The Thursday Murder Club By Richard Osman (2020)
Published on January 24, 2022
Reviewed by Stephen Bacchetta
Richard Osman, an English comedian and television producer, published his first novel in 2020. The Thursday Murder Club was the result, and its unique blend of setting a murder mystery within the confines of a luxury retirement community made it a hit with critics and readers alike.
Elizabeth Best, Joyce Meadowcroft, Ron Ritchie, and Ibrahim Arif are the four members of the Thursday Murder Club, a group that meets every Thursday in the Jigsaw Room at Coopers Chase Retirement Village to peruse old case files from unsolved murders around Kent County. When somebody they know ends up dead, the quartet decides to try to solve the case themselves. They each bring a different set of skills to the team, refined by their diverse careers and the stimulating lives they led before arriving at Coopers Chase. Secrecy and deception abound as the intricate plot unravels and we learn more about the past of our many enigmatic characters.
The Thursday Murder Club is a fast-paced crime fiction novel that perfectly juxtaposes the slow and often repetitious tedium of a retirement community. The 351-page book is divided into 115 chapters, with the narrator quickly switching perspectives from character to character, giving different insights to the events taking place. The candor of the characters and the abruptness of the action both work, and the ever-present thought that infirmity and death lurk around each corner for our geriatric foursome and their friends is rather thrilling. Intermittently, a first-person diary entry written by Joyce breaks up the action. The reader forms a bond with sweet, innocent, clever Joyce as she recalls the proceedings of the day, informs us of what the group’s plan is for the future, or just reminisces about her daughter, her late husband, and her life before Coopers Chase.
You wouldn’t guess this was Osman’s first novel by reading it. The brilliance of his writing lies in the flowing, seemingly effortless way he describes his scenes and ruminates as both his third-person narrator and as Joyce. His comedic background shines and is particularly noticeable in the dialogue; the back-and-forth between the elderly residents of Coopers Chase, the two effective but mismatched police officers, and the potential murder suspects they informally interrogate is worth the price of admission alone. There is no shortage of laudable adjectives to heap on this book: witty, riveting, imaginative, heartwarming, thought-provoking, hilarious, inspirational, unforgettable. The list goes on and on. Osman has created a small, fictional community in southeast England that readers around the world will relate to, sympathize with, and root for.
A sequel, The Man Who Died Twice, was released in September 2021, and Osman has stated he has plans for an additional two books to round out the series. Amblin Entertainment, the movie production company headed by Stephen Spielberg, purchased the rights to the book following its release. We’ll undoubtedly be seeing a lot more of Osman and his band of restless retirees for many years to come!
Last time I had been in London was Jersey Boys with the gang, which was a while ago now. We used to go three or four times a year if we could. There were four of us. We would do a matinee and be back on the train before rush hour. In Marks they do a gin and tonic in a can, if you’ve ever had it? We would drink them on the train home and giggle ourselves silly. The gang has all gone now. Two cancers and a stroke. We hadn’t known that Jersey Boys would be our last trip. You always know when it’s your first time, don’t you? But you rarely know when it’s your final time. Anyway, I wish I had kept the program.