Imagine if John Campbell wrote a crime detective series set in a retirement village?
Richard Osman, author of The Thursday Murder Club, is also a beloved television broadcaster with a large following. After an unexpected and surprising pivot from the screen to the page, the British author’s first novel was a fiscal phenomenon, rocketing straight to the top of the bestseller list. His second novel continued on the same trajectory and his third is set to follow suit.
The books all involve the same “four harmless pensioners” who, in each novel, pick out a police file of an unsolved murder and play detective. Think successful book series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith meets Scooby Doo, and you’ll get the idea.
There’s always a delightful comfort in a good British mystery novel. The plots celebrate gumption and curiosity; there’s good humour and compassion, and in the case of The Thursday Murder Club, a lovely subplot about British culture played out around manners and class.
The story starts with the “Fab Four” luring famous TV presenter Mike Waghorn to do a story about retired living – supposedly – but really, it’s so they can do “research” on their unsolved crime – a missing reporter, Bethany Waites, whose disappearance was never accounted for after her car was found at the bottom of a cliff.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, our team of inquisitive pensioners, drive the plot along in classic murder mystery fashion, albeit with their various afflictions of being old. Sometimes they’re cranky, definitely not limber, but they’re smart, sharp and ready to put a plan in action. Best of all is the description and sense of camaraderie and friendship that the novel engenders. Their “nothing to lose because we’re old anyway” spirit is a great subtext to traditional crime-writing as we’re taken across England solving a mystery that involves kidnapping, the KGB and money laundering. Far from being depressing or morbid, it’s a wonderfully funny and wise read.
Footnote: Just because they’re pensioners, it doesn’t mean there is no interest in sex. Who said it wasn’t on anyone’s mind?
The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman
(Viking – Penguin Random House, RRP $37)
Due to shipping delays this book may not be on sale in New Zealand until late September, but can be pre-ordered now!