This guest post was provided by Emily Critchley, author of One Puzzling Afternoon. Emily is the author of young adult, middle grade and adult fiction. Her most recent novel is set to debut in the US October 3rd, 2023. She works as a writer and secondary school librarian in Hertfordshire.
One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley
In 1951, Edie is a quiet, 15-year-old girl struggling to make connections. When popular Lucy befriends her, it seems things are turning around. Then Lucy disappears. Now, decades later, Edie is eighty-four and living in the same small town when she gets a glimpse of Lucy, looking exactly as she did the day she disappeared. While everyone around her chocks it up to another of Edie’s slip-ups, she knows there is more going on here.
I love an elderly sleuth in fiction. Living on the margins of society, they are brilliant observers; fiercely determined underdogs with time on their hands who never give up, despite being ignored and misunderstood. I enjoy hearing that readers rooted for Edie, my eighty-four year old protagonist in One Puzzling Afternoon, who sets out to solve the mystery of her school friend’s disappearance, over sixty years ago, despite being in the early stages of dementia. Here are a few of my favorite elderly sleuths. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon
When successful commercial real estate agent, Lana, is diagnosed with cancer she moves from LA to Eklhorn Slough to live with her daughter and granddaughter. Beth works as a nurse and her daughter Jack, loves spending time kayaking and paddleboarding at the nature reserve. To keep occupied, Lana sets about making improvements to her daughter’s shabby house, but when Jack, Lana’s granddaughter, finds a dead body on the mud flats and is accused of murder, Lana know she must protect Jack and find the real killer.
I loved the family dynamics between the three very different women who must become amateur sleuths in this big-hearted and humorous mystery novel. Simon also evokes such a vivid sense of place. I really wanted to visit Elkhorn Slough nature reserve and see the otters.
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
A new resident at Cherry Tree, a home for the elderly, causes Florence some alarm. She’s sure Gabriel Price is, in fact, a man she knew a very long time ago, a man called Ronnie Butler who drowned in 1953. In this funny and heartwarming novel Florence, alongside her best friend Elsie, must prove who Gabriel Price really is and find out what happened all those years ago.
I love all of Joanna Cannon’s novels and this one featuring elderly sleuths and a cast of vividly-drawn characters is a real gem.
Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Elderly Chinese mother, Vera Wong spends her days going for brisk walks, checking her son’s social media, and serving customers (there aren’t so many these days) in her teahouse, Vera Wong’s World Famous Teahouse. When Vera finds a dead man in her teahouse she is convinced of murder and determined to discover the identity of the killer. Vera lines up her ‘suspects’ and relentlessly pursues her investigation. But Vera brings more than tea into the lives of her new friends as she imparts her nuggets of wisdom and begins to learn who they really are.
Vera is such a wonderful character who stayed with me, and this novel is full of humor and warmth.
Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
When on her daily walk with her beloved dog, seventy-two year old Vesta finds a mysterious note that says: “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body“, Vesta becomes obsessed with who Magda was and why she was killed. Magda’s life and backstory play out in Vesta’s mind as Vesta searches for clues, spirals deeper into her obsession, and builds her own picture of the crime.
This is a literary mystery novel that deftly subverts the genre. Moshfegh’s writing is, as always, razor-sharp, beautiful and slightly disturbing.
The Marlow Murder Club by Jonathan Thorogood
Seventy-seven-year-old Judith Potts lives a quiet life in sleepy Marlow where she creates crosswords and enjoys a bit of naked swimming in the Thames. On one of her swims she hears a cry for help from near her neighbor Stefan’s house, followed by a gunshot. As Judith suspects, Stefan is found dead. Frustrated with the efforts of the police, Judith decides to take matters into her own hands. And when another body is found, the pressure is on to stop a killer at large.
The Marlow Murder Club is an expertly plotted cosy crime novel.
Marple: Twelve New Stories by Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo and More
The most famous elderly sleuth of all time, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, is reimagined in these twelve scintillating stories by some of the best crime writers writing today. The collection includes stories by Lucy Foley, Leigh Bardugo, Karen McManus, Val MacDermid and more.
I particularly enjoyed Murder at the Villa Rosa by Elly Griffiths about a writer who goes on holiday to Italy only to find Miss Marple among the guests in his hotel, and that the other occupants are full of strange stories.
The Old Woman With The Knife by Gu Byeong-Mo, translated by Chi-Young Kim
My final choice is a little different in that it features a female assassin, a protagonist who carries out the execution of crimes, as opposed to solving them. This thrilling and delightfully dark novel follows Hornclaw, a sixty-five-year-old who specializes in ‘disease-control’. As she reaches retirement, she’s concerned that she may be disposed of by the agency she works for, particularly if she gets sloppy, Hornclaw must conceal a recent ‘error’ that she fears may have disastrous consequences.
I really loved this black comedy that takes the reader to unexpected places. It’s also an exploration of the way the aging population can be treated by society.