Book Review: An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed: Tursten, Helene, Delargy, Marlaine:  9781641291675: Books

Title: An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed

Author: Helene Tursten

Genre: Mystery/Short Stories

Number of Pages: 272

Rating: D-

Recommended?: No

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Ugh. I was so mad when I finished this book, I wanted to throw it at the wall. Way to ruin a perfectly good first book; the author didn’t seem to have any sort of understanding what made An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good a solid, entertaining read.

Maud is a serial killer. She’s also almost ninety years old, and she’s brilliant at playing the part of a helpless old lady in order to avoid police attention when someone meets an ‘accident.’ The whole framework of this book (Maud nodding off and remembering events from her past while on a plane trip to Africa) was kind of contrived, but I could have dealt with that. I read the whole thing in one day so at least it had that going for it. What I couldn’t deal with was turning Maud into an SJW. It utterly fucked up the smart, ruthless anti-heroine of the first book.

For those who haven’t read the first book or have but still need a recap, most of the people Maud killed were pretty unredeeming opportunists who thought they could take advantage of her. One of them was actually a wife-beater but Maud seems more concerned about the noise he’s making in the apartment building when he’s beating his wife. She is a sociopath, and the author is totally unapologetic about that.

The first few stories in this collection are much in the same vein, although I was bothered by the idea that an allegedly brilliant and astute Maud would kill a guy out of concern for how he’s treating his mother. If she cared about this woman at all (and admittedly the whole concept of ‘caring’ for someone is a questionable one for Maud) she would find another way; terrorize him, maybe, not rob a mother of her only son.

Then we get to the last chapter where she goes on a cruise in Africa and it is sssooo long. It felt like maybe the author went on a cruise herself around the time she wrote the book and wanted to put in lots and lots of unnecessary detail. They go here. They get something to eat. They look at some animals. And it drags so. Fucking. Much. Then as the interminable story nears its end Maud beats a child rapist half to death with her walking stick.

That’s totally understandable for her to go into a rage like that, even some of the most violent convicts in prison are repulsed by pedophiles. I didn’t mind that she was shown breaking bad on someone who actually 100% deserved it (after all, she killed that wife beater in the first book.) But then the author does something I can’t forgive. Maud meets the poor African family of the girl who was almost sexually assaulted, befriends them, and sets out to fix their lives.

It brings her life meaning and its so uplifting and inspirational and… wait a minute. Maud is a serial killer. She’s not a white savior. She’s not a philanthropist. She’s a fucking serial killer. Why does she get this stupid redemption arc out of nowhere? Not only does it not fit with the first book, but it also doesn’t fit with the majority of this book either.

It just comes out of nowhere and changes the tone irrevocably. It also makes her previous actions (including letting her mentally ill sister die and then starting her new burden-free life before said sister is even cold in the ground) seem like… the author is justifying them a little bit? Maud was never meant to be a sympathetic protagonist, and this book shouldn’t have been written. Just read the first one and leave it at that.

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