Book Review: Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

My first review, and indeed, blog post, in over three months, is the brilliant debut from one of the nicest, and cleverest, people in television. I intend to be writing more often again in 2022.

‘The Thursday Murder Club’ is not your average murder mystery. It’s not really your average anything to be honest. The unique prospect in front of us is part Midsomer Murders, part Last Of The Summer Wine, with resulting combination somewhere close to Agatha Raisin. But that would just be putting it inside a box with other shows, which would only serve to denigrate just how good this is.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron are four pensioners living in a picturesque and expansive retirement village, Coopers Chase. They happily look over old files of murder cases, trying to solve them for their own amusement, all taken from the (illegal) storage of Penny, another resident who is sadly close to death and unable to communicate (or, as is often mused, hear). They take great delight in solving murders, gossiping about the other residents, and baking cakes (mainly drizzle). Imagine their delight when not one, but three live cases need to be solved!

Their police counterparts, who are meant to be the ones investigating, are Chris Hudson, and Donna De Freitas, who only gets on the case due to some antics involving window locks and a fake nun. They originally are not best pleased with their new elderly friends trying to solve the case, but eventually come around to the idea – when they turn out to be very useful.

The best thing about this book is the characterisation. Great care has been taken to give all the main characters little quirks – whether it’s Elizabeth knowing the right people and having been to the right places owing to her mysterious past, Ibrahim’s need for accuracy and mathematics, or Ron being grumpy and miserable and revelling in a fight – which make them feel like genuine people. I love the use of Joyce’s diary as a plot device – the only time we hear from her is when she acts as narrator and speaks to the audience through her writing. Too often, murder mysteries can be cold, can be focussed purely on the case, and forget that everyone has their own lives and their reasons for doing things. The Thursday Murder Club does the opposite, and the high frequency of death leads to some moving considerations from each resident about when they will join their former friends and family on the other side.

Lots of little twists throughout the book never fail to amuse when they lead to bizarre situations or surprising new suspects. Every character has their moment as well – the central six characters aren’t just dragged in unnecessarily to further their own story. This is great fun if you don’t take it too seriously – I saw a one-star review call it ridiculous because of how unrealistic the premise is, bet he’s fun at parties – and no wonder it’s the fastest selling crime debut in history. If you just fancy a relaxing mystery, or need a last-minute stocking filler for Christmas, The Thursday Murder Club is worth more than one thought.

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