The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman has been on my TBR pile for a long time. A mystery involving grannies is right up my street! From the blurb….
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late.
When someone at my book club chose it (thank you Zoe!), I was elated. Finally, I had an excuse for reading it and what a treat it was too!
In a luxury retirement village, Coopers Chase, Four retirees meet every Thursday in the jigsaw room (a prime and most-fought over meeting point at the village) to discuss unsolved murder cases forgotten by the police. One day, a local property developer ends up murdered in his own home, with a mysterious photograph left by his body, a vital clue. Luckily, the Thursday Murder Club is on hand to solve the case, before bodies start to pile up!
First off, it is sad to say that I found the whodunnit murder plot itself slightly forgettable and as a reader I didn’t really feel bothered about whether they caught the killer or not. There were a few characters that were instrumental in the murder, who I actually did not care about or pay attention to. I also felt like there were quite a few coincidental or lucky events towards the end of the story, and not enough clues for the reader to have a go at guessing the killer themselves during the read through.
That being said, I still really enjoyed this book, and it was the four Thursday Murder Club members, rather than the plot, that kept me wanting more. The main characters are a complementary mix of personalities – in a sense, the actual murder plot comes secondary to the unique characters and the relationships which form between the four retirees.
Retired nurse Joyce, new to Coopers Chase, gets taken under the wing of Elizabeth, a founder of the Thursday Murder Club and ex-spy. The blossoming relationship between these two characters is lovely and dominates the novel (in a good way). You see how Joyce, who admits she wouldn’t usually step out of her comfort zone, gets swept up in the unsolved murder they find right on their doorstep.
Of course the police investigate the crime alongside the Thursday Murder Club – you need to suspend your disbelief when it comes to the police, as they quite happily talk to these unassuming retirees about the case, seem to be easily swayed with a slice of lemon drizzle cake to divulge information and follow the club’s leads over their own. I did enjoy seeing Elizabeth get her own way puppeteering the police, and also getting to know Donna De Freitas, the young policewoman, who befriends the club whilst giving a talk on home security at the retirement village – she ends up on the case with the help of persuasive Elizabeth and her wily ways!
Whilst initially Elizabeth could be disliked, as I got to know her head-strong approach, I began to warm to her – she doesn’t take no for an answer, has a number of contacts to find out information (how useful!) and manages to ger her own way with the majority of the other characters in the story, including those police I mentioned. An endearing sub-plot, which adds to Elizabeth’s complexity is the introduction of her best friend, Penny, ex-police and the co-founder of the Thursday Murder Club (and the person who the cold case files have come from). Penny is bed-ridden and no longer conscious, living her remaining days in the retirement home. Elizabeth still visits and consults Penny on cases, even though she can not respond – very poignant, reminding the reader of the fragility of life, and gives Elizabeth the motivation to continue to crack the unsolved cases that Penny couldn’t solve.
Ibrahim and Ron as less developed in the story, but are still very likeable, adding bits of humour to the story, and I hope in subsequent novels they get fleshed out a bit more.
The fact that the amateur sleuths are old actually adds to the story as they bring their wisdom and charm to the proceedings, as well as their aching bones. Who wouldn’t help a little, old pensioner, right? However, don’t underestimate these guys! They are a force to be reckoned with and when they put their heads together are a formidable sleuthing team, who aren’t afraid to bend the rules to seek out the truth and catch the killer.
The chapters are short and sweet, which I liked, as this gave me a sense of achievement when reading and allowed me to dip in and out quite easily without getting lost. Whilst primarily written in third person, slotting in amongst the chapters were diary entries written from Joyce’s point of view, providing a newbie’s view of the club dynamics. I particularly enjoyed these chapters – Joyce felt like the most relatable character in the club, and I was really moved when reading more about her relationship with her daughter and the tightrope of emotions she sometimes had to navigate – it gave me a real insight into mother/daughter relationships from a different perspective (and made me want to pick up the phone to my mum).
This book very much felt like a written episode of Midsummer Murders or Death in Paradise….a reliable cosy mystery, with an element of humour but also a tinge of sadness sown through. I have already purchased the sequel, The Man Who Died Twice, and can’t wait to find out, with cup of tea and slice of cake in hand, what crime the Thursday Murder Club investigates next!
Also, delighted to hear Richard Osman has quit Pointless to focus on his writing full time (and there is talk of a movie) – this means there are even more adventures for the Thursday Murder Club to come! Hurrah!