I’m half way through my annual self-imposed task of reading the Booker shortlist – but then this appeared and I had to put everything else aside. I have really enjoyed Osman’s first foray into fiction – it was the perfect thing for a rainy weekend and confirmed my feeling that Osman is one of those annoying people who do everything really well.
Set in Coopers Chase, an upmarket retirement village (Waitrose delivery vans ‘clink with wine and repeat prescriptions’), we are introduced to The Thursday Murder Club, which is made up of four amateur sleuths who pour over details of unsolved crimes.
‘It was Thursday because there was a two hour slot free in the Jigsaw Room, between Art History and Conversational French. It was booked, and is still booked, under the name Japanese Opera – A Discussion. which ensured they were always left in peace.‘
Amateur isn’t perhaps the right word for their fiercely efficient leader, Elizabeth, who clearly has a past, and skills which hint at a previous need for ruthlessness and the art of forceful persuasion (she reveals she has had a licence to drive tanks at one stage). In this sense, I was reminded to Nessa, of Gavin and Stacey fame, whose drip-fed facts about a slightly-unexpected past added a marvellous extra layer of humour to her character.
From the off, there’s a warmth to the tone – the elderly inhabitants are sometimes spiky, switched on, and they ‘wake early because there is a lot to do and only so many days left.’ One of the visitors notices that there’s a lot of drinking at lunchtime in the ‘contemporary upscale restaurant.’
Osman’s skill is to manage to be both very funny and to provide a cracking crime plot. The scene in which the leading police detective is manipulated into revealing key information to the Club through the use of careful seating and a lemon drizzle cake is perfect. And whilst I love the relationship that Robert Galbraith has set up between the two main characters in the Cormoran Strike novels, I couldn’t help feel that Galbraith/Rowling could take a note from Osman about keeping the plot tighter. Osman also does dialogue better.
This is a proper delight of a book – clever, funny (although I did well up on two occasions – there are very touching moments too, and the realities of aging are not ignored), and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what The Thursday Murder Club does next. Highly recommended.