Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman: Reading Room Review


What a great adventure with the septuagenarians who call themselves The Thursday Murder Club at Coopers Chase Retirement Village. It’s an idyllic setting in Kent, England, with open space and country air. A luxury retirement home that has been built out from an original ancient building that used to be a nunnery. Throw in for atmosphere, and later more, the nun’s cemetery on the hill, and it is a lovely place indeed for a murder mystery or two.

The four quirky septuagenarians who gather every Thursday to discuss murder are sharper and more resourceful than anyone would initially give them credit for. It’s a closed group, meeting under the covert name of a Japanese Opera study group, which discourages any newcomers. Elizabeth informally heads the group, and her past life is anybody’s guess, but that guess would have to include travel to many parts of the world and a contact in every port. Joyce is a former nurse who is recruited to join the group after it’s been in operation for a bit, and who is the perfect hostess with plenty of hidden talent. Ibrahim is a retired psychiatrist who is methodical and thoughtful about his actions, a calming presence when needed. Ron is retired from his union job in which he fought hard for others, and who has a famous ex-boxer for a son. Ron’s plain-spoken manner gets to the heart of matters. The member of the group whom Joyce has replaced is Penny Gray, a retired Detective Inspector who now lies comatose in the wing of Cooper’s Chase where she can no longer participate in anything. It was Penny’s cold cases that were the basis for the Murder Club’s beginning. However, the group soon gets a fresh murder on their agenda, and they could not be more thrilled. 

By chance, the residents of the retirement home receive a visit from Donna DeFreitas, a local police constable, sent to deliver a talk on security. Elizabeth and her friends have ideas for a less boring talk, and Donna gets her first taste of just how unconventional “old” people can be. There’s life in those old bones yet. The Murder Club and PC DeFreitas quickly meet up again when one of the partners in developing Cooper’s Chase, Tony Curran, is found murdered. Three of the Murder Club had witnessed an argument between Tony and the other developer/owner, Ian Ventham. 

The members of the Murder Club know that they can’t miss out on solving this murder that’s happened practically under their noses. Of course, as Elizabeth knows from experience, you need a source on the inside of the action, and she cleverly is responsible for getting Donna assigned to the murder case. Donna’s boss, DCI Chris Hudson, is exactly the right person to run this murder investigation, as he isn’t invested in his ego and listens to Donna, and eventually the Murder Club gang. When there is a second murder, it takes all the heads together to dig down to the truth. 

The characters are what drive this book, this adventure of murder solving. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron find friendship and purpose in their “golden” years by using their brains and individual skills to show just how valuable they are. We come to know this group as interesting, vital people, not ready to be put out to pasture or ignored. Of course, they must deal with the mortality of their friends, and they can’t help but think about their own at times. Yet, the reader will see far more optimism here than negativity. And, there are younger characters, too, who make this story sing. The give and take in the relationship between Donna and Chris is delivered brilliantly through their entertaining dialogue. Donna has arrived in her boss’ life at just the right time for him, and the Murder Club has made a timely arrival in Donna’s life as well.

One of the vehicles author Richard Osman uses in The Thursday Murder Club to move the action forward is Joyce’s journaling. Her journal entries fill in blanks for us and help to bring loose ends together in what the Murder Club is doing in their investigation. It also gives us a more personal and fleshed out view of Joyce, such as her relationship with her daughter. The journal serves as a smooth segue from one scene to another, while enhancing our emotional investment in the characters.

Charming, witty, thrilling, heartwarming, heartbreaking. The Thursday Murder Club encompasses all those qualities, giving readers a great story with unforgettable characters. Layers of intrigue to sort through as the murders are solved, and more than one suspenseful moment when you wonder if our aging sleuths will escape a dangerous situation. I can absolutely see this capable cast of characters in a TV series, which also means more books, please. Richard Osman’s debut novel is one that readers don’t want to miss.

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