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.
Some of my favorite novels with delightfully surprising seniors, in reverse publication order:
- MRS. PLANSKY’S REVENGE by Spencer Quinn (Macmillan, July 25, 2023)
- SILVER ALERT by Lee Smith (Hachette, April 18, 2023)
- The THURSDAY MURDER CLUB series by Richard Osman (Penguin Random House, ongoing)2 Word among librarians in the know is that Osman is taking a break from this series after THE LAST DEVIL TO DIE comes out on September 19. Nooooo! I love these characters, especially my girl Joyce!
- KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE by Deanna Raybourn (Penguin Random House, September 6, 2022)
- FRENCH EXIT by Patrick DeWitt (HarperCollins, June 18, 2018)
- LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK by Kathleen Rooney (Macmillan, January 17, 2017)
- THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED by Jonas Jonasson (2009 in Sweden, released in the USA in 2012 by Hachette)
What I’m reading right now:
#TheSunsetYearsOfAgnesSharp #LeonieSwann #SurprisingSeniors #England #translated #aging #animals #mystery #BarbaraPym #TheWitchesOfMoonshyneManor #BiancaMarais #MrsPlanskysRevenge #PeterAbrahams #SpencerQuinn #SilverAlert #LeeSmith #ThursdayMurderClub #RichardOsman #KillersOfACertainAge #DeannaRaybourn #The100YearOldManWhoClimbedOutTheWindowAndDisappeared #JonasJonasson