Source: Review copy
Publication: 3rd September 2020 from Viking
My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy of this book for review purposes
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?
What a delight this book is! I’m not usually drawn to the gentler edge of crime, but I have to tell you that this is sublime. A sort of literary New Tricks with baking – and this time it’s not the cops who are the smartest interpreters of human behaviour. That talent belongs to Elizabeth who used to be…well, I don’t have to tell you, we all know what business Elizabeth was in before she came to Cooper’s Chase, the retirement village she now calls home.
Joyce is new to Cooper’s Chase. She used to be a nurse and after a discussion over lunch of knife wounds and the length of time it might take to bleed out, Elizabeth has inducted her into the gang of four, with Ibrahim, a retired psychiatrist and Ron, a former trade union leader, once dubbed, of course, ‘Red Ron’. Ron has a son who is no stranger to the law, and not in a good way. The Thursday Murder Club was originally set up by Elizabeth and her close friend Penny who used to be a DCI, to take a second look at some of Penny’s cold cases. Now Penny is in her final stages of an illness that has confined her to bed and so Elizabeth has selected Joyce to take her place in the Club.
Joyce writes daily in her journal and that is the mechanism through which we learn much of what transpires in the peaceful surroundings of the Kent countryside. As Elizabeth finds a companion soul in Joyce, she is soon meeting up every Thursday to discuss old cases.
Then property developer Tony Curran is murdered and the Club decide this is a case that is worthy of their talents. But first they have to find a way to access the police information. Enter PC Donna de Freitas. Recently arrived in Kent from the Met, she is sent to do an ‘old dears’ talk on security at the retirement village, only to find herself skilfully manoeuvred and utterly played by the four.
It isn’t long before they have wangled Donna onto the Kent Police murder team run by DCI Chris Hudson, a man who lives to work because he has no other life. The judicious use of lemon drizzle cake soon brings DCI Hudson into line and the Club members secure themselves a hotline to the investigation.
There’s a lovely flow to this crime novel, aided by some wonderful characters and the sense of adventure and spirit that these octogenarians display, even though in some cases their bodies let them down, or they need to write things down to remember them.
Osman’s characters are easy to like and to identify with and his wit is gentle and sometimes laugh out loud funny as we see our Club members use their wiles and deductive reasoning to get to the truth.
I defy you not to like these characters and I certainly came to like them a great deal. Though this is undoubtedly cosy crime, it is also crime with wit and flair and a nicely layered plot that stands up well against any of the golden age crime writers.
A complex plot with lots of red herrings and some real villains, what makes this a stand out read is the combination of characters you come to like a great deal and the interweaving of the realities of their lives with some fabulous crime solving capers.
Verdict: This is a joy to read and hugely entertaining. Wit, warmth and compassion abound in this lovely book. Brilliant humour and pathos combine to produce a great read that had me smiling most of the way through. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone. A must read and bring on the next case!
Richard Osman is a British television producer and presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first and, so far, best novel.