Book review: Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

I loved My Year of Rest and Relaxation so I naturally looked up other books by Ottessa and found Death in Her Hands. Well. Goodness.

I love a cozy murder mystery as much as the next hoarder of dog-eared used paperbacks of Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle’s work.

But this book? Death in Her Hands reminds me of the song MacArthur Park that has the famous line:

Someone left the cake out in the rain.

When I was a child, someone told me that the song was created on a dare between musicians, and that it had to have a reference to cake and that it had to hit the charts.

The internet doesn’t mention this dare, but I believe I was told this because it’s too incredible for me to have made up.

I like to imagine that Ottessa was hanging with one of her writer friends one day, and a challenge was issued: to write a murder mystery based only on the perspective and narrative of an elderly woman.

Why is this a challenge? Because elderly women are sneered at in our western society. Because as a ‘middle-aged’ woman, I already feel invisible when I run my errands. This can only get worse as I age.

Older women are not revered. They might become ‘grannies’ or simply the ‘old lady’ who lives next door. More often than not, we opt to not refer to these women at all.

It didn’t take long to listen to this book for me to realize what it is, and that I better get used to this narrator’s keen yet meandering perspective. I became enthralled, not only with the character’s personality and insights, but with the unfolding action. It gave me great hope that my golden years might truly be exciting times.

This book is a treasure of teased out backstory, of humorous leaps of thought and of discovered clues. I listened to it (and yes, listening to audiobooks counts as reading, you snobs) while out power-walking around my neighbourhood, and disturbed many a magpie with my loud, echoing “Ha!”

Death in Her Hands is a masterpiece.

Get it on Apple Books