The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

smart | fun | addictive

what it says on the cover …

The first book in the #1 bestselling Thursday Murder Club series but TV Presenter Richard Osman.

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

PUBLISHED: 3rd September 2020
SHELF: Murder Mystery | Humour
AUTHOR: Richard Osman
PUBLISHER: Penguin Books
FORMATS: Hardback | Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook

They began work on Coopers Chase about ten years ago, when the Catholic Church sold the land. The first residents, Ron, for one, had moved in three years later. It was billed as ‘Britain’s First Luxury Retirement Village’, though according to Ibrahim, who has checked, it was actually the seventh. There are currently around 300 residents. You can’t move here until you’re over sixty-five, and the Waitrose delivery vans clink with wine and repeat prescriptions every time they pass over the cattle grid.

my review

What a treat this book has been!  The Thursday Murder Club has filled a Famous Five-shaped void in my adult life that I hadn’t realised was there.  Okay, so there are only four members of this amateur crime-busting cabal … no dog (yet!) … and the ginger ale has been replaced by pricey bottles of Malbec … and the bones may be creakier than my beloved childhood gang, but the derring do, the charm, the well-meaning bickering, and the fabulous ability to outsmart the rozzers are all heartily present.  

By page thirteen I’d (reluctantly) put the book down to WhatsApp my bestie, Jane.  It went like this:

🚨🚨🚨 New urgent book recommendation for you – The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I’m only 21 pages in and it’s FAB-U-LOUS. So funny. I have a strong suspicion you and Richard Osman actually secretly know each other in real life and he wrote this book especially for you! x
Oh thank you darling I’ve just finished The Night Hawker. Need another fix 😆

And then a little while later:

It’s absolutely superb. I’m so in love with the characters and the humour. I’m a bit further in now and a nasty piece of work has just been walloped on the head with a spanner. Dead as dead can be. And the undisguised glee amongst the four members of the Murder Club (all in their late seventies / early eighties) is fabulous! They’ve even broken into the second layer of the posh biscuits without having finished the first! The voices of the characters are spot on. It’s a bit like ‘Midsomer Murders’ crossed with ‘Viscous’. Xxx
I can’t wait I’m downloading it now! Sounds like us in 20 years time plotting the demise of hated other residents 🤣 xxx
Oh god yes!! This is my idea of retirement heaven for us. Plus cats!

In a nutshell, The Thursday Murder Club has the potential to be the single most influential piece of marketing the (luxury) retirement village sector has ever seen. It vividly creates a setting of quintessential countryside chic, with rolling hills, farm shops, small stone bridges over a meandering river … and introduces an unexpected abundance of lamas … but generally very lovely.  And the retirement village itself – Coopers Chase – boasts an array of activities and outings and gatherings to rival any Club 18-30, albeit of a more age-appropriate gentility.

… apart from the Thursday Murder Club, that is.  It’s something of a covert black-ops group masquerading as a Japanese Opera Discussion Group to deter nosy parkers, and those who lack the constitution for the grisly and graphic cold-case murder scene and autopsy photographs.  Founded by retired police detective, Penny, and glamorous spook, Elizabeth, the group of four gather each week to scrutinise the files of unsolved murders that Penny diligently ‘liberated’ in the run up to her retirement.

Sadly, when we join the Club one they’re member down, Penny; lost to the advanced stages of dementia and now bed-bound in Willows; the village’s nursing home. As Elizabeth’s old friend, it’s her visits and her one-sided monologues that drive home the inescapable and rather poignant moments of the book.  Because, whilst The Thursday Murder Club is a witty and chuckle-a-minute murder mystery, it’s also a compassionate window into the future, with the young-at-heart characters coming to terms with failing health, voluminous prescriptions, widowhood, and one or two regrets.  But, exactly because this is a witty novel, these slightly scary truths are portrayed with just the right amount of light-hearted teasing, before romping off to solve the next puzzle.

The club has always been a group of four, so Elizabeth wastes little time in enlisting Joyce; retired nurse, chatterbox, demon cake-baker, and with a countenance that people frequently underestimate.  It’s Joyce’s fabulous, no-holds-barred diary that makes up a large chunk of this book, giving voice to a character that ripples with idiosyncratic quirks, unflinching observations, and the charming but casually caustic critique that only the older generation can get away with. Her chapters felt like settling down with long-missed grandparents and listening with relish whilst they viciously demolish whoever’s rankled them that day. The vernacular and colloquialisms are so pitch-perfect it took a Herculean effort to remind myself these words are really spilling from Richard Osman’s ‘pen’ and not really from Joyce’s.

Ron and Ibrahim complete the Club; two chalk-and-cheese characters.  Ron is a retired and very notorious trade union leader; a tattooed and rather shouty West Ham supporter  whose cringingly outspoken and argumentative nature is generously explained away as ‘well, that’s Ron’. Heart of gold … salt of the earth … bull in a china shop … and surreptitiously endearing. Ibrahim, meanwhile, is neat, precise, immaculately dressed, and with a Gatsby-esque poise and politeness that won my heart immediately.  In his hey day he was a psychiatrist … perhaps Elizabeth saw in him someone who could extract truths from unwitting suspects during their armchair investigations.  Left to her own devices,  I have no doubt that she has a painfully effective set of skills to deploy on more reluctant individuals.

Batting for the youth team are PC Donna De Freitas – a cracking character who brings a sardonic wit and hint of jaded-London cool to the rolling Kent countryside – and her boss, DCI Chris Hudson who’s not quite braced for the ambitious and sharp-tongued whirlwind that’s just joined his team.  On paper, they really shouldn’t gel as well as they do … but they do, and oh so well.  Nor should they forge quite such a super relationship with the subversive Murder Club crew … but the chemistry is first-rate, giving rise to sparks and clashes that elicit so many laughs.  

It doesn’t take long for the Murder Club’s investigations to progress from the theoretical to the practical, with the first murder implicating the owner of their retirement village.  The undisguised glee amongst the plucky foursome had me laughing out loud, and when the second murder takes place even closer to home the mood escalates from giddy excitement to down-right celebratory.  The victims and the suspects are as colourfully characterised as Joyce and co, and although they’re an eclectic mix of the odious and the unlucky I found myself enjoying getting to know them every bit as much as I did the good-guys. None of them are quite prepared for the determined snooping of four unassuming pensioners, whose remarkable discoveries create headaches of their own for DCI Hudson as he struggles to keep up with their underhand fact-finding.

There was a jolly atmosphere, and I can understand the reasons why. We each of us understand we’re in a gang and we understand we’re in the middle of something unusual. We understand also, I think, that we are doing something illegal, but we are past the age of caring. Perhaps we are raging against the dying of the light, but that is poetry, not life. There will be other reasons I have missed out, but I know on the walk back down the hill we felt giddy. Like teenagers out too late.

Don’t underestimate the cosy nature of The Thursday Murder Club … the main characters may be elderly, the setting may be genteel, and the humour may catch you off guard … but this is a murder mystery of the most entertaining kind, with an unpredictable plot, and a large cast giving the puzzle plenty of capacity to twist and mislead. Whilst, at first, the murder seems to be quite obvious, take a moment to remind yourself of the enormity of the mind that’s created and authored this story. From both bestie Jane and myself, we can honestly say this has been the most enjoyable read … and we want more.

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I have to be getting back to The Man Who Died Twice.  I’m already a fair few chapters in to this next adventure with Joyce and co, because I’d heard it picks up one week after the end of The Thursday Murder Club. Never known for my patience, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I opened up one within moments of finishing the other.  And it’s got off to an extremely promising start … a skeleton seems to have rattled itself loose from Elizabeth’s shadowy past, and poor lovely Ibrahim has just been jumped by a trio of hooded thugs.  Like I said, you’ll have to forgive me but I’ve got somewhere else I need to be.


author bio

photo from @richardosman

Richard Osman lives in London, and is an author, producer, and television presenter. His first novel, The Thursday Murder Club, was a #1 million-copy international bestseller.  The Man Who Died Twice is his second novel.

Having studied Politics and Sociology at Trinity College, Cambridge, Richard is a well-known personality of British television, producing Deal or No Deal, and appealing in programmes such as Have I Got News For You, and QI. But he’s arguably best known for co-presenting the BBC quiz show Pointless with Alexander Armstrong. He has also written several quiz and trivia books, including A Pointless History of the World (2016).

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