An increasing number of literary texts feature dementia, reflecting its prevalence in many ageing societies. This essay analyzes ways in which Emma Healey’s Elizabeth Is Missing and Alice LaPlante’s Turn of Mind use the narrative of detection to explore the subjective experience of dementia. In both texts, dementia, associated with mystery, functions to enrich the reader’s hermeneutic experience of the text and this presents a risk of reinforcing the dominant discourse of dementia as the loss of self. The two novels, however, imagine the self of the protagonist in ways that challenge the often-gendered premises of detection, and interrogate the dominant discourse of dementia. These novels demonstrate a strong potential of detective fiction to promote empathy with those with dementia, as they allow the reader vicariously to experience life with dementia and the mode of knowing and not knowing that it may accompany.
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