Wednesday, July 17, 2019

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

First Line: The shrill sound of the doorbell sliced through the silence.

Eighty-nine-year-old Maud keeps herself to herself. To the other tenants in the apartment building, they see an old lady who lives in an apartment that's much too big for her, and-- worst of all-- she doesn't pay a penny in rent! What those neighbors don't know would fill an encyclopedia.

Just as Maud entered university at the age of eighteen, her beloved father died. Her mother couldn't cope with the shame of finding out there was no money left, rapidly faded away, and died. Fortunately, a real estate deal was done that gave Maud and her sister their apartment rent-free for as long as they were alive.

For the next few decades, Maud was burdened with the care of an emotionally fragile sister who should've been put in assisted living but refused because, well, that was what Maud was for. Finally, when she was in her sixties, Maud was free to live her life as she chose. Perhaps she should be forgiven for wanting to stay where she'd lived her entire life and for all the traveling she does. Hasn't she paid her dues? (Take that, nosy neighbors!)

All this and more is what you learn as you read Helene Tursten's short story collection, An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good. I've been asked before what my "guilty pleasure" books are, and I've always responded that I never feel guilty about the books that I read. Life's too short and all that. But maybe... just maybe... I should call Maud a guilty pleasure character. In these stories, Maud runs into several folks who take one look at her and think that she's going to be easy to cheat. After all, she's a little old lady who uses a walker to get to the shops. Her mind's got to be going, right? Think again!

In this collection, Maud has to outwit someone trying to take her apartment away from her and someone else who's trying to steal her antiques-- and she's not above a little murder to take care of these people either. It's a pleasure to watch this old lady take care of her youngers and supposedly betters, and lest you get the idea that "it's all about Maud," that's not true. She's also willing to help out others she comes in contact with, although she certainly doesn't seek them out.

When I read one story that was written from an outsider's point of view, I thought to myself, "Why couldn't we get this story from Maud?" The very next story told us the events from her perspective. Tursten read my mind. Tursten also had fun having her two other characters, Detective Inspectors Irene Huss and Embla Nyström test their wits against Maud. An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good is a light, fun read that proves something I've always known: never underestimate the elderly.

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten
eISBN: 9781641290128
Soho Crime © 2018
eBook, 185 pages

Short Stories, Standalone
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.



  1. I've read Tursten, Cathy, but not this one. It sounds different to her Irene Huss novels, but still good. And I always enjoy a protagonist who isn't - ahem - twenty any more...

    1. Me, too-- especially when she's someone like the sprightly Maud!

  2. Yes, I enjoyed Maud's misdeeds, too. However, I noticed that in the end she outsmarted Irene and Embla.

    I read Huss's The Hunting Game before this one, and while the mystery is OK, that fact that I dislike hunting for sport had a bearing on my reaction.

    I'm all for people protecting beautiful wild animals.

    1. I try hard not to have spoilers in my reviews, but once in a while, they do pop up in the comments!

      You really need to say that you're passionately against hunting full stop because-- as I said in the comments to my review of Hunting Game-- the hunters in the book are not hunting for sport. They are going to eat what they kill. Like it or not, in the world today, many herds of animals need to be "thinned" regularly in order for them to remain healthy. I don't like it, but at least these animals' heads are not going to be hanging on a wall or their dead bodies included in sickening selfies on social media. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

  3. Great review! I'm adding this to my list.

  4. Replies
    1. I love the cover. Cross stitch seems so harmless until you look closely at the front of this book. Recently I saw a sign someone had done in counted cross stitch. It said "Beware. This is proof that I have the patience to stab something 1,000 times." Love it!

  5. We'll have to disagree. The hunters in Tursten's book are not poor people who need to hunt to feed their families. They don't need to hunt. It is a sport.
    There are better ways to cut down on animal populations like moving them, using contraceptives, etc. Smart conservationists can think up a lot of ways to do this.


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