Series: Thursday Murder Club #1
Released: September 3, 2020
Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
The Thursday Murder Club
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
I tend to like murder mysteries, I really like Richard Osman, and the humour in The Thursday Murder Club is of the kind that I generally find very entertaining. I dove into this book having eaten up all the surrounding hype, I was excited to read it, I was looking forward to exclaiming to anyone who would listen that not only is Osman a thoroughly charming and funny individual, his book is great too! I really wanted to love this book… but I really didn’t.
I think this is a solid case of me just not being the right reader for this book. Because, technically, it’s wonderful. On the face of it, the premise is fun: a group of pensioners at a retirement home get together on the titular day of the week to solve cold cases. Through the combination of their past careers, life experience, and an age-granted right not to play by the rules, they solve cases the police have had to give up on. For me, the premise falls flat when, at several points, the novel deus ex machina’s all over itself by these ladies gaining information through family and acquaintances who happen to have access to the exact information they need, and a complete disregard for any rules that would prevent them from divulging this information. I’ve seen worse contrivances, but the ingenuity of the premise weakens itself through breaking the apparent rules of its own universe, as it were.
As contrived as the premise might feel at times, nothing can detract from the main strengths of the book. It has a warmth, a charm, and a sense of humour that feels completely real and genuine. The main characters are likeable, self-aware, and charming, and you end up wanting to be best friends with almost all of them. As a piece of writing to make me smile, chuckle, and feel good, this worked excellently. For the purposes of a book that’s meant to make me feel engaged in the plot, and curious about what’s going to happen next, it didn’t. Everything was too polished and too smooth. The dialogue feels too perfect, the twists too convenient, and the mysteries in the book, and the twists in it, feel like they’ve been engineered with great precision to feel exactly shocking and confusing enough without needing to be thought through too hard.
The constant referral to stereotypical actions and dialogue by characters that lend themselves to stereotypes, whether it be builders, police, or, most of all, old people, never feels evil, but quickly becomes trite. It adds to the humour and charm of the book, and while it remains funny, it becomes distracting. At least to me.
The underlying plot is fairly good, but, in this case, the constant focus on the characters, combined with there being so many of them, almost made me forget about it. I’m all for character-driven crime fiction, but when there are five characters battling to take the wheel, it all starts feeling a bit messy. The plot wasn’t predictable, but I was also never properly misled, and discovering what actually happened without having a preconceived notion of something else happening doesn’t lend itself to the same satisfaction.
Overall, I’m confident that this is a great book that just wasn’t for me. As long as you’re expecting a fun, unchallenging, book where crimes happen, it holds up well. If you’re expecting a thrilling and surprising piece of crime-fiction, this isn’t that. I’m still very much a fan of Richard Osman though, and based on that alone I’ll probably get whatever he publishes next just to see how he develops as an author. I do hope he plays it less safe next time.