Cover image of a house with flowers and crows on the roof. Smoke is coming out of the chimney in the shape of a skull, There is a tortoise making a trail across the yard and a man in a hat in a wheelchair and a woman bent over a cane. Text says "The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp A Murder Mystery Leonie Swann Translated from the German by Amy Bojang." The cover blurb text reads "'A deliciously clever plot with warmly drawn characters, dollops of tension and dark secrets. Brilliant!'–Helen Tursten, bestselling author of An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good"

Aging Disgracefully

THE SUNSET YEARS OF AGNES SHARP rating: four stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.

THE SUNSET YEARS OF AGNES SHARP by Leonie Swann (Soho Crime/Penguin Random House, August 29, 2023) is a new favorite of mine in the fictional trend I like to call “Aging Disgracefully” or “Surprising Seniors,” and not just because it’s set in England. The seniors who live in Sunset Hall, in the small town of Duck’s End, struggle quite a bit more with physical and mental limitations than mature adults in similar novels. While sometimes their mental confusion lost me as a reader, I admired the hearty dose of realism.

Thanks to Edelweiss Plus/Above the Treeline and Penguin Random House for sending this book to me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The quirky cast of characters are Hettie the tortoise, Agnes Sharp herself, Edwina, Bernadette, Winston, Marshall, Charlie, and Brexit (the dog). Charlie and Brexit move into Sunset Hall and upset the applecart in a very Barbara Pym-like manner.1 If you have never read Barbara Pym (1913-1980), treat yourself to EXCELLENT WOMEN (1952) or, if you want to stay on topic, QUARTET IN AUTUMN (1977, shortlisted for the Booker Prize). My personal favorite is CRAMPTON HODNET (written in 1940; published posthumously in 1985). Straight humor and dark humor are plentiful as the story is told from different viewpoints (including Hettie’s)! Agnes gets herself into startlingly dangerous situations while sleuthing, considering she can’t even climb stairs.

Agnes is the owner of Sunset Hall and she does not want dogs in the house, or grandchildren. However, the appearance of Charlie, with her dog Brexit, and the later appearance of Marshall’s food-adoring grandson, cause minor upheaval compared with not one, but two murders of women of a mature age living nearby. It will fall to Agnes, with the help of the inhabitants of Sunset Hall, to solve the murders. The twists at the end are surprising and satisfying.

The novel is translated from German into English, and may have lost something in translation. I had an easier time reading the last third of the book than the beginning and the middle.

Aging gracefully is a bore. Aging disgracefully is something to be proud of.

Bianca Marais, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor, MIRA/HarperCollins, August 23, 2022.

Reading context:

Some of my favorite novels with delightfully surprising seniors, in reverse publication order:

What I’m reading right now:

SIDLE CREEK by Jolene McIlWain, a collection of Appalachian short stories (Penguin Random House, May 16, 2023)

#TheSunsetYearsOfAgnesSharp #LeonieSwann #SurprisingSeniors #England #translated #aging #animals #mystery #BarbaraPym #TheWitchesOfMoonshyneManor #BiancaMarais #MrsPlanskysRevenge #PeterAbrahams #SpencerQuinn #SilverAlert #LeeSmith #ThursdayMurderClub #RichardOsman #KillersOfACertainAge #DeannaRaybourn #The100YearOldManWhoClimbedOutTheWindowAndDisappeared #JonasJonasson