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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman - Review

Monday, November 9, 2020

Now, I'll be honest, I don't really like reading books by celebrity authors. I think they're saturating the market too much and a lot of them are subpar or ghost written and they mean that genuinely talented writers don't get the chance to be heard as publishers want to concentrate on 'names' that people will recognise and will spend money on. I usually avoid them, so I probably wouldn't have ever picked up Richard Osman's first novel, which is a bit of a cosy crime novel. But then my mum mentioned it to me. She's a big fan of Richard's so she wanted to read it, and then she wanted me to read it so she had someone to chat about it with. So, I picked it up. 

The Thursday Murder Club is a club that meets on Thursdays in a retirement village somewhere near Brighton, that way on in the world. The founding members were Penny and Elizabeth, only now Penny is in a coma and Elizabeth has three other members - Ron, Ibrahim, and Joyce. They pore over old cold cases to see what they think, and whether they can find the culprit. They can do this because Penny was a police officer, and Elizabeth seems to have been some kind of intelligence agent, some kind of spy, although it's not obvious what. 

The retirement village is quite upmarket - everyone lives in their own flats, but there is an upscale restaurant on site and a pool and plenty of other facilities. Most of the residents still have all their faculties, but Elizabeth's husband Stephen is beginning to suffer from dementia. It is owned by a man called Ian Ventham, who is a bit of a cartoon baddie, and who wants to buy land further up from the village to expand it, but the landowner won't sell. He also wants to cut ties with his business partner, Tony Curran, who is a proper baddie, having shot someone in the year 2000. Ian cuts ties, and Tony ends up bludgeoned to death at home. Ian is the obvious suspect, but there's a bunch of other people who may have wanted Tony dead too. 

Detectives Chris and Donna are on the case. Except Donna is not actually a detective, she's an ordinary PC, but in a really contrived piece of storytelling, the Thursday Murder Club manage to get her on the case. Chris is alright, a bit of a nothing detective, but what really put me off him was that he was OBSESSED with calories, and food. It was boring to read and added nothing to the story or to him as a character. He was also desperate to get a woman, which I didn't enjoy reading either. 

Left at Tony Curran's murder scene was a photo of him, a man called Jason, and a man called Bobby Tanner. It turns out Jason is Ron (from the Murder Club)'s son, an ex boxer who had some dodgy dealings and is a suspect. There's a whole load of nonsense around ANOTHER fella called Gianni, a Turkish Cypriot, who cleaned up the fact that Tony shot someone in 2000 and who then disappeared off the face of the earth. 

Someone else is murdered and there's a ton MORE suspects for that, including an old priest (I didn't mention that the village is built on an old convent, because of course it is) and a fella who sits on a certain bench every day. The Thursday Murder Club generally make a nuisance of themselves and even confront several people they suspect of murder, while the police are left in the dark and jetting off to Cyprus to try to track Gianni down. 

So, let me talk about a few positives. I did find the book compelling, and wanted to keep reading until I found out what happened. We get several points of view and one of them was Joyce's diary, which I thought was funny and quite warmly done. I liked Elizabeth and wanted to know more about her past, and I liked Ron and Ibrahim too. 

However, I thought there were quite a lot of negatives too. For one thing, it just plainly isn't brilliantly written. All writers have idiosyncratic tics, and it's an editor's job to iron those out so the reader doesn't notice, and I didn't feel that had happened well enough here. There were 99 instances of the verb 'agrees' being used in place of 'said', which was a lot for a book of less than 400 pages. It grated on me every time I read it. Said is fine! Honestly!

Proof that 'agree' was used faaaaar too many times

There were also FAR too many characters. I forgot who some of them were by the end, like near the end there's mention of a Steve Georgiou and I could not for the life of me remember what he had done and why I had to care about it. There were too many trite coincidences too, like that Jason's dad happens to be Ron, who happens to live in the village. There were also a few storylines that just didn't need to be there, and they didn't work very well as red herrings either. 

The ending wasn't very well explained or put together, I didn't think. It didn't wrap up well enough for me, and I was a bit baffled. I feel like a bit of cutting down of the book and a decent edit would have improved it immensely. But it's Richard Osman, isn't it, so it's going to sell whatever the writing is actually like. 

However, I am giving this four out of five because I DID find it compelling, and I know there's going to be a sequel and I'll probably read that, too. Sigh. 

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