Review

Endearing elderly cast make for satisfying whodunnit

Richard Osman (left) offers a satisfying couch read with The Thursday Murder Club (right).
Richard Osman (left) offers a satisfying couch read with The Thursday Murder Club (right).PHOTOS: PENGUIN BOOKS, VIKING

CRIME FICTION/MYSTERY

THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB

By Richard Osman

Penguin Books/Paperback/380 pages/$27.82/Available at: bit.ly/ThursdayMC_RO

4 stars

There are no detectives with inner demons chasing down serial murderers in English television presenter Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club.

Instead, four seniors living in a retirement village built on converted convent grounds discuss cold cases once a week for two hours between Art History and Conversational French.

Things heat up when these armchair detectives try to crack a real murder case: A local builder hired to tear down the convent's cemetery is bludgeoned to death after a visit to the village.

This murder mystery falls squarely into the genre of cosy crime fiction - no explicit violence or sex, just tea and baked goods between, and sometimes during, the interrogation of suspects.

While this book is hardly ground-breaking, it is a highly satisfying read packed with charming characters.

There is Joyce, the club's newest member and a retired nurse who acts as the point-of-view character between chapters.

The club is led by Elizabeth, a woman with a mysterious yet illustrious career. The other members are retired therapist Ibrahim and Ron, a firebrand ex-trade unionist.

Their dialogue makes for some of the funniest moments in the story, which has plenty of laugh-out-loud humour. At one point, the club attempts to narrow down the identity of a killer who may be living in the village and has access to needles and drugs, to which Elizabeth replies: "That's everyone here."

Osman plays up his protagonists' age at every turn, though not without good reason. Old age is the superpower of the murder club. It affords the four Sherlocks a willingness to play fast and loose with the law, and a social advantage that demands people treat them kindly.

Their swashbuckling ways are balanced by the book's quieter moments, which give its elderly cast space to contemplate their final years.

Ageing can be a cruel process - the sudden realisation that a spade will be too heavy to lift, or living in constant fear that your memory will soon slip away.

The story does get a little overly sentimental near its conclusion, giving every red-herring suspect a backstory, some of which skew towards the tragic. The big reveal is a tad predictable as well, but this novel, meant to be the first in a series, remains enjoyable nevertheless.

The Thursday Murder Club is not meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, but for curling up in an armchair with a cup of hot tea.

If you like this, read: Big Sky by Kate Atkinson (Transworld, 2019, $29.27, available at: bit.ly/bigskykateatkinson), the latest in the author's Jackson Brodie detective series. In this instalment, Brodie is living a quiet life by the sea. While gathering evidence on an unfaithful husband, he gets pulled back into a sinister network intertwined with his past.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2020, with the headline 'Endearing elderly cast make for satisfying whodunnit'. Print Edition | Subscribe