I decided to pick this book up as I was looking for something novella length as an interlude between longer titles and as a remedy to several disappointing DNF’s. And short it was at only 100 pages approx which took all of several hours (broken up here and there) to finish. In fact it was exactly one americano and two train trips.
An Elderly Lady Is Up To No Good is actually a collection of 5 short stories about Maud, an eldery spinster approaching 90 years of age, who lives in Gothenburg Sweden in a rent free, very large apartment (all is explained). She is normal – she likes her peace and quiet, she shops at a local boutique grocery store, she does do a bit of travelling (perhaps more than normal for a woman her age) and, oh yes, she kills people. But they are all very unpleasant people. A flaky artistic socialite who is angling for Maud’s apartment. The gold digger former student of Maud’s (she used to be a teacher) who is marrying much older Gustaf who happens to be Maud’s former fiancee. A drunkard lawyer who beats his wife. And a shady antiques dealer who was going to steal Maud’s family silver and a rather valuable painting. Like I said awful people.
All but one of the tales is told from Maud’s point of view via a third person narrative at various times in Maud’s later life. These stories are translated so I am not too sure if the style is a result of the original writing or the translation but I really enjoyed the tone of the voice that was used. Straight forward, darkly humorous and matter of fact even when talking about murder. It gave the stories a slightly absurd feel about them. The author does an amazing job at creating a full and fleshed out back story for Maud and her family in what is a very short space of time so kudos for that.
Now even though Maud has no hesitation in killing people, I really liked her. I’m not sure what that says about me but hey. She is devilishly clever and imaginative and knows how to act in any given situation to get what she wants or get away with anything … such as hitting people over the head with a poker or a stolen walking stick, pushing someone down the stairs with her very helpful walking frame or crushing someone with a giant concrete phallus. Maud is not a woman to be underestimated.
Now the eagle eyed of you will notice that there are only four victims but five stories. That’s because the last two detail the same death but from different perspectives, that of Maud herself and separately, the upstairs neighbour and local constabulary. These were probably my two least liked stories of the five. I thought the book started off very strong with The Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems and An Eldery Lady On Her Travels. The middle tale of murder An Elderly Lady Seeks Peace At Christmas was solid with The Antique Dealer’s Death and An Elderly Lady Is Faced With A Difficult Dilemma being the weakest. I definitely felt the stories were at their best when we were getting a peek into Maud’s head and hearing her thoughts.
There isn’t a lot else to say without spoiling the fun of reading about Maud’s criminal escapades and as I say, the book is very short. It would actually be quite interesting to see if the author has written any more tales of Maud and if they are longer in length. If you are looking for an afternoon’s reading distraction then sitting yourself down with this collection should keep you reasonably satisfied.
Rating: 3 Stars
(Header Image: Sarah Kreig)