One Puzzling Afternoon

One Puzzling Afternoon
Editions:Hardcover: £ 14.99
ISBN: 1804181250 / 978-1804181256
Pages: 400
Kindle - Kindle Edition: £ 7.59Audiobook

A mystery she can't remember. A friend she can't forget.

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 back 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 . . .

Publisher: Zaffre

I first see Lucy Theddle standing outside the post office on Tuesday afternoon. Looking exactly the same as she did in 1951.

I am on my way in when a young man accosts me, carrying a tray and wearing a paper hat.

'Free sweets,' he says, pushing the tray under my nose.

'Free sweets?'

'It's our open day,' he explains, gesturing to the small shop squashed between the post office and Sandy's shoes. The shop used to be a key cutting place. Before that, it sold sports equipment and school uniforms. The sign over the door now reads RETRO SWEETS. ALL YOUR CHILDHOOD FAVOURITES.

'No, thank you,'

'Oh, go on. One won't hurt.' He nudges the tray towards me.

I peer down and there they are: Parma Violets. I reach for them. I can't help myself. 'These used to be my favourites,' I murmur, but the man isn't listening. He has spotted another customer and has dashed off. 'Free Sweets!'


I unwrap the tube and 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.

That's when I see Lucy.




I loved this book.

Marianne Cronin, The 100 Years of Lenni and Margot

A charmingly addictive duel timeline mystery, filled with quirky characters and rich 1950s nostalgia, this book had me hooked from the first chapter and wouldn't let me go.

Neil Alexander, The Vanishing of Margaret Small

A lovely combination of a cracking story and a host of characters you want to reach out and hug.

Jo Leevers, Tell Me How This Ends

A wonderful protagonist and a real page turner. Completely captivating.

Louise Hare, This Lovely City

An uplifting, bittersweet story with a page-turning mystery at its heart. A beautifully atmospheric and endearing book.

Freya Sampson, The Last Chance Library

A mystery deftly woven with tension and compassion

Beth Morrey, Saving Missy

One Puzzling Afternoon has one of the most endearing protagonists in recent crime fiction. A spellbinding novel that enchants and unnerves in equal measure.

Inga Vesper, The Long, Long, Afternoon

Utterly compelling, darkly unnerving, and a joyful masterclass in storytelling.


heartbreaking, funny and gripping

Fabulous Magazine

An outstanding must-read


Great atmosphere and even better characters

Lucy Gilmore, author of The Lonely Hearts Book Club

A splendid read. Both scintillating and sincere. I plan to spend many an afternoon with a Critchley novel in my hand.

Lo Patrick, The Floating Girls

The Bear who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg

Book Cover: The Bear who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg
ISBN: 9781911427216

Twelve year-old Patrick is sent to put the Christmas decorations away in the garage (his mum is frightened of spiders) where he comes across a huge polar bear in the chest freezer. How did Monty get there? And who is Monty? Official name, Wilbur Ambrose Cedric Reginald Montague, the Third; Monty to his friends. A polar bear who talks like he might have swallowed a dictionary as well as a library - he has read more books than Patrick knew existed -and whose stomach is always rumbling. ALWAYS. But how is Patrick going to feed him on his pocket money that does not stretch much further than a few tins of sardines?

Publisher: Everything with Words

Published on 28th October 2021.

The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers

Book Cover: The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers
ISBN: 9781911427094

Nell is the daughter of portrait artist, Alice Mae. When Alice’s mother dies, Alice inherits a small cottage and decides to move with Nell from London to Lincolnshire to begin a new life. Sensitive and introverted Nell struggles to fit in at school. She is aware that her mother’s work comes first and that her upbringing is not like those of her peers. As soon as she is able, Nell leaves home, but in Brighton she finds herself in a toxic and dangerous relationship with a choice to make.

The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers is a haunting, at times brutal, coming of age novel about the mistakes we make when we’re young and how our relationships shape our lives. 


'In the bedroom, she pauses, catching sight of herself in the wardrobe mirror. She touches her reflection with her fingertips. Is that you? There is something about her that is no longer whole.'


Publisher: Everything with Words


Alice wakes alone and naked somewhere in Camden. She can see a tree branch through the unadorned skylight. It's windy and the branch is swaying slightly, threatening to tap against the glass. The sound of traffic outside reminds her she is somewhere close to the High Street but she can't remember where exactly. Her head feels fuzzy, her mouth dry. She attempts to sit up, shivering a little and pulling the duvet around herself. There is a glass of water on the table next to the bed. Alice reaches for it and takes a few sips, unsure as to how long the water has been there and if it was meant for her.


She allows herself to take a proper look around the room. It had been too dark last night to take everything in. The room is not what she expected, but then she isn't sure what she expected. Something more luxurious? Perhaps something at least a little more grown-up. This room is no different to the kinds of rooms Alice and her student friends rent: small, shabby, barely furnished. It's dim but she can make out an easel in one corner, a desk, a wardrobe, a small basin under the skylight. A well-used toothbrush stands in a dirty glass. The desk is littered with paint palettes, tubes of oil and sticks of charcoal.


Powerful, reflective coming-of-age novel in which a lost 17-year-old fumbles to find her identity beyond an abusive relationship.


'a beautifully written story of a mother-daughter relationship'

Reader review

Notes on my family

Notes on My Family
ISBN: 1911427059
Size: 19.80 x 12.90 cm
Pages: 272

Lou is an observant outsider. She isn’t fitting in at home or at school. Her family life becomes increasingly hectic after her dad announces he’s having an affair and Lou learns her parents will soon be divorcing. Lou’s mum isn’t coping well. Her brother, Mikey, deals with the crisis by baking cakes; her older sister Sarah is dating a fireman. Lou is less than impressed when she is told by her form tutor that she must be a ‘buddy’ to the new girl, Faith, but the two girls form an unlikely, but meaningful, friendship amidst the chaos of their ordinary lives.

Publisher: Everything with Words

It’s 7.00pm and we’re sitting around the dinner table. There’s me, my brother, my sister and my mum and dad. I’m the youngest. My dad likes us to eat together in the evenings so we can ‘catch up’, and ‘talk about our days’.

We’re eating chicken Kievs with new potatoes, carrots and peas. I have extra carrots as it’s a Tuesday and Tuesdays are a good day for orange foods. I don’t have any potatoes as I don’t eat starch and protein together.


The chicken Kievs are pre-made. Mum doesn’t cook much. To her, this is cooking. There’s five of us and, because you have to buy the chicken Kievs in twos, there’s one left over. It sits on a plate in the middle of the table. We’re already eyeing it up. Probably my mum will offer it to my dad who will either give it to my sister because she’s his favourite, or he’ll suggest my brother and sister split it because my brother’s a little skinny, and he needs the sustenance. Either way, it’s unlikely I’ll get it. I’m the smallest and the youngest, and a girl, so it’s assumed I don’t need a second chicken Kiev, or even a half, even though I don’t have any potatoes.

We’re eating in the kitchen. It used to be the garden until my parents had the extension built two years ago. Before that we had a smaller kitchen and ate at a dining table at the back of the living room. Now we have a big kitchen, all fake oak cabinets painted green, with a large square table in the middle. There’s a new television that hangs on the wall in the corner by the kitchen doors that open out into the garden that’s now slightly smaller because the kitchen’s bigger. I waited ten years for this kitchen, my mum always says when anyone comes to the house for the first time.

We’ve lived in the house for thirteen and a half years, exactly the same amount of time that I’ve been alive. We moved when Mikey was two, so he doesn’t remember the old house but Sarah does. We call Michael Mikey. Dad still calls him Michael, or Mike, because he thinks it’s more masculine. He’s never said this but I know that’s why. Mum was the one who first called him Mikey. Most of the time now Dad forgets and calls him Mikey too.

My mum had my brother and sister close together. She was very happy to have a girl and a boy. It’s what she’d always wanted. Only then I came along. I was ‘a happy accident’, which is what Mum said when I asked her why they decided to have me as well.

Dad isn’t eating much, which is unusual. My dad’s a P.E. teacher and, like Mikey, he also needs sustenance. He works at our school which is unfortunate, although he tries not to embarrass us. It’s mostly Sarah who gets embarrassed. She looks the other way if she ever sees him in the corridor. Sarah doesn’t have to do P.E. anymore because she’s in the sixth form. Mikey doesn’t have to do that much P.E. because he’s doing his GCSEs and he doesn’t like sport. In fact, none of us like sport very much which is a shame for Dad.

Dad clears his throat and puts his knife and fork down. ‘There’s something I’ve got to tell you all,’ he says.

This is it, I think. They’re getting divorced. Sarah and Mikey stop eating. I know they are both thinking this too. The reason we are all thinking this is because Dad has been sleeping on the sofa for the last three weeks. At first when we found him there he’d tried to come up with excuses. I was snoring. Your mother couldn’t sleep, or I wanted to stay up and watch television. After a few days of this he gave up with the excuses and we got used to seeing the spare single duvet folded up neatly on the sofa arm in the mornings. It had one of Mikey’s old duvet covers on it. The one with the frogs.


Exceptional debut - reminiscent of Mark Haddon or Harper Lee

Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times

A warm, witty and moving look at one complicated family and the girl at the heart of it. Full of sincerity, intelligence and hope

Anna James, Pages & Co.: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

A compelling story with nuanced characters who leap off the page. Brilliantly observed

Julia Bell, Massive

A joy to read: as funny as it is perceptive. Emily Critchley possesses a masterly style. There’s something in this novel for everyone.

Oliver Harris, Deep Shelter

An observant and intelligent writer, Critchley is a talent to watch.

Sunny Singh, Hotel Arcadia

This is an outstanding book about the nature of identity. As well as leaving me feeling uplifted, it made me cry too.

Linda's Book Bag

a lighthearted, funny, well written book

Storgy Kids

Lou's voice is the star of this novel, turning even the most mundane events interesting and absolutely hilarious.


This startling debut novel is bound to appeal to older teen readers who want something slightly different to read in one or two sittings

School Reading List

This book is a love letter to anyone who ever felt like an outsider during their teenage years

Girly Book Club