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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Little Old Lady Who
Broke All the Rules

Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

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To purchase The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules

Title: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
Author: Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 390 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules - US
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules - UK
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules - Canada
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules - India
Comment braquer une banque sans perdre son dentier - France
Wir fangen gerade erst an - Deutschland
La piccola ottantenne che cambiò tutte le regole - Italia
La bolsa o la vida - España
  • Swedish title: Kaffe med rån
  • Translated by Rod Bradbury

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Our Assessment:

B : passable ultra-lite fare

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 31/10/2014 Brandon Robshaw
Svenska Dagbladet . 14/8/2012 Erik Löfvendahl

  From the Reviews:
  • "Though slow at times, it’s a good-natured, humorous crime caper in the Ealing comedy mould." - Brandon Robshaw, The Independent

  • "Det är en lättsam och trivsam kriminalkomedi med hög mysfaktor som Ingelman-Sundberg skrivit med förvecklingar och vissa spänningsmomen (.....) Det ligger möjligen i sakens natur att den här sortens romaner måste bli en smula konstruerade, att dialogen kan kännas lite stolpig och att somliga skeenden i ärlighetens namn blir föga trovärdiga." - Erik Löfvendahl, Svenska Dagbladet

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules is a geriatric comedy featuring a "close-knit group of friends" who decided they wanted to live together in old age, which is how they wound up at 'Diamond House', a retirement home that is decidedly less appealing now that money-grubbing Director Mattson has insisted on cutting back at every corner (and has his mistress, Nurse Barbara, doing the enforcing).
       Martha is the 'little old lady' of the title, and a Prologue begins with her shuffling into a bank in her Zimmer frame in an attempt to rob it; when that doesn't work she enlists her close friends and hatches bigger plans. On TV they see that even jail looks more comfortable than their current situation, so they figure they'll commit a crime that gets them locked up in that more appealing looking relative comfort. They call themselves 'The League of Pensioners' and hatch some rather elaborate plans -- though a tendency to not always think quite far enough ahead leads to a light comedy of errors.
       Escape to the Grand Hotel is meant to provide one good opportunity to pull off a heist and get themselves locked up. They can certainly live it up in the hotel for a while, and even if their original plan turns out to be a bit of a flop opportunity turn out to be right next door, at the National Museum, which is what they set their sights on next. The plan to steal two paintings, and then collect a ransom for their return, is amusing enough in its execution -- and reasonably successful. They even have a clever idea of how to hide the paintings until they've collected the ransom.
       Things going half-right is about par for the course for the old-timers, so their cashing-in -- and cashing out -- don't go exactly as planned. They do manage to get themselves locked up in a state correctional institution for a while, though that isn't everything they dreamed of either -- and they do itch to get out and get back to tidying up loose ends, and perhaps moving on to the next coup.
       Ingelman-Sundberg does the comical mix-ups reasonably well, though occasionally overplaying the same hand too often -- the police and others rather too often turn away from what's right in front of their noses (indeed, sometimes what's practically being rubbed into their noses). There's also a somewhat cavalier attitude towards crime which is not entirely victimless here, and while the old-timers want to do good with the money they take, it's still ill-gotten gain that someone else has to pay for. Among the less appealing twists is also yet another character taking advantage of the situation for some personal enrichment, in holding the paintings hostage (with no follow-through as to what becomes of her afterwards).
       The police are fairly inept, the bad guys the oldsters meet in prison unpleasant but never truly threatening, and the nursing home owner and Nurse Barbara cartoonish figures (who are also fairly oblivious to what's going on around them). In fact, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules resembles nothing so much as a children's novel featuring a gang of kids who rebel in adventurous-childish ways -- The Famous Five and the like. Substituting a geriatric set for pre-teens, the characters nevertheless have similar limitations and qualities, from short attention spans and physical limitations, to a variety of individual talents.
       The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules is fine, with some clever set pieces -- the crimes, in particular, unfold quite nicely -- and some fairly rough if occasionally amusing filler material. But it's entirely undemanding fare -- a novel written for 8 to 10 year-olds, and featuring a gang of characters that, for the most part, behave like 8 to 10 year-olds, except that it's (very simply) disguised as adult fiction; presumably, old folks' nostalgia for the reading fare of their much younger days is good enough too: the novel (and the sequels -- dear god, yes, there are sequels !) have sold millions.
       It's hard to be critical of the holes in the plot and the caricature-presentation, because The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules never even aspires to be anything but the ultra-lite fare that it is. It's passable as such -- not really good, as even this sort of fiction can be, but by and large harmlessly bad -- but as the emptiest of pass-time reading it's hard to think of it as in any way worthwhile.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 July 2016

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The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules: Reviews: Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg was born in 1948.

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