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by Helen Tursten and Marlaine Delargy, trans.
Soho, October 2020
184 pages
ISBN: 1641290110

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

At eighty-eight, Maud is living on her own in a spacious apartment in a desirable neighbourhood in Gothenburg, Sweden. She is able to live there thanks to a fortunate arrangement made many years ago when the building was sold that guaranteed her the right to inhabit the flat for as long as she liked without having to pay rent. It is a circumstance that does not endear her to the other residents. But then, Maud isn't too fond of some of them either. She is especially wary of one recent tenant, young (well, forty is young to someone almost ninety), an artist, who is decidedly envious of all the space Maud has and does not use and who is clearly, Maud believes, plotting to oust her and take over Maud's domain. Maud may be old, but she knows how vigorously to defend her own turf to assure that the artist never bothers her again.

Maud has a strong sense that she is entitled to comfort and peace in her old age since the first forty or so years were not kind to her. First her father died revealing that he was essentially bankrupt. Her fianc jilted her when he heard the news, and it fell to Maud to support her grieving mother and her "highly strung" sister until both passed away. Now she feels it is her turn to live as she pleases and woe betide anyone who would get in her way.

Those who do have a habit of falling prey to fatal accident, frequently rather messily gory. When Maud, who stumbles over their corpses from time to time, is questioned by the police, she knows enough to hide her steely resolve and absolute competency. She becomes what most observers under the age of sixty presume of the old - trembly, weak, confused, and frail. Actually, she doesn't have to work too hard to convince - she appears exactly as they expect.

When a body is discovered in Maud's own apartment, however, she does attract the attention of Inspector Irene Huss, the protagonist of Tursten's series of police procedurals that ended last year. Whether Irene will figure out what Maud is up to is left undisclosed until the final paragraph of this entertaining set of five short stories.

A certain moral earnestness that characterized the Irene Huss series is missing in these wicked, funny tales. They could be the product of an illicit union between Arsenic and Old Lace and The Talented Mr Ripley. And they come most attractively packaged for holiday giving - a 4 x 6 inch book, with a subversively cross-stitched cover, easily slipped into a Christmas stocking. But do be careful whose stocking it is - you don't want to be giving anyone ideas, especially if you live in a very nice, rent-controlled flat in a better part of town.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, October 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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