Review: An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten

Review: An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene TurstenAn Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, short stories, thriller
Pages: 272
Published by Soho Crime on October 5, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Everyone’s favorite octogenarian killer is back in this new collection of stories by Swedish crime writer Helene Tursten that is sure to have you in stitches.
Eighty-eight-year-old Maud is never looking for trouble, but it always seems to find her. First, a woman in her building met an untimely end: tragic. Then, just recently, a dead body mysteriously appeared in her very own apartment, prompting an investigation by the local Gothenburg authorities. Such a strange coincidence. When it seems suspicion has fallen on her, little old lady that she is, Maud decides to skip town and splurges on a trip to South Africa for herself.
In these six interlocking stories, memories of unfortunate incidents from Maud’s past keep bubbling to the surface, each triggered by something in the present: an image, a word, even a taste. When she lands in Johannesburg at last, eager to move on from the bloody ordeal last summer, she finds certain problems seem to be following her. Luckily, Maud is no stranger to taking matters into her own hands . . . even if it means she has to get a little blood on them in the process.
Don’t let her age fool you. Maud may be nearly ninety, but this elderly lady still has a few tricks before she’s ready to call it quits.
*Includes cookie recipes*

My Review:

While neither as smooth nor as famous as “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” there has been a progression in this week’s reviews. First there was a book about “real” ghosts. Then fake ghosts being investigated by elderly lady amateur detectives. Today we have a story about real detectives investigating an elderly lady who might just be a serial killer. With fatally delicious cookie recipes.

Just like the previous trip through Maud’s murderous memory, An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, the detectives who visit Maud are more of a catalyst than they are an integral part of the story. Inspector Irene Huss and Detective Embla Nyström still can’t quite get their minds around the idea that 88-year-old Maud might have been the murderer of the man who was found dead in her apartment over the summer. But they also can’t dismiss their instincts that say that Maud did it, no matter how frail and dotty a persona she projects.

That the detectives are still sniffing around Maud’s apartment makes Maud a bit apprehensive. I’d say nervous but Maud doesn’t seem to get nervous. Maud just removes whatever problem has come her way. But when the problem is two police detectives, she’s better off removing herself from their jurisdiction rather than employing her usual methods.

So Maud takes herself off, at 88 going on 89, on a luxury trip to a place she’s always loved. It’s been five years since her last, somewhat more economical visit to South Africa, so this time she’s going to go first class all the way. After all, she can afford it and she has no one to leave her money to, so she might as well spend some of it while she’s still capable of the trip.

The story of this elderly lady who truly must not be crossed isn’t so much a single story as it is a collection of memories. As Maud naps on the very long series of flights from Sweden to Johannesburg, her mind drifts back into the past, to the very first time she took care of business in her own inimitable-if-not-yet-deadly style when she was only eleven.

By the time that Maud eliminates her rival for a full-time teaching position, we see that Maud’s course is firmly set. She sees a problem – and she gets rid of the problem. She plans, she executes, and well, she executes someone who is in her way. Sometimes by way of a well aimed icicle, and sometimes by way of a not-so-nice recipe for cookies.

Maud gets things done.

But her trip to South Africa, besides causing her in-flight trips down memory lane, also gives her a chance to think about what she wants from the rest of her life, however short or long that might be. And it puts her in the way of one last good deed, by carrying out one more bad one.

Escape Rating A-: As with the previous book, Maud’s adventures are short but not exactly sweet. How could they be when Maud’s tried-and-true method of solving problems is to eliminate the cause of the problem – permanently.

Which makes Maud a bit of a guilty pleasure. On the one hand, I hope to be that healthy, spry and self-possessed at 88. On the other hand, Maud is a successful serial killer, not exactly a hobby to aspire to. If that’s what it takes to keep oneself young there’s a serious problem with the collateral damage. Maud is kind of like a picture of Dorian Gray that inflicts its damage on other people instead of a portrait.

I’m waxing a bit hyperbolic because of my internal conflict – although Maud has none. And probably doesn’t have a conscience either. There’s so much about Maud that’s admirable, and enviable. Her head is a very entertaining place to be. But she kills people who get in her way. Regularly. Some of them deserve it. And some are just in Maud’s way – until they aren’t.

The Ducote sisters from yesterday’s book are probably better role models for what one would want to be in their 80s. But having a drink or a meal with Maud would be fascinating – at least after I’d checked everything over for poison.

Review: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

Review: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene TurstenAn Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: mystery, short stories
Pages: 184
Published by Soho Crime on November 6, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and…no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.

Ever since her darling father’s untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family’s spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties, Maud contents herself with traveling the world and surfing the net from the comfort of her father’s ancient armchair. It’s a solitary existence, but she likes it that way.

Over the course of her adventures—or misadventures—this little bold lady will handle a crisis with a local celebrity who has her eyes on Maud’s apartment, foil the engagement of her long-ago lover, and dispose of some pesky neighbors. But when the local authorities are called to investigate a murder in her apartment complex, will Maud be able to avoid suspicion, or will Detective Inspector Irene Huss see through her charade?

My Review:

I picked this up because I loved the title. And because I read one of the author’s previous books in her Inspector Huss series (Who Watchetch) and liked it very much. So I was hoping for more of the same, both in the style and of the character.

And I was in the mood for a mystery. I got a tiny taste of Inspector Huss – but I’m not so sure about the mystery – because we always know whodunit.

Mostly, I got a variation on Arsenic and Old Lace, with a much smaller cast and no lace. Also, the old lady administering the equivalent of the arsenic isn’t nearly so lovable. – but she’s twice as irascible.

She’s also much better at hiding her tracks.

There’s a part of me that wants to be Maud when I’m her age. After all, she’s in her late 80s in these stories, and is perfectly capable of traveling around the world by herself at a whim, as well as able to climb through her own apartment windows in order to cover up a bit of murder.

I’d want the first part but not the second. Maud’s answer to taking care of situations that bother her is just murder. And she doesn’t even seem to have much of a conscience about it.

Great health, lousy ethics. Not that the people that we see her eliminate aren’t due for a bit of trouble, but murder seems a bit drastic. Most of the time.

The stories in this collection that are the most interesting are the two at the end, The Antique Dealer’s Death and An Elderly Lady is Faced with a Difficult Dilemma, because they show the same crime from two rather different perspectives.

In The Antique Dealer’s Death Inspector Irene Huss is called to Maud’s apartment, The elderly lady has found a dead body stewing in one of the unused rooms. We see Maud at her best, pretending to be confused and frail, but by this point in the collection we know it’s an act.

The police, however, do not. They take the old lady’s behavior at face value, which is always a huge mistake. Maud’s behavior can never be taken at face value. We watch both the police and even an amateur detective who gets roped into the scene fix their sights on the dead antique dealer having an accomplice who killed him and scarpered when they attempted to rob the old lady. And we know they are all barking up the wrong tree – or scaffolding.

But in the companion story, An Elderly Lady is Faced with a Difficult Dilemma, we see Maud in all of her excellent health, equally excellent planning, and slightly sociopathic glory as she discovers the antique dealer in the process of robbing her and decides not just to kill him but also how to fool the police.

As she does, and does well. The Inspector does figure out at the end that the only logical conclusion to the crime is that Maud did it, but she is also aware that there is no way to prove it.

Maud is just too good when she is up to no good.

Escape Rating A-: Lesson to be learned, never take an old lady for granted, she may be more than she seems. Maud’s “adventures” make for grisly fun, and a quick read if you’re in the mood to dip into a bit of Scandinavian noir.