I enjoy British television, particularly British mysteries like “Morse” and “Lewis” that were on Masterpiece Mystery for so many years. One of the things I enjoy about British television in general is that it offers characters who look like you and me. The old people look older, complete with wrinkles, rounded bodies, sometimes stooped shoulders or greying hair. The young people often look energetic, but they aren’t always “falsely beautiful”. They run the entire spectrum from less than attractive through ordinary to quite lovely. Some of them have crooked teeth, even the young people may have a flaw or two; not the botox faced, youth obsessed, incredibly thin characters we so often see on American television.
In addition to the screen being filled with people I might run into at the grocery store or the post office on any given day, the plot lines are more realistic. There are quiet moments, moments when the bad guy gets caught without the final five minute shoot-out, the unrealistic car chase, or the hiding behind huge pieces of equipment or long-haul trucks parked near an abandoned warehouse. Don’t get me wrong, there is the occasional chase, the occasional gun going off, sometimes it gets rather dicey; but somehow it’s in a more realistic way.
Now, take that atmosphere and apply it to a book and you have the very intelligent, often funny, most engaging book by Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club. NOTE: I’ve posted a couple of pictures that helped me create my own mental image of what it might be like to live in a senior citizen center located on the grounds of a former convent..
In this book, you have a group of four senior citizens who live in a retirement village located on the grounds of a former convent. The group comes together every Thursday afternoon to discuss possible solutions for previously unsolved murders. I often chuckled as I read about their escapades, and occasionally found myself laughing out loud. All these senior citizens are interesting, bright, talented, and fearless. In short, they make aging look like a good thing rather than something to dread, even with the accompanying aches and pains that invariably develop.
My husband and I have often said we should write a book about the outrageous things we might try once we’ve reached our “golden years”. After all, there are few expectations of you as a senior citizen. You are often invisible to the general public, and at some point you know most of your years are behind you, so it becomes a matter of “What are you waiting for?”. If I ever reach that point, I hope I can find a group of people like the Thursday Murder Club with whom I can spend my time. Of course, I’m going to have to up my game if I’m going to have the smarts and the skills these people have. Here’s my review of the book.
A thoroughly entertaining book filled with intriguing characters and an engaging murder mystery to solve. Before it’s all over, there are a couple more murders to solve; and these fold seamlessly into the story as it moves along.
Many of the characters are senior citizens in their 70’s and maybe’80s; most of whom had interesting careers in their younger days. While they are now retired, four of them bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the task of solving “cold cases” at their weekly meeting of the “Murder Club”. The group was started by a former Chief Inspector who has now had to be moved to the nursing facility. Now it consists of her replacement, a former nurse, her best friend, a woman who worked in the shadow world of espionage about which no one knows many details, a retired psychiatrist and retired labor leader.
These four people demonstrate themselves to be exceptionally resourceful and bold. Their skills complement one another in ways that help them explore facts and reach correct conclusions with results that are beyond those of the local police. With this latest murder, they move from cold cases to an active investigation and connect with a local police constable and her supervisor, a detective. As the story progresses, they share information with the police and develop a system that leaves the police somewhat frustrated by some of their methods but appreciative enough of the results that they are allowed to continue.
The book consists of 115 short chapters that interweave the writings of one of their member’s, Joyce with chapters written in the omniscient style of narrative voice. It was my first time reading a book that is written with such short chapters, and for the purposes of this novel it works well. They serve to provide both information about the murders and the investigation while also giving enough character information to develop the characters into three-dimensional people.
While the plot is excellent and the book moves at a good pace, it’s the characters that really make this most appealing. Their individual personalities and quirks as well as their skills are brought to light as the book progresses, and the reader has an opportunity to increase their relationship with the characters at a more natural pace. The result is it’s like spending several hours with a group of people who have become your friends.
Some readers might find the book a little long, and might prefer to have had perhaps one less suspect to eliminate. I’m on the fence about that issue. There is also a bit of melancholy in the book that was unexpected; which was completely appropriate and yet left me wishing things were different. I refrain from saying more as I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone.
I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys smart, character driven books. It’s an added bonus if you enjoy reading about older people who are still quite talented and able to achieve good things, thank you very much. There is something very much akin to many British television series where the characters are all ages, sizes, and skill levels; much like might be encountered in real life. That added to the appeal to me for this book.
My thanks to Penguin Book Viking, Pamela Dorman Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advance review copy of this novel. This review offers my honest, unbiased opinion.
Do yourself a favor, especially if you are staying closer to home right now because of the pandemic, pick this book up when it is published or ask your library to order it. Right now publication date is set for September 22, 2020. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year for sheer fun. Happy Reading.