Monday, September 21, 2020
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Joyce, part-time narrator and retired nurse, is often overlooked. She's sees that as her skill, that she appears to be harmless and chatty. Elizabeth, the leader of The Thursday Murder Club, invites Joyce to join the small group who investigate cold case files left by Detective Inspector Penny Gray, the woman Joyce is replacing. Penny's now in The Willows, a place where the residents of Coopers Chase Retirement Village, a luxury retirement home, go to die. The other members of the group are Ibrahim, a psychiatrist, and Ron Ritchie, a famous trade union leader. Elizabeth? Is she a former spy, or something else? There are rumors about Elizabeth's past, and she's notorious for exaggerating those stories.
There are clubs for every interest at Coopers Chase, which was once a convent. The Thursday Murder Club is kept a secret, scheduled into the room once a week as a Japanese Opera study group. The visit of a young ambitious police constable, Donna DeFreitas, interests all of them. But, when the contractor who renovated Coopers Chase is murdered just after he was fired by Ian Ventham, the owner, the quartet turn into amateur sleuths. Elizabeth has a plan to put PC DeFreitas on the investigating team at the police station. It's left to Joyce and the men to tell the police how they witnessed an argument between Ventham and the dead man.
Ian Ventham can't leave well enough along, though. One day, his contractor is murdered. The next, he shows up with a new contractor, Bogdan, and equipment to dig up the caskets and bones in the convent cemetery. There are no protesters as wily as experienced seniors, though, and they block the path to the cemetery. By the time the police arrive, Ventham is furious. Although DCI Chris Hudson tries to calm him down, the man dies on the way to his Range Rover. By the estimation of the members of The Thursday Murder Club, there are seventy seniors who could have killed Ian Ventham.
Two murders, files of cold cases. The Thursday Murder Club is in its glory. But, Bogdan contacts Elizabeth, asks her to accompany him to the cemetery, and digs up, for the second time, a body on top of a coffin. Another mystery at Coopers Chase! It just gets better and better for the sleuths, but they're soon digging into the past secrets of drug dealers and retired residents of their community. While Hudson and DeFreitas would like to keep them on the sidelines, Elizabeth skillfully manipulates the two police officers to keep the group in the loop.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron. The four seniors have a lifetime of experience to buoy up their investigations. They're intelligent, manipulative sleuths. The character-driven mystery couldn't have a better cast of characters. It's a humorous, sometimes laugh aloud story with intelligence and wit. At the same time, it's bittersweet. The members of the group are all too aware of their own mortality, of the loss of memory of their loved ones, of the time when they themselves might suffer from dementia or illness. Death stares them in the face on a daily basis, so a murder investigation has nothing to scare them.
The four members of The Thursday Murder Club are in their seventies and eighties. Let's hope they live long lives to investigate more murders in England.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. Viking, 2020. ISBN 9781984880963 (hardcover), 368p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a .pdf to review for a journal.