An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good
by Helene Tursten, translated by Marlaine Delargy. Soho Press, 2018. 9781641290111.
Guest Book Review by Robert in Silicon Valley.
This book called to me from the new(ish) fiction shelves at the library: the title evoked the Marauder’s Map incantation from Harry Potter, and the cover looked like it was done in needlepoint. Also, I’ve a habit of reading foreign mysteries in translation for the incidental ethnography.
Tursten is best known in her native Sweden for police procedurals featuring strong female detectives. These, though, are crime stories. In five short stories featuring four murders (one of which serves as the dramatic impetus for TWO stories), Maud affects weakness as she goes about killing unsympathetic victims. The attraction is in how she plans and gets away with the murders, using the appearance of age and the accessories of infirmity to camouflage herself as she does in spouse-beating lawyers, and new neighbors with designs on her more spacious apartment. Retired, Maud lives alone in that spacious apartment when she’s a tourist for months on end.
Snooping old women solving mysteries has been a formula in detective fiction from at least Agatha Christie’s time. An Elderly Lady is up to no Good is a view from the other side, a self-justifying sociopathic killer hiding behind her gray hair and walker. These stories about her are a lot of fun.