Book review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Saturday, September 5, 2020 Permalink

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman came as a huge surprise. I’d requested it thinking it sounded a bit quirky but at the same time unsure I wanted to hang with a bunch of old people talking murders.

But it’s addictive. It’s cleverly-written, extremely funny and offers up some delightful characters. It reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Britt-Marie was Here and The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village. With a side or two of murder thrown in for good measure.

Book review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard OsmanThe Thursday Murder Club
by Richard Osman
Series: The Thursday Murder Club #1
Published by Viking
on 03/09/2020
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, General Fiction, Humour
ISBN: 024142545X
Pages: 400

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Our host for most of this story is Joyce, a relative newcomer to The Coopers Chase Luxury Retirement Village. It’s an upmarket community, open to those over 65 and a place where ‘the Waitrose delivery vans clink with wine and repeat prescriptions every time they pass over the cattle grid’.

Joyce is a former nurse and fairly determined to find her next husband (and not at all shy about sharing that pursuit). She’s not wealthy or renowned like most of her neighbours. Her daughter, a hedge fund manager, has paid for her apartment.

Joyce starts a journal on joining the Thursday Murder Club though her blunt and often-hilarious musings are supplemented by some third person accounts. And Osman puts us in the head of a few different support characters, all of whom are as entertaining as each other.

Joyce soon meets Elizabeth. She can’t tell us what Elizabeth did ‘before’ retirement but she’s certainly got friends in the right places and a story for every occasion… needless to say we assume she worked for a government agency with a number in its name.

Given her background as a nurse (and ability to work out how long someone stabbed would take to die), Joyce is coopted into the Club to replace a founding member Penny who’s now unconscious and hospitalised. Penny’s a former Inspector of Police and she and Elizabeth formed the Club along with psychiatrist Ibrahim and Union boss Ron to go over Penny’s old cold case files.

Of course there are a myriad of other oldies with expertise to draw on when needed but the group also adopt a couple of local police officers when there’s a murder on their doorstep.

I didn’t actually mark paragraphs—which I’d normally do with such witty and elegant prose—but I snorted and laughed out loud at parts of this novel. Joyce’s storytelling is so matter-of-fact she slips all sorts of weird and macabre things in there – as do our other storytellers.

Other than the two police officers, our narrators are older and we’re told…

After a certain age, you can pretty much do whatever takes your fancy. No one tells you off, except for your doctors and your children. p 18

This book is—in fact—a whodunnit but I’m loath to ‘categorise’ it as such because the murders seem almost secondary to everything else happening. They are of course the catalyst for the events unfolding here, both those in the present and consideration of those in the past, but this book is so much more.

I read something yesterday commenting on Australian COVID-19 mortality figures and a marked increase because of ‘data’ reconciled from private aged care facilities. Someone I follow on Twitter pointed out it wasn’t data; they were people. And this book reminds us that older people still have vibrant personalities, active minds and a myriad of experience and knowledge. More importantly… they were once us. And we – if we’re lucky – will (one day) be them.

I adored this book. There are a few moral or ethical dilemmas that I think bookclubs would love to ponder. It’s also bittersweet in parts, with lessons for us all…

In life you have to learn to count the good days. You have to tuck them in your pocket and carry them around with you. p 88

And something kinda irrelevant but interesting is that Osman doesn’t belabour or make a point of our characters’ cultural heritage. I got a surprise at one point and then pondered on why I’d made an assumption; realising it didn’t (and shouldn’t) matter either way!

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was published in Australia by Penguin (Viking) and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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