Publisher: Penguin Audio (Audiobook – 22 September 2020)
Series: Thursday Murder Club – Book One
Length: 12 hours and 25 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
British comedian and television personality Richard Osman presents one of the best debut novels of 2020 with The Thursday Murder Club, a clever and hilarious murder mystery novel that was an absolute treat to read.
Welcome to Coopers Chase, a luxury retirement estate near the town of Fairhaven where the elderly can relax and enjoy their final years in peace, quiet and good company. But for four enterprising septuagenarians, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, retirement also offers them a bold opportunity for some excitement and adventure as the Thursday Murder Club. Meeting up each Thursday in the Jigsaw Room, these four friends attempt to solve cold cases forgotten by the police. While it may seem like a harmless hobby, these retirees are thrilled by their amateur investigations and welcome the chance to bring a little justice in the world. However, when a local property developer with a dodgy past is brutally murdered with a mysterious photograph left next to his body, the Thursday Murder Club jump at the chance to investigate a real live case.
Thanks to a lifetime of connections, skills and intuition, the members of the Thursday Murder Club are able to quickly position themselves in the middle of the burgeoning case, much to the frustration of the local police. Using every unorthodox and somewhat unethical trick at their disposal, the club members gain vital information about the murder. However, when a second person is poisoned right in front of them, the club soon begin to realise how high the stakes are. A killer is stalking Coopers Chase and they will do anything to protect their secret. Can the Thursday Murder Club stop them before it is too late, or will their first real mystery be their last?
Well, that was exceedingly delightful. Osman is a fantastic British comedian who has been in a number of great British television programs (we’re big fans of Pointless), and, like many celebrities, he decided to have a go at writing his own novel. I have to admit that when I first heard that Osman was writing a crime fiction book, I was intrigued but I did not initially plan to read it. However, after hearing some positive buzz from other reviewers and being in the mood for something a little different I decided to check it out, and boy was I glad that I did! The Thursday Murder Club turned out to be an exceptional read which blew me away with this incredible and unique crime fiction story. Osman has come up with something special with this book, and I had an outstanding time listening to it and exploring the fun story, unique characters, and clever depictions of the elderly of Britain. This is easily one of my favourite debuts of 2020 and it gets a full five stars from me.
Osman has come up with an elaborate and entertaining story for The Thursday Murder Club that combines an excellent murder mystery with large amounts of brilliant humour and several amazing and tragic moments of drama. The author makes great use of multiple character perspectives to tell his clever story, and the reader is soon wrapped up in a number of different personal tales that all tie into the murders that form the centre of this book. While The Thursday Murder Club is a little slow at the start, it does not take long for the story to get going, and once the first body drops the reader is firmly entranced and cannot wait to see where the author is going next. There are so many great elements associated with this book, and you are guaranteed to have an outstanding time getting through The Thursday Murder Club.
At the centre of The Thursday Murder Club’s narrative lies a compelling and intriguing murder mystery that follows an intense case around the Coopers Chase retirement village. Osman has weaved together a pretty impressive murder mystery here, with two disreputable people killed in quick succession in apparently connected killings, which prompts the members of the Thursday Murder Club to get involved. Watching these characters investigate proved to be extremely fascinating and entertaining, especially as they employ some much more unique and unusual methods to get the answers they are looking for. Osman pairs this unorthodox search for the killer with the official investigation being conducted by the police, and the two different methodologies make for a good contrast, especially when they both get some extremely different results. The two murder cases go in some extremely compelling and clever directions, and Osman has come up with a number of impressive twists and misleading suspects to deflect from the real culprits. The conclusions of the cases were really good; I loved how the entirety of the mystery came together and how the various crimes were connected. Osman adds in lot of foreshadowing for the various twists featured within The Thursday Murder Club, but some of the results were still pleasantly unexpected. I was able to predict one of the major twists of the book in advance, which allowed me to work out who a killer was and why they were doing it, but I did not see certain other twists and reveals coming. I really love it when a mystery can shock and surprise me and I think that The Thursday Murder Club was one of the best murder mystery novels I read all year.
An exceptional highlight of The Thursday Murder Club is the excellent characters from whose eyes we see the story unfold. The Thursday Murder Club is made up of four unusual friends who make for very fun central protagonists. All four members of the Thursday Murder Club are entertaining and complex characters in their own right and who each add a lot to the story. Osman spends a great deal of time exploring each of these characters, and the reader soon becomes intimately familiar with their lives while also becoming enamoured with their intriguing personalities. The main character of the book is probably Elizabeth, the founder of the Thursday Murder Club and its apparent leader. Elizabeth is extremely determined, and it is strongly hinted throughout the book that she was formerly a rather successful spy. Described by one of the other characters as being essentially Marlon Brando in The Godfather, Elizabeth is the driving force behind the club’s investigation into the murders around Coopers Chase, especially with her innumerable contacts and natural intuition. Elizabeth has a very strong personality, and it is fantastic to see her go about her business, intimidating and outmanoeuvring everyone she encounters with practiced ease. Despite this hard, clever exterior, Elizabeth has a number of emotional vulnerabilities, including an ailing husband and a comatose best friend, which Osman explores throughout the novel. These vulnerabilities help to drive Elizabeth throughout the book, and she becomes quite a complex character as a result.
The other female member of the Thursday Murder Club is Joyce, a former nurse. Joyce is a great character who becomes an invaluable part of the investigation. Appearing to be mostly quiet and somewhat placid, Joyce is actually a deeply intelligent person who uses her mild and kind personality to get people to do what she wants. As the newest member of the club, Joyce provides the reader with an outsider’s view of the other major characters, and you get an interesting glimpse of how the investigation is progressing as her point-of-view chapters are written in a fun journal format that is unique to her. Aside from Elizabeth, Joyce probably gets the most character assessment and development in The Thursday Murder Club, especially as some of her personal relationships become key parts of the plot, and she proves to be a particularly intriguing character as a result.
The other members of the Thursday Murder Club are Ibrahim and Ron, two very different people who are actually the best of friends. Ibrahim is a particularly pleasant man, a former psychologist, who is nice and sociable to everyone he meets and who serves as the heart and soul of the team. Out of all the main characters in this book I think that Ibrahim got the least amount of development, which was a shame considering how entertaining he proved to be. I hope he gets more of a storyline in the future entries of this series and I look forward to seeing how Osman expands this character out. Ron, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Ibrahim. A famous former union activist, Ron enjoys the spotlight and revels in fighting for lost causes against authority figures. Ron is the hot-headed member of the group and he has a personal stake in the investigation when his son becomes a prime suspect for the police. Despite his rough and impulsive attitude, Ron fits in well with the rest of the club and is a keen investigator, mainly because of the way he refuses to believe anything anyone else tells him. All four of these main characters are exceptionally well written, and I really enjoyed the way that they played off each other and used their unique talents to solve the case.
This novel also focuses on two police officers, Donna and Chris, who are leading the official investigation into the murders and who find themselves working with the members of the Thursday Murder Club. Donna is a young rookie cop who has transferred over from the London Police and now finds herself bored to death as a member of a small town force. Thanks to the manipulations of Elizabeth, she finds herself assigned to the case, which revitalises her and helps address some of her issues and concerns from her past. Donna proves to be a fun character to follow, especially as she is the only younger person who sees through the members of the Thursday Murder Club and doesn’t fall for their antics. She also has a fun partnership with Chris, the senior officer investigating the case, and the two swiftly form a connection throughout the story. Chris, despite being a clever and experienced detective, is a bit of a sad-sack who finds himself stuck in a rut. This fresh case also reinvigorates Chris, and he starts to fall out of his bad habits with Donna’s help. However, unlike Donna, Chris is a lot more susceptible to the charms of the Thursday Murder Club, and it is extremely entertaining to see him get manipulated for a good part of the novel. These two police characters get a fair bit of attention throughout the novel, and their official investigation nicely complements the unofficial one being run by the Thursday Murder Club, with the divergent information they receive coming together perfectly in the final results. I also quite enjoyed the friendship that forms between Donna and Chris, as it allows both of them to grow and has a very nice development at the end which I thought was rather sweet.
Osman also creates a bevy of distinctive and entertaining side characters, many of whom have a connection to the crime or are a potential suspect. This includes all the residents of the retirement village, which is filled with unique personalities with lifetimes of secrets. Osman explores several of these great characters throughout the course of the book, providing some rich backstory and intriguing motivations for their potential involvement. I personally enjoyed the character of Bogdan, a relatively young Polish immigrant who works as a labourer for the local property developers and who finds himself involved in the case after finding a body. Bogdan forms a fantastic friendship with Elizabeth and her husband throughout the book, and I really enjoyed his guarded personality and shrewd intelligence, which proves to be an excellent match for the secretive Elizabeth. I also have to highlight the two major murder victims. Both of these victims get a few scenes early on in the novel before they are killed, and Osman sets them up as particularly outrageous and unlikeable people. While this does ensure that the readers are not too cut up when they end up dead, it does mean that there are a whole of suspects when it comes to their murders, and I liked how that added to the case. All of the characters featured in The Thursday Murder Club were a lot of fun and I had an amazing time seeing how each of their individual arcs unfolded and what each of them was capable of deep down.
I quite enjoyed how Osman turned The Thursday Murder Club into a fun and entertaining ode to the elderly that highlights the fact that retirees can achieve quite a bit and have a lot to offer to the world. I really enjoyed the author’s story idea of four senior citizens investigating a murder and it produced a truly entertaining and enjoyable read. Some of The Thursday Murder Club’s funniest moments revolved around the four protagonists manipulating or swindling the younger characters in the book to get what they want, whether it be information on the case or a confession about certain illegal actions. The way in which they go about influencing the younger people they encounter is very entertaining, as they mostly utilise the classic trick of appearing helpless and innocent, while in reality they are controlling the entire situation. Some of their methods will be very familiar to any reader with an elderly grandparent or parent, and I personally laughed my head off at one scene where one younger character is slowly worn down through a unique interrogation method involving crowded chairs, friendly company, an overflowing mug of tea and crumbly cake. Watching the veteran police characters slowly work out how and why they are being manipulated was extremely funny, and by the end of the book they are noticeably more wary about dealing with the members of the Thursday Murder Club. As this is a book about senior citizens, there are naturally a number of jokes about growing old, including entertaining discussions about their thoughts on today’s society and several depictions of them trying and failing to work modern technology. While most of the discussion about the elderly is light-hearted and inspiring, it does get quite sad in places. There are a number of scenes that focus on the debilitating impacts of aging, with each of the protagonists witnessing someone close to them starting to fade for one reason or another, resulting in several deep sequences when they consider their own mortality or frailty. There are also a number of extremely tragic character moments involving age, and you can’t help but feel a little heartbroken in several places thanks to Osman’s excellent writing. This adds some memorable and necessary drama to the overall narrative and it really helps to turn The Thursday Murder Club into a much more captivating read. Overall, I think that Osman captured the issues surrounding aging extremely well, and I very much enjoyed his depictions of these badass septuagenarians outsmarting everyone they meet.
I also liked how Osman went out of his way to make his debut novel exceedingly British. Everything about this book screams “British” to the reader, from the way the characters, act, talk and interact with each other, to the classic, subtle humour that is featured throughout. Osman also includes a ton of references to various cultural, social and political elements of the country, with the characters discussing or reminiscing about everything from their favourite foods, television shows, bands, locations, historical experiences (Ron, for example, has some thoughts on Thatcher) and various other aspects of day-to-day life. Due to the way that British culture funnels down into Australia, I had a decent understanding of most of the references that Osman made, although I imagine that some readers could get a little offput by the many references to aspects of the culture they are unfamiliar. That being said I found the constant discussion about everything British to be exceedingly fun, and I really appreciated the way in which the author made a truly British book.
In order to enjoy this fantastic book I decided to grab a copy of the audiobook version of The Thursday Murder Club which was narrated by actress Lesley Manville. The Thursday Murder Club audiobook has a run time of 12 hours and 25 minutes, and I got through it rather quickly, especially once I become wrapped up in the fun and captivating mystery. I found myself really enjoying this excellent audiobook version of this novel and I think that having the events of the book narrated to me helped me follow the plot more closely and connect to the characters more. I do have to admit that I was a tad disappointed that Osman did not narrate his own audiobook, but this disappointment quickly faded once I experienced Manville’s excellent narration. Manville’s voice and narration style really fit into the unique tone of The Thursday Murder Club, and she was able to convey all of the novel’s humour, mystery and drama extremely well. I also absolutely loved the great voices that Manville came up with for the characters featured within the novel, and I felt that she was able really accentuate the various personalities that made up the story, as well as come up with several different accents. While Osman doesn’t narrate this audiobook, there is an interview between Osman and Marian Keyes featured at the end of it, in which Osman details how he came up with the idea for his book and why he wrote it, which I am sure many people will find fascinating. I ended up having a wonderful time listening to this version of The Thursday Murder Club, and it ended up being one of my favourite audiobooks of 2020.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is an exceptional and masterful crime fiction novel that is easily one of the best debuts of 2020. Osman has crafted together an outstanding read that follows some entertaining and compelling protagonists as they investigate a complex murder mystery in a very fun way. I had an amazing time listening to this fantastic novel and I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in a fun and intriguing read. This was an absolute triumph from Osman, and I am extremely keen to see what he writes next. I note that a sequel to The Thursday Murder Club is planned for next year and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.
Make sure to also check out my review for the sequel novel, The Man Who Died Twice.