Judith Potts is 77 years old, lives in an old big house in Marlow on the Thames and likes nothing more than to swim in the river, shockingly nude, loving the thrill of her independence. But on one swim she witnesses the murder of a neighbour. She flees to the police but they don’t believe her. Judith, a genius crossword puzzle solver, decides to solve the crime for herself but, in so doing, she gathers around her a small group of other women, each with something they need to do: Suzie, a no-nonsense dog-walker, and Becks, the local Vicar’s wife, undoubtedly prim and proper. When another body turns up, they are joined by DS Tanika Malik, a detective who feels out of her depth with a serial killer to catch. Together they form the Marlow Murder Club. And watching them is the Marlow murderer.
Robert Thorogood is most well known for his Death in Paradise stories but now he turns his attention closer to home, to the elegant and rather posh town of Marlow, and the result is an unashamedly cosy crime novel that is an absolutely joy to read. I was initially suspicious as there are undoubtedly similarities to a certain other recent novel that I adored but it turns out that there’s more than enough room for more murder mysteries featuring puzzle-solving older people, especially women. As Agatha Christie would attest, no doubt.
The Marlow Murder Club has much going for it, not least the heady atmosphere of a summery Marlow, with its art galleries, tea shops and boaters. It all feels over-rich, above the law, the perfect setting for a murder. The scene is set so well. The deliciously complex and involved plot fits into this world perfectly – not that I’m going to say anything about that.
But it’s Judith and her friends who steal the show. Judith is fabulous. I listened to the audiobook, which is brilliantly read by Nicolette McKenzie, and she does a fantastic job of bringing these women to life. Each of the women in the novel has another side to her but Judith’s story in particular is really intriguing and lovingly revealed by an author who clearly cares for her. There are stereotypes here and Robert Thorogood has fun playing with them while enjoying them for their own sake. There is so much in this one to revel in and I can’t wait to see Judith and her newly discovered friends return.