For whodunit lovers, this short story is a gleefully-dark delight

Growing older is a very good thing.

First of all, there’s a secret to it: aging isn’t as important as are the perks of aging. Free desserts. Discounts everywhere. Better parking spots. Interesting memories. And, as in the new book “An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good” by Helene Tursten, the chance to get away with murder.

No matter what they did, Maud was staying put.

Her apartment had been home for 88 years, thanks to lawyers who’d drawn up a contract when Maud’s father died seven decades ago, leaving her mother near penniless. Then, kindly new buyers for the apartment’s building had agreed to allow the widow and her daughters to stay, rent-free, for as long as they wished — of course, never dreaming any agreement could last so long. It wasn’t a very big place but a renegotiated small fee and the cost of utilities was all Maud paid to live there.

So no, she wasn’t going anywhere.

She was especially not moving downstairs, though that’s what famous-for-being-famous Jasmin Schimmerhof wanted Maud to do. Jasmin had a tiny apartment below Maud’s home, but she wanted Maud’s spacious flat so there’d be room for more “art.” Subtlety, Jasmin believed, would get her what she wanted but Maud saw through Jasmin’s ruse and she killed her.

Ah, but Maud wasn’t always so ill-tempered and churlish. Once, when she was a girl, she fell in love with a man whose family ended the engagement when they realized that Maud’s family was poor. She never forgot her beloved Gustaf, and because she’d kept track of him over the years, she knew that his much-younger new fiance was not to be trusted. Proving the scam would be hard and it might embarrass Gustaf, and so instead Maud found the woman and she killed her.

Murder, you see, is easy when you’re a fit, healthy almost-90-year-old. It takes care of many of the world’s problems and, as Maud knew, nobody would ever suspect an elderly lady of killing anyone… would they?

Grandma always told you to respect your elders. You might grow old someday, she said, leaving the rest to your imagination.

Betcha she never had someone like Maud in mind.

And that’s what makes “An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good” so delightfully grim and howlingly funny: despite stereotypes that author Helene Tursten carefully cultivates on the side, Maud’s no apple-cheeked little Granny. Expletives are quick to her lips, she’s independent as a cat, her schemes are smoothly diabolical, and she’s not above a little larceny if the chance presents itself. A con with a walker, an anti-Jessica-Fletcher, she’s also an Oscar-worthy actress when it comes to avoiding detection. Crimes aside, Maud is basically what we all want to be like when we’re “elderly.”

This is the perfect antidote to nice little mysteries that wrap up sweetly because there’s very little sweetness here. What you’ll find, instead, is gleefully-dark delight in short-story form. For whodunit lovers, “An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good” is very, very good.

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Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in a neighborhood near you. You can read more of her writing on her website livingwithgleigh.com. To see her columns come to life, follow her on Facebook at Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh.
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