The Thursday Murder Club: Richard Osman

Published by Penguin

If you’re looking for a light read with a bit of murder thrown in, then look no further. Richard Osman has written a delightful whodunit, set in an upscale retirement village in the UK.

Septuagenarians Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim and Ron live at Coopers Chase, a retirement village. They form the Thursday Murder Club. The club started by Elizabeth and Penny, a former policewoman who is now in a coma. Penny had taken copies of cold cases when she left the force, and the members of the club use their considerable brains to solve the crimes, more for their own satisfaction than to bring the perpetrators to justice. Joyce is the newest addition, brought in to replace Penny. She keeps a meticulous diary, which forms part of the book.

Each one of them brings something to the club. Elizabeth obviously has contacts in government and the underworld, but it is never clear what she actually did for a living. Joyce used to be a nurse and is one of those self-effacing but observant people who, with a bit of persuasion and cake, manages to get people to do exactly what she wants. Ibrahim used to be a psychotherapist, and Ron was a trades-union leader.

Then one day Tony Curran is murdered. Tony is the builder of Coopers Chase and a close friend of the developer, Ian Ventham, and also his muscleman. Ian has plans for developing the property around Coopers Chase but has decided to cut Tony out of the considerable profits. Tony is furious and as he sits in his house planning to kill Ian, death comes for him instead.

Coopers Chase is built on the site of an old convent, and the chapel and the old graveyard still remain intact. Ian’s plans for redevelopment will mean digging up the graveyard, which has the local priest and some of the residents up in arms. On the day the diggers arrive, there is a demonstration and a scuffle, during which Ian is murdered.

When the handyman, Bogdan Jankowski, decides to start digging up the graves anyway, he finds an extra skeleton in one of the old graves. Does the cemetery hold secrets that someone wants to keep hidden? And why does one of the residents, Bernard Cottle, sit on a bench facing the graveyard every morning?

The club members get to work, picking up evidence, manipulating the police to allow Donna de Freitas—a young policewoman whom they like—to be part of the murder investigation team. Thanks to them, Donna goes from being the young woman bringing the team tea to becoming the right-hand woman of DCI Chris Hudson.

Putting old people at the heart of a murder mystery is a brilliant idea. These are no doddering oldies—they’re all sharp as nails with years of experience behind them. They know just how to find the information they’re looking for and do not miss a trick.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The characters are engaging and believable, and Osman writes with a lightness of touch and humour. It’s the perfect pick-me-up.

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