If you know anyone who might enjoy a book that is a delightful combination of an Agatha Christie whodunnit and TV’s Agatha Raisin, then The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is the perfect choice. Don’t you just love it when you know right from page one that you’re going to enjoy a book? The Thursday Murder Club combines wonderful British dark humour, with quirky characters, and plenty of plot surprises. With a chuckle on nearly every page, you’ll have a smile on your face from beginning to end.
The story revolves around four people who reside at Coopers Chase Retirement Village, a high-end retirement community for seniors in the rural countryside of Kent, England. The group meets every Thursday in the Jigsaw Room with the goal of solving previously unsolved real-life crimes in the same way other members of their community meet for bridge, Pilates or darts. One of the original members of the group, Penny, was a retired detective constable who illegally brought copies of unsolved files with her when she retired from the force. When Penny has a stroke and is placed in the on-site nursing home, she is replaced byJoyce, a retired nurse. Ibrahim is a retired psychiatrist who originally came from Egypt and is a bit of a nerdy fact-checker with a mathematical mind. Elizabeth has a rather vague background that suggests she was once involved in some sort of espionage work, and Ron is a burly, retired union organizer with a reputation for muscle and strong opinions.
The four members of the group immediately dispel any suggestion that chronological age automatically denotes mental decline. They’re smart, they love their wine, and they always manage to keep one step ahead of the local police.
Their retirement community was developed on the site of a former Catholic convent that fell into disuse due to the decline in the number of nuns. When the last of the Sisters of The Holy Church departed for the Garden of Eternal Rest in the cemetery on the hill behind the convent, the building was renovated and expanded to create Coopers Chase Retirement Village. When the bad-guy owner, Ian Ventham decides he wants to expand and built more units, it threatens the Garden of Eternal Rest where dozens of nuns are buried. But, the cemetery holds secrets. And so does Ian Ventham.
Before long, the bodies start turning up. There are a couple of suspicious deaths that appear to be murder but who could have done it? The police do not seem to be making much headway in the investigations but fortunately, the Thursday Murder Club is on the job working to sort out who’s who and who did what. Osman has done a wonderful job of drawing us along in trying to figure out who could be responsible, then he throws in a surprise complication or twist that has us rethinking our position. There are plenty of potential candidates who could have committed the murders and each has a plausible motive. Who could be the real murderer?
One of the particular joys of reading this book is Osman’s understated British humour. The chapters are short which makes the book easy to pick up and put down, or just keep breezing along. Alternating chapters are narrated by club member and retired nurse Joyce who is the newest addition to the club. Her voice uses classic British understatement brilliantly and you can easily imagine her telling her side of the story over a pot of tea with you.
This story will particularly resonate with anyone who either lives in a retirement community or knows someone who does . . . which is every baby boomer I know. I loved The Thursday Murder Club and it was a welcome slice of escapism during lockdown. I’ve sent a note to Amazon Santa to send a copy to my father who lives in a retirement residence without visitors. I hope he enjoys it as much as I did.