What a truly delightful book.
Funny, clever, compassionate and an intriguing whodunnit. And set in an upmarket retirement village in Kent, of all places.
Four friends, all senior citizens, meet once a week to look through old unsolved murder files, purloined by Penny, an original member of The Thursday Murder Club, but who is now in a coma. Despite this, Joyce, a new member, is taken into the group and the study of the files continues.
Until a real-live murder, as it were, takes place and Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron turn their considerable investigative skills to solving the mystery.
Without in any way diminishing the charm and the laugh-out-loud humour in this book, there’s a touch of good ol’ fashioned Enid Blyton in the people and the location. Except for the murders, of course.
These 4 remarkable people have great investigative skills, for sure, but they also possess equally good acting skills, a zest for life that is appealing, and an admirable capacity for drinking at all times of the day. They are all active, eminently likeable people, and it’s only when they play on their age (usually to try and outwit the police or extract information) that you remember that they are all heading into their 80s.
This is classic Elizabeth, the strategist, the most analytical and cool-headed of the group when she wants to meet a particular (female) police officer:
Elizabeth stands her ground and refuses to move. She is shaking her head, cheeks wet with tears now.
“I want to talk to a female police constable.”
“I’m sure Mark can sort this out for you,” says at the desk sergeant.
“Please!” cried Elizabeth.
Joyce decides the time has come to help her friend out.
“My friend is a nun, Sergeant.”
“A nun?” says the desk sergeant.
Yes, a nun,” says Joyce. “And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what that entails?”
The desk sergeant sees that this is a discussion that could end badly in so many ways and chooses an easy life.
“If you give me a moment, madam, I will find someone for you.”
He follows Mark back through the security door and Elizabeth and Joyce are alone for a minute. Elizabeth stops the waterworks and looks over at Joyce.
“A nun? That was very good.”
“I didn’t have much time to think,” says Joyce.
“If pushed, I was going to say someone had touched me,” says Elizabeth. “You know how hot they are on that these days. But a nun is much more fun.”
A female officer is duly found.
“So you’re a nun now, Elizabeth?“
Elizabeth nods quickly, raising a finger to acknowledge that this is a good question. “Donna, like any modern woman, I am any number of things, as and when the need arises. We have to be chameleons, don’t we?” She takes a notepad and pen from an inside coat pocket and places them on the table.“
Small wonder that we all love this gang of 4, and Elizabeth in particular. We are never quite sure what her profession was, although enough hints are dropped throughout the book that she is a retired spy.
Certainly she has a fund of favours she can call in, while Joyce shamelessly exploits her daughter Joanna to check out financial records when necessary, and on their investigative trips, the two women happily drink canned G&Ts from Marks on the train.
But behind the gung-ho-ness of these wonderful seniors, there are moments when the fear of dying, of ageing badly, of drifting into dementia come to the fore – they do live in a retirement community, remember.
“Memory was the bogeyman that stalked Coopers Chase. Forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, muddling up names.
What did I come in here for? The grandchildren would giggle at you. The sons and daughters would joke too, but kept a watchful eye. Every so often you would wake at night in cold dread. Of all the things to lose, to lose one’s mind? Let them take a leg or a lung, let them take anything before they take that…
…Almost certainly you mixed up your daughter’s and granddaughter’s names, because you were thinking about the potatoes, but who knows? That was the tightrope.”
Mr. Osman shows great empathy towards his characters and especially towards his gang of seniors. They are always dignified, even when they are being disingenuous, even borderline illegal. But they are never parodies. They are well-rounded, likeable old folk.
There are moments of great humour and also of sadness.
There’s murder, too, and digging up graves.
And afternoon boozing.
Yup, a great read.