The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
This book is probably worth the hype. It gives a positive view of older people, seemingly retired in a community for the elderly, but with the determination, persistence and bravery normally only allocated to the young in fiction. This is a book of mystery, murder and notably, things that happened a long time before it began, as integrated and complicated like real lire. Nothing is straightforward, which is how most of the characters like it. Each of the characters has great depth and a backstory, even if it is never explained in this first book of what promises to be a successful series. Contrasting ways of life adds to the charm, even if more than one murder is the theme. The humour is understated and very based on the individuals concerned, and emerges in the dialogue and in one case the pages of a diary. Expectations for how people should behave and think is pleasantly upset, and there are many twists and turns. I found it really enjoyable, packed with red herrings and surprises, and a thoroughly readable novel.
At the beginning of the novel, which begins with the title “Meet New People and Try New Things”, Joyce reveals her introduction to the Thursday Murder Club in pages of her diary. Elizabeth asks her, during lunch, about knife wounds. Being an ex nurse, Joyce was able to supply the information, gaining the approval not only of Elizabeth, but also Ibrahim, who she is yet to meet properly. PC Donna De Freitas turns up to do her Practical Home Security talk, though bored with the relaxed attitude to policing in the quiet area of Fairhaven. Poised to talk about window locks and identification, she soon discovers that the residents of Coopers Chase Retirement Village expect something more, even though one wistfully observes “I’d welcome a burglar. It would be nice to have a visitor”. Elizabeth introduces herself and Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, as not friends but a group which comes together to discuss crimes. Donna is quietly taken with the group, which is fortunate as when a murder takes place which is firmly connected with the Village. Donna is desperate to get involved in the investigation, and there is a subtle way that it is achieved with the connivance of the group, who continue to work alongside the police in somewhat unusual ways. Not that anyone has any idea where the whole project is headed; even the controlling, free thinking and ubiquitous Elizabeth takes chances on things that baffle and bewilder others.
This is an often lighthearted, sometimes touching book, which deals with death in a respectful way without undue sentimentality. Murder is involved, but is never brutal in the eyes of those investigating in either an official or unofficial way. I found it a well written and plotted book, which reveals the human side of both police, those involved in crime. The characters are well written, consistent and interesting, who often reveal hidden depths. This book strongly argues for older people enjoying a certain black humour, and different life views based on long experience and practical expediency. Elizabeth is a cleverly written character, letting slip details of a mysterious and exciting past. This is a good read, full of in-jokes, moving asides and understandable emotions. I recommend it as a cosy mystery in some ways, a humourous read, and an incisive book about attitudes to later life.