

Maud enjoys simple things in life like having a cup of tea in the company of her good friend Elizabeth, who visits her regularly. But Elizabeth hasn’t come to visit her lately and Maud is wondering where she is or what could have happened to her.

Since her family and friends don’t help her with Elizabeth’s case, thinking it is just a product of Maud’s damaged mind, Maud decides to investigate Elizabeth’s disappearance on her own which is a hard task for a person who can’t remember things for more than 10 minutes.

Elizabeth’s disappearance also brings Maud’s ghosts back from her past, from another disappearance that happened more than 50 years ago. Could Maud find Elizabeth before she forgets about her own identity and could this help her with what has been torturing her for such a long time?

Healey’s book keeps your attention from the very beginning, as she manages to create characters that you could easily identify with and a story that’s heartbreaking and intriguing at the same time.

Maud’s illness, dementia, is very common on elderly people and it is a tragic disease that slowly turns the person in to a shadow of what she or he once was and, worst of all, the person who suffers this illness isn’t aware of his own condition.

In a way, Elizabeth is Missing is a more dramatic version of “Memento” (Christopher Nolan, 2000) where Leonard (Guy Pearce) had to track himself to solve his own personal mystery. In a series of flashbacks that bring the spectator backwards and forwards, your attention has to be completely focused on the plot, otherwise you will get lost in it. “Elizabeth is missing” develops in exactly the same way; you have to follow Maud’s steps and try to remember for her what has happened.

The interesting thing about Elizabeth is Missing is that it doesn’t depict Maud as a pathetic character or present the situation to the reader in a way you have to feel sorry for her, but rather you can feel the pain and frustration her daughter must be experiencing to deal with that particular situation all on her own.

Healey mixes brilliantly drama with mystery creating a perfect combination of emotions on the reader. The intrigue intensifies because there are two crimes to solve, Elizabeth’s disappearance and Maud’s past memories from another disappearance. You will find yourself trapped in a plot that goes “in crescendo” in intensity and complexity.

Lucía Vázquez Bonome

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is out now.
You can find more information about the book on the author’s website.