Life has been a bit busy this past week, school trips, fireworks to organise – just generally being more active, and then falling asleep in front of the telly, one more week until our two week half term! All this has led to a bit of a blogging slump. But it’s the weekend and it’s BOOKSHOP DAY, so off I went to my local indie bookshop, Mostly Books, where I treated myself big time and collected my lovely limited edition ‘Books Are My Bag‘ 2021 tote designed by Dapo Adeola. My TBR refreshed by the purchase of memoirs by Dave Grohl, Stanley Tucci and Bernardine Evaristo plus Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat, I’m ready to get reviewing! Here’s a pair for you…
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
I was in the ‘loved it’ camp for Osman’s first novel set in a retirement village, The Thursday Murder Club, which was published last September. Could he repeat this success with his follow-up?
Well, yes he can!
Osman has wisely not really interfered with the formula of the first book. Beginning on the Thursday after the first book ends, our four septuagenarian sleuths are all present and correct, as are Bogdan the Polish builder and police officers Chris and Donna. Indeed the latter three are essentially adopted by Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim into their club.
Also present are extracts from Joyce’s diaries, which are a particular source of ‘great joy’ with a marvellous running joke about her Instagram user name. I won’t spoil the joke here.
We also get confirmation of what we suspected in the first novel, that Elizabeth formerly worked for the secret service, and this second outing for the foursome begins when someone from her murky past resurfaces – a dead someone! Again, I won’t elucidate further.
It is fair to say that the sleuthing this time splits along gender lines, as Ibrahim is injured in a mugging and is scared of going back out into the world, he contributes from Coopers Chase supported by Ron, leaving Joyce as Elizabeth’s sidekick. Side plots involve DCI Chris Hudson falling for Donna’s mum, and the police’s role is taken over by two spooks who have to face the might of Elizabeth and her formidable team overtaking their investigations.
It’s clever and funny and touching, and the character development is superb. I thought it even better than the first book, but you should read that before this one really to get the most from it. (10/10)
1979 by Val McDermid
It’s shocking, but I’ve never read a thriller by Val McDermid (I did read her modern retelling of Northanger Abbey years ago, but that’s rather different). I did have a copy of one of the Kate Brannigan ones, but the print was so tiny, I didn’t read it. Now she’s started a new series with a new protagonist, and it was time to get stuck in, even more so because it is set in the year of the title.
McDermid’s new lead character is a young journalist, Allie Burns, who has joined the very male newsroom at the Clarion, a Glasgow newspaper, and it itching to get her first big scoop. She knows it’ll take some doing to get the other reporters to take her seriously, but she strikes up friendships with Danny, a good-looking investigative reporter who seems interesting and Rona, who writes the women’s page, who takes her under her wing.
Danny is working on a scoop of his own, but needs Allie’s help to write it and Allie after a hint from Rona towards looking at those advocating Scottish independence is soon on a trail of a scoop of her own, but needs Danny’s help to approach some of those involved. Both investigations will prove to be scoops worthy of the front page, but both generate problems for Allie and Danny. Danny in exposing a financial money laundering scam will become the black sheep of his family, and both will find their lives in danger when the nationalists plan an act of terrorism.
I love thrillers set in the pre-computer age, where hard work is done in libraries, on microfiche, on the phone – and of course on foot and in person. I enjoyed the way that McDermid includes the typewritten texts of the Allie’s articles, which she often has to write on the spot – a skill indeed. Allie is a very likeable lead character, and McDermid has drawn upon her own experience as a reporter in Glasgow in 1979 to portray the newspaper world of the time. I am really looking forward to her second outing… will it be set in 1980 perhaps? In a neat touch, McDermid includes her 1979 playlist at the back which is a joy to recall – from YMCA to Tom Robinson, Rebel Rebel to Psycho Killer via Blondie and Althea & Donna – Fabulous! (9/10)
Source: Own copy. Little, Brown hardback, Aug 2021, 418 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.