In his long-awaited follow-up to his bestselling debut novel The Thursday Murder Club, quiz show host turned author Richard Osman brings back his unique flair for cosy crime fiction.
The plot of this latest novel sees readers return to Coopers Chase, the luxury retirement community where the four members of the Thursday Murder Club reside. The man mentioned in the title is the ex-husband of Elizabeth, one of the club’s founders who used to be in the secret service.
He uses the name of a man who’s already dead to tempt his ex-wife to come and speak to him. It turns out he ran a search on a renowned gangster’s home that went wrong. A cache of valuable diamonds went missing, and the gangster knows who led the raid. He’s now out for revenge and Elizabeth’s ex-husband wants protection.
Reluctantly, Elizabeth agrees, but before she and the other club members can start protecting her ex-husband a member of the criminal’s gang breaks into Coopers Chase and is killed by the young secret service agent charged with the official job of protecting him.
After this deadly incident Elizabeth’s ex is moved out of the residential home for the elderly, but his new safe house in Hove turns out to be less secure than expected. He and his young protection officer are murdered, leaving Elizabeth and her friends to uncover the truth. While the ‘who’ of the mystery doesn’t seem too difficult to understand, things are more complicated than they seem and the diamonds further complicate matters.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim, one of the club, is brutally attacked while walking back from a shopping trip outside of Coopers Chase. The group rallies around him but he’s left living in fear and stressed out about going outside of the senior residential community. Elizabeth and her other friends work with the police officers they befriended in the first book to find and punish the criminals responsible.
Osman deals with these sensitive subject with his usual panache and dry wit. His characters are remarkably funny and droll, with Joyce, the former nurse who is a first person narrator throughout the book, being the funniest of them all. Her ramblings are hilarious and make the book well worth a read for her witticism alone.
As well as being funny, the book is also suspenseful. Osman draws on many of the traditional tropes of the cosy crime fiction sub-genre and transforms his group of seemingly ordinary old age pensioners into a bunch of crime fighters. It has to be said, at times his characters are a little far fetched- his police characters are far more blasé with the law than actual coppers. The same goes for his secret service characters; I’ve met some policeman, no secret agents, but they don’t strike me as particularly realistic.
Still despite this minor issue, I really enjoyed the latest outing from the Thursday Murder Club team. They’re as witty and chaotic as ever. While the professional characters are un-relatable, the club members are brilliantly lifelike. I used to work in a care home and I can see similarities between the members, particularly Ron and Joyce, and some of the residents I used to work with.
In all, I enjoyed The Man Who Died Twice. Osman has found his niche in the cosy crime fiction space and created a memorable series that I think readers will enjoy for many years to come. I wouldn’t be surprised if the series doesn’t keep going and going; even though the characters are older, I definitely think there’s a few more books left in this phenomenal series.