The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

This was the first book I read in 2021 and it was really enjoyable: a good, twisty plot. Relatable/appealing characters with a unique perspective. Solid, approachable prose. It was a good start to the year of reading.

Mini plot summary: Four residents of a luxury retirement village in the British countryside meet each week to discuss murders. And then, to their delight, real-life murder lands right at their doorstep. Together with a pair of local detectives, they take the case – but then bodies begin to pile up. 

Why I enjoyed this book: Murder mysteries/detective fiction is probably my all-time favorite genre. And the two things I love most about the genre are contradictory: 1. I love when I can figure out whodunit before the book ends but 2. I also love it when I have absolutely no idea how the mystery will resolve. In truth, I only love each of these things when they are done well. If a mystery is poorly written and obvious from the beginning, that’s not enjoyable. Nor is it enjoyable when you get an out-of-nowhere resolution that feels unearned or unbelievable. But when a mystery is well-crafted, it can be so fun to pick out the little breadcrumb clues the author dropped along the way and feel triumphant when your suspicions prove correct… just as it can be completely delightful when an author keeps you guessing.

The Thursday Murder Club falls into the latter group for me. I was surprised and delighted by the outcome of this book. But that surprise felt earned, and the resolution made complete sense. 

I also enjoyed the protagonists of this book – four retirees who are facing the fact of their own mortality (and that of their loved ones) while finding joy in one another and in untangling a mystery. The characters weren’t fully fleshed out, but they felt real enough. And, for me, Osman wrote with a tenderness for his characters that I fully absorbed. He never shied away from the fact that aging, death, and grief were constant presences in his characters’ lives. I found myself sobbing through multiple passages because he was so adept and loving in his depiction of how his characters were handling the prospect of losing their vitality or saying goodbye to the people they loved. 

The overall tone of the book was pleasing to me as well. I’d compare it to something like Christie’s Miss Marple books or the Flavia de Luce novels. Light, humorous, with a poignant edge. 

What I didn’t enjoy about this book: Suicide is a prominent theme in this book. Well, perhaps prominent isn’t the exact word for it. But it was present, in a prominent and recurring way. And, while I understand the author’s choice to use it, it felt a little… easy, in its way. Reductive, perhaps. I found myself wondering, would this really be this person’s response to their circumstances?  

I also found one of the amateur detectives to be slightly off-putting in just how much access they had to information. Yes, the author tries to address this by giving that person a mysterious backstory… and the character is certainly charming… but the way they pulled strings felt almost as unsatisfying as having a deus-ex-machina introduced into the story. 

Despite these small qualms, I found the book immensely readable, compelling, and pleasurable. Every time I had to put it down, I wanted to pick it right back up. I am looking forward to the sequel.

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