As you may know from my recent TBRs, I’ve been on a real murder (story) spree lately.
When I saw that the second book in Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series is coming soon, I figured I’d better read the first one, titled The Thursday Murder Club, which has been on my long list for a while.
This book is a delight!
If you enjoy mysteries, there are plenty of red herrings. If you enjoy stories about groups of friends solving things before the police can do it, this is definitely that. If you enjoy stories about older people finding a second life and new friendships after they thought they might be done, there’s that too. But mostly mystery.
The story is set in a retirement village where a group of septuagenarians (and at least one octogenarian, but we’ll never tell; he does pilates to stay young!) puzzle out cold cases that one of them has been holding on to since her time on the police force. The narrative begins through the journal of Joyce, recently added to the group, and progresses from there.
Though we spend the most time from Joyce’s (a retired nurse who has a rocky relationship with her successful adult daughter), Elizabeth’s (was clearly some kind of spy in the 1970s and 80s, but she’s not allowed to talk about her work), or Donna’s (a young police detective) points of view, there are opportunities to meet each of the characters and learn their rich backstories, and hear their fears and hopes, each in very individual, authentic voices.
Being an American, I couldn’t peg all of the exact British archetypes, and even as an Anglophile I found I had to look up a reference or two. However, the overall Britishness of the story, the characters, and the way they all interact made the book so fun to read! After finishing, I immediately wanted to read another book in the series, to stay with this group of people. Did I love them all? Absolutely not. But I did want to stay in their world a bit longer.
Some criticisms I saw in the comments and reviews on Goodreads, which I would like to address to better elucidate my feelings on the book (if this is too much for you, skip down to the P.S.):
- Story is unrealistic / weird / wouldn’t really happen that way: And? So is much of fiction. That doesn’t mean it’s not a fun read. And this certainly is!
- Murder plot felt secondary to the story of the retirement community: Yep. But that’s part of what was great about the book — it’s actually a story about older people finding second chances, and having their hearts broken, all WHILE solving a murder.
- Richard Osman is a celebrity, and it wasn’t his writing ability that got him the book contract so it must not be good: Straight bunk. I didn’t know anything about him before (though now that I’ve googled him it turns out he’s a British TV presenter and comedian who does a quiz show), and his name didn’t make me pick up the book. If I lived in Britain and knew who he was, I might have a different opinion. But as someone with no stake in the game, I think the book is super fun. And if his celebrity helped him get the contract, good for him. I hope he writes a ton more of these!
- Too much ‘silliness’ / ‘wokeness’ and not enough mystery: Again, while a mystery is a big feature of the book, the key thing is the relationships. And, honestly, the characters and their voices and their relationships were what I couldn’t get enough of. To the person who thinks this book is too ‘woke’ and ‘can get sermons at church,’ a newsflash: a lot of people think of inclusivity as just common decency, rather than ‘wokeness.’ Also, when gems dropped from someone’s mouth in the book (such as when the young police officer doesn’t want to be called WPC — woman police constable — because all police are now just referred to as PC with no need to single out the women), the opposite point was also often given because the characters aren’t just all cardboard.
- Story is too slow: If you’re looking for a hardboiled detective mystery with lots of action scenes and at least one kidnapping and chase, this is not that. Find a different book. But this story is great for what it is, and I think it’s exactly what it was supposed to be.
- Plot was hard to follow: It really wasn’t. Yes, there were a ton of red herrings. Yes, the variety of characters made it complex. But like any good mystery, the seeds were planted early on and they came to fruition by the end. I only have one gripe about the ending, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so if you read it please discuss with me so I can discover whether you felt the same way I did.
P.S. I did this one as an audiobook, and the reader (Lesley Manville, a famous British actress) was fantastic. I highly recommend the audiobook version! Plus, you get a bonus interview with the author at the end, conducted by an Irish author whose accent is genuinely delightful.
Anything to add? Let us know in the comments!