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There Was an Old Woman: A Novel of Suspense…

There Was an Old Woman: A Novel of Suspense (edition 2013)

by Hallie Ephron

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1471881,427 (3.7)5
Title:There Was an Old Woman: A Novel of Suspense
Authors:Hallie Ephron
Info:William Morrow (2013), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Suspense fiction

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There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron



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The story is set in a section of the Bronx full of history as an aging neighborhood is being overtaken by a company intent on demolishing its homes.

When Sandra Ferrante is hospitalized, her daughter Evie comes home to clean up her mother's home, only to be confronted by a mess beyond her wildest dreams. In addition to the alcoholism that is killing her mother, it now appears that Sandra Ferrante has become a hoarder. Evie reacquaints herself with her mother's neighbors, especially Mina Yetner, whose nephew is encouraging her to move to a nursing home. There are a lot of secrets in this small neighborhood and Evie is thrust into the middle of them as tries to determine who she can trust.

Although there is suspense to this story, it centers more around the future of the neighborhood. "There Was An Old Woman" is not the creepy, scary story I imagined, nor is it the terrifying web of deception and madness the back cover advertises. These two negetives would have generally made me take this with a grain of salt...not my usual type of book. However I couldn't stop reading it. I enjoyed Ephron's writing, which was easily readable, and only wish that some of her plots - especially the subplot centering around an historic event that Mina witnessed were more developed.

Don't let the fact that it's not the usual type of suspense put you off reading this. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
An intriguing mystery with well-developed characters. I almost want to call this a cozy but it isn't, not quite. The mystery was pretty easy to unravel but I found myself interested in the characters, especially the relationship between the sisters and their mother. As well as the side story of their aging neighbour. History plays a major theme throughout in many roles as main character Evie is an historical preservationist by trade and finds past places and stories crossing her path as she tries to deal with her mother's sudden terminal illness, perhaps murder. Not a thriller by any means but a pleasant page-turner, nonetheless. I'd certainly read the author again. ( )
  ElizaJane | Mar 31, 2016 |
Good book. Although I knew from the start who some (not all) of the baddies were, I was in suspense about how many lives would be destroyed before they were discovered. The characters were mostly well developed and I rooted for Mina; I really wanted her to be a survivor. ( )
  scot2 | Jun 22, 2015 |
(Abandoned; not rated)

Two characters, an old woman named Mina and her neighbor's daughter, Evie, are about to have tea. The young woman fetches fragile heirloom china teacups from a kitchen cabinet (not from a china cabinet in the dining room): the tea and the cups are stored in the same place. At Mina's direction, she puts a tea bag in each cup, and the old woman pours boiling water into them. Then Mina says the tea needs to steep and accompanies Evie into the living room to show her the marble fireplace and the memorabilia on display.

They talk much too long for the tea to steep in small porcelain cups; and why isn't an elderly woman with fancy china cups and a sculpted marble and mahogany decor using a teapot just for the sake of it?

While they are still talking in the living room, the doorbell sounds (front? back?), followed by a sharp knock, and Mina "scuttled into the living room" (page 43) to escape her nephew. When did she leave the room? Where was she? In this detailed account of every move and practically every heartbeat, there's no mention of her departing from the spot in front of the fireplace, and certainly not returning to the kitchen. She's going to the living room while still in the living room.

The nephew finds her in the living room, and while they talk Mina hears Evie washing up the china teacups in the kitchen ("Mina heard water running in the kitchen and the tink of bone china"--which shouldn't be making a tink unless the pieces are striking one another) even though they have not yet gone back and drunk their tea.

This author is not paying attention. Relentlessly and often irrelevantly or superfluously descriptive, she nevertheless fails to track her characters' positions and has one of them hurrying into a room she has not left.

This was the third strike.

The first was requiring the reader to plow through immense quantities of descriptive detail that serves no apparent point.

The second was a flat-out factual error committed while showing off. On page 39 we read:

Evie got up and walked through, pausing to touch one of the fluted columns mounted on a half wall separating the dining room from the living room. A memory flickered. Before the fire, her parents' house had had columns separating the rooms, too, only theirs had been plainer, not topped with these Doric scrolls--volutes, to use the technical term.

Volute: a term I didn't know. But I do know--and of course verified anyway--that the Greek columns with the scrolls are not Doric. The Doric are the plain ones. The ones with scrolls (volutes) are Ionic, and the ornate capitals decorated with rows of curling leaves and scrolls are Corinthian. Doric, Ionic, Corinthian. I learned those terms in sixth grade. Like everything else these days, it's easily checked online (although I used a heavy American Heritage dictionary); but Hallie didn't, and her editor (did she even have one?) didn't.

The cover says: "A novel of suspense." By page 46 the only suspense of any kind is wondering whether this stiflingly inert story that isn't even a story is ever, ever going to go anywhere at all.

I might have given it a chance, even then; but it failed a simple continuity check on page 43. Three strikes and you're out.
2 vote Meredy | Jun 16, 2015 |
THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN by Hallie Ephron is a realistic reminder, of how it is “heck” growing old and aging. An intriguing suspense mystery surrounding the lengths some will go for greed, as they prey on the aging.

The story starts out a little slow with the background; however, gains speed the second half when elements start falling into place for a mystery thriller.

The book opens with Mina (90, independent and feisty), as she is reading obituaries, as another one “bites the dust”, and is added to her list. The neighbor tells Mina to call her daughter, Ginger with an encrypted message. Mina calls Ginger, who informs her sister Evie, it is her turn to care for their elderly, alcoholic mother (Sandra). Evie is in the middle of a project but agrees to look after her mom. After leaving the hospital she returns to her mother’s house to find a mess of a hoarder among other strange things.

A series of events occur and some man keeps hanging around wanting to fix things. Evie does not have a good feeling about this man. She learns several of the homes in the neighborhood have been burned, sold, or torn down, as a developer is trying to buy all the properties.

In the meantime, Mina’s nephew wants to move her into an assisted living so he can get his hands on her home. In addition, Mina starts losing papers, leaves stove on, and gets knocked down by a car. Is some trying to setup these elderly, in order to make them think they are losing it?

Evie becomes convinced that Mina’s forgetfulness is not simply due to her age, and Mina’s nephew, who insists that Mina move into a nursing home, may be hiding something. Evie and Mina team up to get to the bottom on this mystery in the neighborhood, triggering the elderly. The two women share more than a neighborhood, but also a past one wants to preserve and the other hopes to forget.

Readers will connect with Mina, and as one of the reviewers mentioned, we all love Grandma Mazur (from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series), and Mina comes in at a close second!

There are some nice tie in’s—Evie is a fireman's daughter who witnessed a tragic blaze at a young age, she is curating a show for a historical society about the day in 1945 a lost B-25 bomber slammed into the Empire State Building—a crash, as it happens, Mina survived. Told from both Evie's and Mina's perspectives offering a bit of an historical fiction and a light mystery combo.

Listened to the audiobook with narrator, Nan McNamara who has a pleasing voice. Would recommend to readers who enjoy light mysteries, not die hard-heart pounding suspense crime thrillers, as may not be exciting enough to please this audience.


( )
1 vote JudithDCollins | Nov 27, 2014 |
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A novel of psychological suspense, in which a young woman returns to the quirky Bronx riverfront neighborhood where she grew up, only to find that her mother's house has become a hoarder's nest. As Evie digs into the events of the past few months, a bigger, more sinister story begins to unfold.… (more)

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