If you’re in the mood for a gentle mystery, one lacking an array of corpses and gratituitous violence this one’s for you. There Was an Old Woman is also a straightforward reminder of the inevitable consequences of alcoholism and a portrait of the limitations of old age faced with courage and determination.
Hallie Ephron (Never Tell A Lie, Come and Find Me) presents a tale of psychological suspense as Evie Ferrante receives a telephone call from her sister, Ginger, telling her that their mother’s drinking has once again landed her in the hospital. This has happened once too often as through the years the sisters have tried to care for their estranged mother, Sandra. This time it’s Evie’s turn so she reluctantly returns to her childhood home in fictional Higgs Point at the southern tip of the Bronx. Home? She’s aghast to see what is more like a disaster area - a broken-down close to inhabitable place with knee-deep weeds in the yard, broken screens, and once inside crammed with piles of old newspapers, “loaded paper bags and plastic garbage bags.” Had her mother really been living in this squalor?
However, most puzzling of all is a large flat screen TV and envelopes stuffed with uncashed checks. How could her mother have afforded the Tv and who was sending her money? Her only clues may be found in the sometimes failing mind of Sandra’s elderly next door neighbor, Mina Yetner. Yet at 91 Mina seems to have problems of her own - almost setting her house afire, misplacing important papers and stowing her purse in the fridge. Mina’s nephew, Brian, is insistent that she move into a nursing home, but Evie slowly becomes convinced that he has reasons other than concern for his aunt.
There Was An Old Woman is both touching and filled with suspense - enjoy!
- Gail Cooke