Written by Sophie Eblett
Attention all cosy mystery and true crime enthusiasts: there’s a new group of amateur sleuths in town. Well, retirement village.
Richard Osman, whom you may know from televised competitions Pointless and Child Genius, released his debut novel The Thursday Murder Club last year to critical acclaim. The quaint murder tale was published 3 September 2020 courtesy of Viking Press and quickly garnered a reputation as a beacon of light in the darkness of the pandemic, delighting readers with eccentric characters and a reasonably intricate enigma. Owing to its popularity a sequel is already in the works, titled The Man Who Died Twice and due to be released 16 September this year.
The story takes place at Coopers Chase, an upmarket retirement village where unlikely friends Joyce, Elizabeth, Ron and Ibrahim convene weekly to pore over cold murder cases. When an acquaintance is killed on their doorstep, the four assemble to solve their first live case alongside allies in the local police force. An ex-nurse, intelligence agent, union leader and psychiatrist make an unsurprisingly good team, a fact that leads to the instant recruitment of quasi-protagonist Joyce.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Thursday Murder Club. It met my genre expectations capably, although the collaboration between the amateur investigators and the police extended further than I have previously seen. Multiple points of view strengthened the story, expanding interestingly upon characters whose perspectives sometimes reveal and sometimes obscure elements of the unravelling plot, allowing for good control of both pace and reader comprehension. Combined with the writing style – which I feel is best described as completely and charmingly English – the endearing attitudes and relationships within the book render it comparable to the pleasant experience of afternoon tea.
The premise is attractive, but what about the denouement? Avoiding spoilers, I will divulge that while each character is well presented and defined, a number of motivations baffled me. Although understandable, certain reactions simply came across as disproportionately extreme to certain situations. However, the novel is free of plot holes and inconsistencies, and Osman leaves no loose ends. Instead, he crafts a connection between the reader and the members of the Thursday Murder Club by disclosing information unknown even to the fictional authorities. Osman also confronts realisms of life as an OAP with admirable care, resulting in a story peppered with heart-warming and heart-breaking moments in equal measure.
Ultimately, though I found in it nothing ground-breaking despite the hype, The Thursday Murder Club is an undeniably lovely read. I would recommend Richard Osman’s first novel to fans of Agatha Christie or M. C. Beaton who are perhaps looking to satiate a craving for new Miss Marple.
I rate The Thursday Murder Club 3.5/5.
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