Viking | 2020 (3 September) | 400p | Review copy and bought copy | Buy the book
Coopers Chase is a very smart retirement village in Kent, whose residents prefer to keep their minds and bodies in shape through a variety of pursuits, including monitoring with vigour the village’s car park. Joyce is approached one lunchtime by her fellow resident Elizabeth who invites her to join the Thursday Murder Club. Joyce is a former nurse and so is full of useful information about knife wounds. Elizabeth, the leader of the group and with a colourful, secretive and very well-connected past, has acquired police files relating to cold cases and the Murder Club, now four in number with Joyce (as well as Ibrahim, a retired psychiatrist, and Ron, a former trade unionist and father of a famous boxer) work to solve them. All in their seventies at least, this is their way to keep their minds alert, to stave off the day when they must retire to the medical quarters as so many of their friends have already done.
When Tony Curran, a builder associated with Coopers Chase, is murdered and the owner of the development is suspected, the Thursday Murder Club leaps into action with far more relish than is seemly, eager to help DCI Chris Hudson and PC Donna de Freitas. It’s soon pretty clear who is in charge of the investigation, and it isn’t DCI Chris Hudson. As the case grows increasingly complex and dramatic, and the body count rises, its investigators, whether old or less old or even young, discover things about themselves and each other, about life and growing old, or even growing up, as they set about solving the murders in their own inimitable fashion.
The Thursday Murder Club has received a huge amount of attention and I must admit to being wary on initial approach but I can confirm that I knew from the very first page that this would be a novel I would adore. And I did. I loved absolutely everything about it. Richard Osman writes beautifully, with such a lightness of touch and real insight into his characters. Our six main characters – Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, Ron, Chris Hudson and Donna – are enchanting, fully realised, individually distinct and complete charmers, especially Elizabeth and Joyce. I do believe Elizabeth could talk her way into – or out of – any situation. They are all immensely likeable and their interactions with others are wonderful. Elizabeth’s observations about her fellow residents are poignant and the secrecy hiding her past is fabulous! She surprises us constantly.
As far as the characters go, there’s a special place in my heart for DCI Chris Hudson, a middle-aged, overweight man, full of good intentions and unable to deliver on any of them, as he realises. He is such a kind man. Donna, who comes from the Met, misses city streets and regular murders, and is under 50, is a fish out of water but it is great to watch her slowly find her place. Her dialogue sparkles. Much of the conversation throughout the novel is witty, penetrating and valid.
There really is something very special about The Thursday Murder Club. I love how its focus is on older people. The characters who are so often in novels scene fillers or make cameo appearances are now given centre stage and this book shows just how much they deserve it. They might be living in a retirement village now but they all carry their past lives with them. There is a wisdom in this novel and there were one of two moments when I was extremely moved, especially when Joyce reflects on her feelings towards her daughter. As someone who has recently lost her mother, I can’t even think of those moments without tears, including now. There are some heart-wrenching memories and reflections on display here, and some real gentle care, including Elizabeth’s tenderness towards her ailing but marvellous husband. This is all fabulous! I also enjoyed how Joyce’s journal entries interweave through the narrative, with her wonderful wandering mind on full display.
I could go on and on…. I love the plot. It’s just the sort of thing to appeal to Agatha Christie fans or any readers of classic crime. I wouldn’t call it cosy because it’s much more than that, but it does provide comfort to the reader. The setting is perfect. The whole atmosphere is perfect. The Thursday Murder Club is a treasure of a novel, which deserves all of the attention and praise (not to mention sales) heaped upon it. It would make for a wonderful TV drama. And I can’t wait for the next novel in the series – may there be many more of them.