As I imagine many of us were, I was introduced to Richard Osman through Pointless alongside Alexander Armstrong, who I was already a fan of thanks to his musical and theatrical connections. Since then he’s an easily recognisable, partly due to his height, source of wit, knowledge and trivia to fuel hundreds of game nights. When I heard he was foraying into the world of fiction, and crime/murder mysteries no less, I was immediately intrigued and even more so when it seemed to be a hit from the moment of the announcement. Viking has put so much behind this book and its been so interesting to watch this roaring success make waves throughout the industry and beyond.
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.
But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be octogenarians, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
— Publisher Synopsis, Viking (Penguin Random House)
The Thursday Murder Club immediately delivers on its promise of delightfully eccentric elderly people getting together to discuss unsolved murders, including all things grizzly, as informed by their professions including a nurse, psychiatrist and Elizabeth, whose profession I can only assume is protected by the Official Secrets Act. Specifically, the perfect balance between Elizabeth whisking Joyce around the country for hijinks and Joyce settling in to write it all out in her diary will ensure miles are beamed at almost every page. The characters who supported the central bunch certainly never let the standards slip for even a minute. PC Donna De Freitas stood out from the crowd as a relatable young woman working her way up in the world despite changing circumstances, or curve balls in human form A.K.A. Elizabeth and the Thursday Murder club.
I certainly didn’t find age, or circumstance for that matter, to be a barrier to enjoying but specifically relating to those at the very heart of The Thursday Murder Club. I found Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and even Ron very relatable. As I mention throughout my reviews, my interest in mysteries, thrillers through to classic Gothic and horror narratives comes from an academic and personal curiosity in the scientific, specifically medical and anatomical, aspects of these genres specifically. It’s lovely, and reassuring, to think that one day in the ageing years you could still have such frank conversations with new friends spurred on by shared interests, just as Joyce discovers on joining the Thursday Murder Club.
Unfortunately, the other half of the plot simply focused on the aftereffects of criminal syndicates, gangs arranging deals and the police searching for said gang members across various countries. This is an entirely personal preference, but these focus areas of crime narratives didn’t hold my interest anywhere near as much as the escapades of the Thursday Murder Club. They are so intricately woven together thanks to the central mystery; however, I did find my interest noticeably slipping during chapters focusing on the police’s focus on the revenge/gang boss angle of the crimes.
This isn’t a negative point and far more a heads up. This book is far more heartbreakingly emotional than I had initially been prepared for. It illustrates the resident’s feelings towards death, ageing, mourning and memories in a gorgeously raw way beyond my initial expectations. As a theatre lover, for example, who visits with my mum, Joyce’s recollections of her gang of friends who would see Jersey Boys had me tearing up. Bernard also broke my heart. Quite a few of the character’s backstories got me, but Bernard’s is one that I will not forget for a long time.
As I’ve alluded to above, Osman interweaves the wonderfully comic, bright and crazy, but in all the right ways, personalities of the elderly characters with their honesty regarding ageing and mourning. This is beautifully expressed in Osman’s writing and I found myself hugely impressed with the writing. That confessional scene, if you know you know, struck me immediately as Osman elegantly played with the form, including the reader’s expectations, to suit his narrative perfectly. The narrative itself was also well crafted in keeping track of a relatively large cast, who eventually sprawl across multiple locations, even age ranges and motivations.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book even whilst the unexpected tears fell onto my page. I got what I was promised in the form of the widely eccentric and lovable, but ultimately mysterious, Thursday Murder Club and I also got to see them work away on an ingeniously curious mystery. However, a large majority of the plot, including the central mystery, was dedicated to crime novel aspects which I don’t enjoy as much as others. I’m very happy to see Viking dedicated to heavily marketing The Thursday Murder Club 2 already and that there is a film in the works.
Will you be picking up Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club? Do you have any ideas for the film’s cast? I’m not sure why exactly, but Rahul Kohil, after seeing him as Owen in The Haunting of Bly Manor, reminded me of a younger Ibrahim. Although I understand he is far younger than the casting age!
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was published by Viking, Penguin Random House on the 3rd of September 2020. Viking is already heavily promoting the sequel so you can pre-order here.
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