Short Stories
An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good

by Helene Tursten
Soho, November 2018, $12.99

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good, by Swedish author Helene Tursten, is a criminally brilliant, if too brief, collection of five tales about the murderous adventures of Maude. Maude is a retired school teacher who lives, rent free and alone, in the same apartment where she was raised. From the outside, Maude appears to be nothing more than an independent 88-year-old woman—she enjoys traveling alone,
 watching television, and
 Alfred Hitchcock’s The 
Birds is her favorite 
film—but when her solitary and quiet life is 
threatened by noise, or
 someone is after her lovely 
apartment, her response 
is always murder. It’s a
 vocation Maude is very 
good at, since her murders 
tend to be mistaken for
 accidents, and if there is any suspicion about the death, she is a master at playing the doddering fool—confused, hard of hearing, slow of foot.

“An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems” has Maude’s new neighbor, a minor celebrity and vulgar artist, keen on Maude’s large apartment. “An Elderly Lady Seeks Peace at Christmastime,” is an ode to noisy neighbors and Maude’s crafty plan for a quiet Christmas. The final two stories are versions of the same murder. “The Antique Dealer’s Death” is told from the perspective of Maude’s neighbor. The other half of the tale, “An Elderly Lady Is Faced With a Difficult Dilemma,” is all Maude, detailing the old woman’s planning and care when it’s time for someone to die. Both tales feature Tursten’s series character Inspector Irene Huss in minor roles.

Ben Boulden
Teri Duerr
November 2018