It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally got round to sharing my thoughts on the popular cosy crime fiction novel The Marlow Murder Club. I’ve had the book on my TBR pile for a while, but I didn’t get around to checking it out until recently.
Written by Robert Thorogood, the creator of the longstanding TV series Death In Paradise, the book is a cute cosy crime novel. It fills ever aspect of the cosy crime fiction formula, giving you a feel-good read from start to finish.
It was published at around the same time as Richard Osman’s amazing book The Thursday Murder Club, and while the novels are similar, they’re unique in their settings and storytelling.
The Marlow Murder Club is set in a small town in Buckinghamshire, and tells the story of a eccentric old woman named Judith Potts. She lives in a mansion she inherited from her aunt, and sets crosswords as a job. She also loves to swim naked in the river wending its way behind her house, which is what she’s doing one day when she hears a scream coming from her neighbour Stefan’s house.
Then she hears a shot, which leads her to call the police. Despite the police visiting, it’s Judith herself who finds the body of her neighbour, who used to run a art gallery before he was brutally killed. He’s been shot and the police are quickly called back.
Judith isn’t taken seriously by the police, but she finds it hard to stop thinking about the crime. Then another murder takes place in the sleepy, small village, this time a local taxi driver, who is seemingly unconnected to Stefan. While investigating both crimes, Judith meets Becks, the wife of a local vicar, and Suzie, a dog walker who took care of the taxi driver’s Doberman.
At first, the dog walker is eager to join in on the fun while Becks tries desperately to stay out of it, but gradually the three unlikely friends start working together to solve the murders. Like in The Thursday Murder Club, there’s a local policewoman who just about tolerates the group enough to let them in on some of the information about the investigation.
There are plenty of similarities between the two books, including the age of the main characters, how their lives become entwined with the investigation as it continues, the fact that they all seem to know the ins and outs of everything that goes on in their small town and more.
At the same time, Thorogood’s novel is just different enough from Osman’s to make them both worth checking out; they’re definitely made to fit the same mould, but they’re also individual books. In that respect, they’re a lot like Death In Paradise: they follow a set formula but each book, as is the case with the show’s episodes, is slightly and clearly different. In that way, these novels are comforting for those of us who enjoy knowing that we’ll definitely enjoy reading a book without wanting to re-read an old favourite. We know what we’re in for, but we still get the benefit of checking out something new. It’s a win-win.
From the beginning, Thorogood gives both the reader and the main characters an obvious suspect: an obnoxious local auction house owner with a shady past who was seen fighting with Stefan a few weeks before his death. However, from the beginning both the readers and the group of characters that becomes the murder club are faced with the insurmountable issue of the character’s watertight alibis for each of the crimes.
The plot is as cryptic as the crosswords that the elderly, aristocratic protagonist Judith writes for national newspapers. She works with her two new friends to uncover the truth, and the group come up against everything from a sleazy lawyer who fakes his client’s will, through to cryptic clues, art fraud, theft and more. The group works together with the police, who after their initial apathy are eager for all the help they can get.
All the twists and turns are still predictable and comforting, making this a cosy book that’ll make you feel relaxed while still keeping you gripped. It’s like an episode of Death In Paradise, but without the vague colonial undertones and cheesy British actors who look about as out of place in the Caribbean as a Vulcan walking around a Tesco Metro.
In all, with a sequel in the works, it’s clear that The Marlow Murder Club was a hit, and while it’s probably not going to become an unforgettable classic, it’s still a great read. If you’re looking for something to read that’s cosy, comforting and uncomplicated, then this is a great choice. It’s surprisingly easy to read and delightfully entertaining, even if it’s not a hard-hitting read that will make you question humanity.