Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Suede bassist Mat Osman’s first novel, The Ruins (see here) which was a mystery involving identical twin brothers and a lost album. It was a brilliant and complex novel full of rock’n’roll. Now it’s early September and it’s Mat’s younger brother’s turn to publish his first novel! It’s another mystery, but swaps twins and rock’n’roll for a retirement village and land ownership issues. Luckily, there need be no sibling rivalry, for TTMC (as I shall abbreviate the title to) is also brilliant and complex, insightful as well as hugely entertaining.
Coopers Chase is a large ‘luxury’ retirement village in Kent. Every Thursday four of the residents get together to look at cold cases from the files of a retired police inspector who is now in the development’s nursing home. The quartet of amateur sleuths are led by Elizabeth, who is extremely intelligent, a feisty and well-connected woman. Ibrahim, a retired psychiatrist and Ron, a former fire-brand shop steward each provide their own skills to the foursome. Then there is Joyce, the newest recruit after Penny became bedridden. Joyce had been a nurse, and it was when Elizabeth came to ask her advice about a stabbing that she joined the group.
Coopers Chase was built on the grounds of a former nunnery by developer Ian Ventham, who has ambitious plans to expand it further, moving the site’s graveyard to add another cluster of homes, and he’d like to buy the adjoining farmland too, although the owner is resisting. He’s planning to swap builders too, getting rid of the infamous Tony Curran and bringing in Polish Bogdan. Tony won’t be happy…
So when Tony is discovered dead with his head caved in, it seems to point straight to Ian… but someone left a photo on the body which appears to incriminate others.
This is just the kind of live case that Elizabeth and her three friends have been itching to investigate for themselves, but they know that they can’t get in the police’s way (well, not too much: actually they’re always one step ahead!). It’s a good thing they made friends with PC Donna de Freitas when she came to give them a talk about home security. Donna is desperate to do more proper policing, and with Elizabeth and co’s help, gets onto the murder squad led by DCI Chris Hudson. Donna and Chris will find they have met their match in the Thursday Murder Club!
I won’t expound on the story further. The plot is brilliantly conceived and the gradual reveal throughout the novel is so well done, and complete with blind alleys and red herrings to keep us on our toes. It could be considered ‘cosy crime’ as the gore quotient is minimal, however the mystery itself is not quite that cosy because real life isn’t cosy, usually…
What made this novel such a delight to read were all the characters, each of the main ones realised in excellent detail, but the supporting cast was also rich in character too. Richard Osman had me giggling away on many an occasion as he twisted stereotypes and introduced irreverent in-jokes and references. But this isn’t just a comedy novel, there’s much more going on at a deeper level as we get to know these elderly folk. From keeping their memory and activities going, general infirmity, to grieving at being left behind when a loved one dies, dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, we get to experience what it’s like for them in their later years and Osman builds all these concerns into the novel with much pathos, developing far more complexities into his characters.
Osman keeps the chapters fairly short, alternating between the foursome and the police’s activities and Joyce’s diaries. Joyce’s diaries are a particular source of joy. Not only is she a kind and caring person, but she is extremely excited at having been taken under Elizabeth’s wing…
“I have become someone who has to keep their mobile on.”
That really tickled me!
I was going to take issue with Osman at one point where he has DCI Hudson think: “If Chris had his way he would hibernate for the summer. He has not worn shorts since 1987.” The pedant in me was shouting ‘aestivate’ not ‘hibernate’ – but then I thought DCI Hudson, although not thick, might not know that word, nor readers who haven’t done Latin, so it’s right that the character lacks that precision. More fool me, eh?
Coming from such a well-known TV personality, this novel is bound to be one of this autumn’s big hitters, but I am delighted to say that it transcends the hype. I enjoyed every minute of this book, and can’t wait for Osman to write another, and I’m desperate already to see The Thursday Murder Club on the telly or big screen…
P.S. Having just watched the launch zoom between Osman and Alexander Armstrong, the sequel is in editing, and Steven Spielberg signed the film rights. YES!
Source: ARC for review – thank you! Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club, Penguin Viking, 3 Sept 2020, hardback, 400 pages.