Crime fiction is ever a popular genre, possibly even saturated. Therefore, it seems unsurprising for veteran comedian and TV producer Richard Osman’s debut novel The Thursday Murder Club to be a stand out release of the year, topping the fiction charts at Christmas time. What makes the book such an enjoyable read is its unique combination of a well constructed mystery, perfectly timed humour and a real sense of compassion.
The setting, the luxury retirement village of Coopers Chase in the Kent countryside, provides a solid foundation to the book. With the majority of characters being residents from the village, Osman ensures that they all have their unique traits that make them distinguishable, such as Ron’s fiery temperament, Ibrahim’s quiet confidence and Joyce’s attempts to keep up with present day society. Osman is careful to keep both the settings and characters believable, leaving the reader with the sense that they’ve passed Cooper’s Chase on the A2. Even the Thursday Murder Club, a meeting of four residents to solve old police cases from the comfort of an armchair, seems a plausible, if quirky, thing for time-rich pensioners to partake in.
The various tricks that each murder club member plays to throw off both the police are ingenious, and even better as the victim realises they have been duped
With the main cast being excitable pensioners past their physical prime, The Thursday Murder Club is consistently funny. Several side characters underestimate the ability of the murder club members when they finally get the chance to solve a ‘live’ case. The various tricks that each murder club member plays to throw off both the police are ingenious, and even better as the victim realises they have been duped. The best running joke of the book has to be that the resident-run Coopers Chase Parking committee operates with a ruthless efficiency that makes any government envious.
Of course, The Thursday Murder Club is still a murder mystery novel, and has a solidly robust mystery at the centre of it. Osman certainly invites the reader to make assumptions, but develops a knack for misdirecting the reader. Most importantly, the various mysteries are all unwoven by the conclusion of the book, ensuring that there are no loose ends. As the plotlines are gradually put together for the majority of the book, the ending is slightly rushed; in one of the final confession scenes quite a few names are mentioned for the first time in over a hundred pages. In spite of this, the base storyline is far better than the average murder mystery and ensures the reader is engaged throughout.
Osman writes genuinely heartwarming scenes seeping with compassion, and the characters are happily at terms with the fate that will await them in the not so distant future
What really sets The Thursday Murder Club apart from so many books in the genre is the compassion and kindness of so many of the characters. All of the Coopers Chase residents are aware of their own mortality; every resident is either widowed or their spouse is in a considerably worse state than themselves. While this could easily be transformed into a dark coldness where reality gradually slips away from the older characters as they approach their death, Osman makes sure to provide it as a motivation for the murder club and their antics. The slightly more outrageous events are easily justified as the pensioners’ one last hurrah.
Death is not just something on the horizon, but is something the characters have to deal with in the book. Osman writes genuinely heartwarming scenes seeping with compassion, and the characters are happily at terms with the fate that will await them in the not so distant future. Conversations about death or illness are not avoided, but are an integral part of the story. The effect of turning the final page isn’t an empty sadness, but a warmth as the characters empathy is made clear.
Overall, The Thursday Murder Club is a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish, full of laugh out loud moments accompanied with a delicately created mystery, with a conclusion that is both surprising yet satisfying.