I’m not sure who picked An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good (2018) by Helene Turston for book club, but I do remember that we were all interested in something short. This book includes four short stories originally written in Swedish. They are all about one elderly Swedish woman and the people she kills. I came into this expecting something a little different than what I got, and this is mainly to do with the blurb on Amazon.
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.
I wasn’t exactly sure how a little old lady murdering people was going to be funny, but that is what I was expecting. I figured the victims would deserve it, or Maud would act in self defense, or the stories would be so comical that you couldn’t take them seriously. But it wasn’t like that, and as I read, I tried to figure out the tone. Sure, a couple of her victims were not great people, but it was disturbing that the readers were expected to root for her.
***SPOILERS*** Maud was not a helpless, little old lady. She thought the worst of people and preemptively acted to stop them from doing anything she did not approve. She was also judgmental and a heartless killer. The first person Maud killed was an entitled artist who wanted Maud’s apartment. But instead of saying, “No, thank you. I’ll stay in my own apartment.” Maud smashed a giant penis sculpture on the woman, killing her.
The next one was a man who beat his wife. Maud killed him because their loud arguments were disturbing to her. She pushed him down the stairs. Then she killed the woman who was going to be marrying an ex of Maud’s. And then she killed an antique dealer because she was convinced that he wanted to steal from her. The more I read, the more I felt there was something deeply wrong with this woman–especially when we find out everything she did to get away with the last murder. Also, people died pretty easily in this book. One old lady pushing you down the stairs doesn’t usually mean immediate death.
My friend liked this book because she said it showed how we underestimate old people and that it’s all about expectations. She said that Maud was able to get away with murder over and over again because she was consistently underestimated. It’s true that no one judged her as a danger because of her age. Then again, old women are not in the highest demographic of murderers. ***END SPOILERS***
Although this book was memorable, entertaining in parts, and not difficult to read, I’m not sure I would recommend it unless the storyline grabs you.
You can find all my reviews on my blog.