Review: The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman
Apparently Richard Osman is quite a famous game show host, and the fact that I didn't know this means I have not fully assimilated as a Briton. Who knew?
Anyway, let's actually talk about his book. First things first, this is by no means Great Fiction - it is pure, light, fluffy crime fun, centered around a group of friendly retirees who play games together and also solve cold case murders for fun. When they get not one, but two, murders happening in their sleepy retirement community next to a sleepy seaside village, they go full into gear.
This book is typical amateur detective fiction - the police are bumbling idiots, and the retirees play fast and loose with both the law and what is actually realistic for them to get away with. Also, they use each others' names in conversation a lot, which I think might have been a deliberate authorial choice when he was writing dialogue, but did get a bit annoying after a couple hundred pages.
There is something very optimistic and hopeful that permeates the entirety of this story - the bad guys are the ones who get murdered, the good guys are pretty obviously good, and any shades of grey are smoothed down and made obvious through the retroactive application of a 'natural justice' lens. In a way, that makes it purely escapist - you don't read this book and ask yourself any difficult questions about politics or justifiable homicide, or walk away with any queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach about the horrendous state of the criminal justice system. But, if you go into it expecting nothing but light, fluffy fun, then you're in for a treat.
The central gang of four retirees are larger-than-life, vividly drawn, delightful caricatures; I laughed out loud more than once when they were talking to each other and plotting out how to solve the murders. The auxiliary characters suffer a bit in comparison, as they are not nearly as fully fleshed-out; I think this might be down to the fact that Osman is a debut novellist, and he will get better at balancing out the characterization as he writes more of these books. Where the novel does fall a bit short, in the end, is with the resolution of the murders - it built up quite nicely, the puzzle was intricate and fun, and the solution to the second murder ended up being a bit out of left-field, and felt a bit unearned, as it was hard to see how it ended up fitting into the theme without much explanation, whereas the first one was much better handled and felt much more satisfactory.
All told, though, this is a perfectly fine, fun book. I zipped through it in a day, and I chuckled in more than one spot. It's quirky, it's charming, it's funny - it's a perfect antidote to the grimness, both of the weather and everything else, engulfing us all now. If anybody needs something fast and fun to round out their Goodreads 2020 challenge, a mystery they can enjoy without having to think too much about anything, and that kind of general light-heartedness, then I'd definitely recommend you pick this one up. I can already tell that I think I'll be reading the second book when it's published next year, just because I think meeting these characters again is going to be the literary equivalent of taking off your jeans and slipping into your pyjamas at the end of a long, difficult day.