An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed – Helene Tursten

‘It was the words “boiler room” that had caught Maud’s attention. She tuned out of the couple’s conversation, but those two words continued to echo in her mind. The boiler room. The cellar. The coal cellar. The boys in the coal cellar.’

88-year-old Maud continues to be single-minded in her determination to live a quiet life that’s to her liking, even if that does mean bumping people off if they cross her. And whilst you know you shouldn’t, you can’t help finding yourself admiring her. This time we get a bit more from Maud’s past – we see her sister’s slow decline into senility and Maud’s exhausting attempts to manage her behaviour. Maud decides early on in life that sometimes she has to take matters into her own hands if there is to be any sort of justice in the world. We see a younger Maud dealing with a very unpleasant and overbearing colleague who bullies the teaching staff at Maud’s first job – I’ll leave you to read ‘Lancing a Boil’ yourself but, if you’ve already read Tursten’s first collection, An Elderly Lady is up to No Good, you’ll have a sense of how Maud tends to deal with such people.

The main thread of this collection is Maud’s decision to book an expensive holiday to South Africa, one of the last times she might be able to enjoy her vast savings. This allows us to see Maud in a different setting and a strong sense of adventure – something else to love about her. As with many sequels, we also see a development of her character and the collection ends on an unexpectedly heart-warming note. Unlike some of Maud’s victims in the first collection, those who get their comeuppance here are properly vile. Whilst you shouldn’t really cheer on a murderer (I’ve lost track of the body count), you can’t help hoping Maud gets to enjoy the remaining years left to her. Another fab collection of stories.

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