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The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club

In The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman turns on its head the perception that retirement homes are places where people sit in chairs all day, apart from shuffling to the dining room and back. Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim and Ron all bring considerable experience and prowess to the solving of the murder of the man who built their retirement home, and then the man who owned it. They run rings around the police officers who are officially responsible for solving these murders, while also seeking to engage with them and swap information over a cup of tea and two types of slices, specially baked by Joyce.

They engineer the inclusion of a young constable on the enquiry, and then use the psychology of squeezing the main police detective between two of them on a too-small sofa to get him talking more freely once they allow him to move to a better seat.

A retirement home located right beside a cemetery which is central to the murder enquiries. Its placements right beside the retirement home is quite a full-on facing of death, which they all feel the presence of in their daily life. Elizabeth’s husband is failing day by day (and yet his perceptions turn out to be much sharper than is immediately apparent), and there are others who choose to take a quicker way out to rest in the land beside them.

This adds a fresh dimension to the murders … death is something everyone is facing up to on a pretty regular basis … everyone is practised in extending sympathy to friends and spouses of loved ones who die, so a few murders here and there fit quite naturally within this context of people who are contemplating their own deaths and experiencing loss on a regular basis.

I really enjoyed the twists and turns of exploring who could have carried out the murders and why. The team of four are not shy about including themselves as suspects, and even giving each other a rating of the likelihood that they did it.

Their social pizzaz is contrasted with the police officer, who goes home from his work on the same case to an empty flat and a deep sense that he is all alone, with no real prospects of changing his situation. This reverses the commonly held idea of ‘lonely old people’ compared to younger people having much more choice and social connections.

All the narrative strands and long histories of the characters and suspects take a bit of keeping track of, but these complexities are held in the warm embrace of these people kicking up their heels in their later years. 

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