Often when writers who are already famous publish books, there’s a degree of nepotism, which automatically makes me suspicious.
Some, like actor Hugh Fraser, turn out to be incredible writers with amazing skills who create phenomenal stories. Others, like social media personality and influencer Zoella, create duds that are ghost written, and badly done at that.
As such, I was unsure about what to think when TV quiz show host Richard Osman released a novel. Named The Thursday Murder Club, the book sounded like a Sunday TV drama on ITV from the off, and I wasn’t sure whether it would be an amazing work of cosy crime fiction or some lame attempt to break into a new market by a quiz show host seeking to broaden his horizons.
I’m pleased to inform you that the former is correct, and Osman’s debut novel is a witty, droll crime fiction caper that is both funny and engaging. Written in Golden Age style, The Thursday Murder Club is set in modern England, but it has a timeless feel that makes it an almost instant classic.
Osman’s smash hit, which has beaten many records for a debut novel, is set in a charming Kentish retirement village named Coopers Chase, where four elderly residents meet every Thursday to discuss real-life cases. Started by a retired policewoman and someone who is covertly referred to as a sort-of spy, the group loses its former cop and now includes a busybody unionist, a former psychiatrist and its newest member, a retired nurse.
The group meets in a small meeting room known as ‘The Jigsaw Room’ to paw over cold cases, although nothing ever comes from their musings. They simply work together to try and figure out a solution and get some kind of personal resolution.
All that changes when Tony Curran, the builder and part owner of Cooper’s Chase, is bludgeoned to death in his kitchen. A cryptic photo is placed beside the victim’s body, depicting him many years before, with a set of friends, including the professional boxer son of Ron, the busybody unionist who forms one forth of the murder club. In front of them sits a huge pile of cash.
The victim had a dubious career as an enforcer/ drug dealer, until he went legit (ish) and helped to create Coopers Chase. As such, there are a lot of suspects to wade through, including Curran’s business partner, the professional boxer, the Polish builder poised to take over Curran’s role at the retirement village and more.
The members of the club, together with a young policewoman that they befriended, start to sift through the clues and uncover new insight into Curran’s fishy background, dodgy dealings and dubious associates. All the while, they share the highs and lows of life in a retirement village, including worries about old age, infirmity, loss of memory, vulnerability, a struggle against the ever-encroaching digital age and more.
Osman switches between perspectives in each chapter, which makes for an interesting read that will keep you hooked. You’ll learn new information not from long, boring descriptions and info-dumps, but from dialogue, diary entries and weird little asides. Each chapter brings something new, and you become drawn into the funny, hum-drum life of the residential home and the cosy life in Fairhaven, where life used to move at a snail’s pace before the murder changed made things interesting. Some of the jokes are surprisingly funny (there’s an ongoing gag about llamas which is surprisingly effective).
The story is both heart-warming and inviting. You’re quickly drawn into the world of the club, and want to find out more about them. Osman makes his characters relatable and entertaining, so you’ll feel an instant connection to them. They’re endearing, particularly Joyce the former nurse, who is the main narrator of most of the first person chapters, written in the form of her diary entries.
With a combination of humour, human interest and murder, Osman manages to create an unforgettable novel that will keep you hooked and leave you wanting more. It’s already been announced that Steven Spielberg has bought the rights to The Thursday Murder Club, and with that stellar Hollywood recommendation as well as the amazing reception that the bestseller has received, it’s clear that we’ve not seen the last literary endeavour from Richard Osman. I’m excited to see what else he can create in the future and how Spielberg will transform this funny and engaging mystery novel into a blockbuster movie.