Smart, great fun, and all-too addictive
Recensito nel Regno Unito 🇬🇧 il 24 settembre 2021
What a treat this book has been! The Thursday Murder Club has filled a Famous Five-shaped void in my adult life that I hadn’t realised was there. Okay, so there are only four members of this amateur crime-busting cabal … no dog (yet!) … and the ginger ale has been replaced by pricey bottles of Malbec … and the bones may be creakier than my beloved childhood gang, but the derring do, the charm, the well-meaning bickering, and the fabulous ability to outsmart the rozzers are all heartily present.
In a nutshell, The Thursday Murder Club has the potential to be the single most influential piece of marketing the (luxury) retirement village sector has ever seen. It vividly creates a setting of quintessential countryside chic, with rolling hills, farm shops, small stone bridges over a meandering river … and introduces an unexpected abundance of lamas … but generally very lovely. And the retirement village itself - Coopers Chase - boasts an array of activities and outings and gatherings to rival any Club 18-30, albeit of a more age-appropriate gentility …
… Apart from the Thursday Murder Club, that is. It’s something of a covert black-ops group masquerading as a Japanese Opera Discussion Group to deter nosy parkers, and those who lack the constitution for the grisly and graphic cold-case murder scene and autopsy photographs. Founded by retired police detective, Penny, and glamorous spook, Elizabeth, the group of four gather each week to scrutinise the files of unsolved murders that Penny diligently ‘liberated’ in the run up to her retirement.
Sadly, when we join the Club one they’re member down, Penny; lost to the advanced stages of dementia and now bed-bound in Willows; the village’s nursing home. As Elizabeth’s old friend, it’s her visits and her one-sided monologues that drive home the inescapable and rather poignant moments of the book. Because, whilst The Thursday Murder Club is a witty and chuckle-a-minute murder mystery, it’s also a compassionate window into the future, with the young-at-heart characters coming to terms with failing health, voluminous prescriptions, widowhood, and one or two regrets. But, exactly because this is a witty novel, these slightly scary truths are portrayed with just the right amount of light-hearted teasing, before romping off to solve the next puzzle.
The club has always been a group of four, so Elizabeth wastes little time in enlisting Joyce; retired nurse, chatterbox, demon cake-baker, and with a countenance that people frequently underestimate. It’s Joyce’s fabulous, no-holds-barred diary that makes up a large chunk of this book, giving voice to a character that ripples with idiosyncratic quirks, unflinching observations, and the charming but casually caustic critique that only the older generation can get away with. Her chapters felt like settling down with long-missed grandparents and listening with relish whilst they viciously demolish whoever’s rankled them that day. The vernacular and colloquialisms are so pitch-perfect it took a Herculean effort to remind myself these words are really spilling from Richard Osman’s ‘pen’ and not really from Joyce’s.
Ron and Ibrahim complete the Club; two chalk-and-cheese characters. Ron is a retired and very notorious trade union leader; a tattooed and rather shouty West Ham supporter whose cringingly outspoken and argumentative nature is generously explained away as ‘well, that’s Ron’. Heart of gold … salt of the earth … bull in a china shop … and surreptitiously endearing. Ibrahim, meanwhile, is neat, precise, immaculately dressed, and with a Gatsby-esque poise and politeness that won my heart immediately. In his hey day he was a psychiatrist … perhaps Elizabeth saw in him someone who could extract truths from unwitting suspects during their armchair investigations. Left to her own devices, I have no doubt that she has a painfully effective set of skills to deploy on more reluctant individuals.
Batting for the youth team are PC Donna De Freitas - a cracking character who brings a sardonic wit and hint of jaded-London cool to the rolling Kent countryside - and her boss, DCI Chris Hudson who’s not quite braced for the ambitious and sharp-tongued whirlwind that’s just joined his team. On paper, they really shouldn’t gel as well as they do … but they do, and oh so well. Nor should they forge quite such a super relationship with the subversive Murder Club crew … but the chemistry is first-rate, giving rise to sparks and clashes that elicit so many laughs.
It doesn’t take long for the Murder Club’s investigations to progress from the theoretical to the practical, with the first murder implicating the owner of their retirement village. The undisguised glee amongst the plucky foursome had me laughing out loud, and when the second murder takes place even closer to home the mood escalates from giddy excitement to down-right celebratory. The victims and the suspects are as colourfully characterised as Joyce and co, and although they’re an eclectic mix of the odious and the unlucky I found myself enjoying getting to know them every bit as much as I did the good-guys. None of them are quite prepared for the determined snooping of four unassuming pensioners, whose remarkable discoveries create headaches of their own for DCI Hudson as he struggles to keep up with their underhand fact-finding.
Don’t underestimate the cosy nature of The Thursday Murder Club … the main characters may be elderly, the setting may be genteel, and the humour may catch you off guard … but this is a murder mystery of the most entertaining kind, with an unpredictable plot, and a large cast giving the puzzle plenty of capacity to twist and mislead. Whilst, at first, the murder seems to be quite obvious, take a moment to remind yourself of the enormity of the mind that’s created and authored this story. I can honestly say this has been the most enjoyable read … and I want more.
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