BookBrowse Reviews The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

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The Thursday Murder Club

by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman X
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2020, 368 pages

    Aug 2021, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Debbie Morrison
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About this Book



Richard Osman's hilarious debut features a plucky group of septuagenarians, a young wannabe detective and a murder mystery decades in the making.

They say life begins at 40, but after reading The Thursday Murder Club, I'd say there's a strong argument that life actually begins after 65. Richard Osman's debut mystery novel centers around an upscale retirement community called Coopers Chase in the English county of Kent and the members of the "Thursday Murder Club" who live there. Elizabeth is a former who-knows-what for sure (but certainly a secret agent of some sort). Ron is a former union boss who's never met a fight or an audience he didn't like. Ibrahim is a former psychiatrist whose habits are as tidy and precise as his mind. And Joyce is a former nurse whose pleasant, unassuming nature makes her the perfect co-conspirator for any occasion.

When readers first meet them, the club has been convening every Thursday to delve into cold cases collected by founding member and former police inspector, Penny. Unfortunately, Penny's mind has been ravaged by dementia, but with their wits and varied expertise intact, the remaining foursome sets about solving these murders once and for all. Meanwhile, Police Constable Donna De Freitas, a 26-year old London transplant eager to climb the ranks of the force, is assigned to give the group a simple talk on home security. But the club has different plans for PC De Freitas. She's soon recruited into the ranks of the Thursday Murder Club when a series of deaths at Coopers Chase spur them all on to catch an active killer.

Similar to many other "hijinks mysteries," there are a lot of characters in The Thursday Murder Club. However, the large cast and the shifting narrative perspective turns out to be one of the most pleasant features of Osman's novel. Not only do readers get characters who are as varied and strange as a former boxing star turned reality TV personality and a philandering real estate developer with dreams of starting his own juice line, we get access to their internal monologues. During a meeting to try to convince a woman and her father to sell their land, Ian Ventham, the real estate developer-cum-juice magnate, cannot help but focus on the woman's appearance. Ian thinks that "she works in IT, she could have googled 'Botox.' She must be fifty...same age as him. Different for women, though." The hilarity that ensues from this kind of shifting perspective is brilliant, as it underscores the rampant misunderstandings these people have of each other while deepening the reader's appreciation for Osman's characters and his wild plot.

The Thursday Murder Club is equal parts intrigue, humor and pathos. On the periphery of the murder mystery are the sorrows and challenges of old age. Each member of the club has lost a spouse, or a close friend, or a profession, or his/her health to a degree. But in many ways, it's those losses that make the connections between them all the more poignant. Toward the end of the novel, Joyce's daughter, Joanna, says it best:

Remember when you moved in here, and I told you it would be the end of you? Sitting in your chair, surrounded by other people just waiting out their days? I was wrong. It was the beginning of you, Mum. I thought I would never see you happy again after Dad died...Your eyes are alive, your laugh is back, and it's thanks to Coopers Chase, and to Elizabeth, and to Ron and Ibrahim, and to Bernard.

If you already happen to know that Richard Osman is a British celebrity, set aside your preconceived notions. He isn't your average celebrity writer. The Thursday Murder Club is a well-written, lively whodunit in the vein of Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard on this side of the pond or Kaye C. Hill's Lexy Lomax series on the other side. And since Steven Spielberg has already bought the novel's film rights, it's likely to become your next onscreen favorite as well.

Reviewed by Debbie Morrison

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in October 2020, and has been updated for the September 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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