Twenty million pounds’ worth of stolen diamonds, a secret agent ex-husband hiding from the mafia, a brutal mugging, and an ever-so-realistic little romantic sub-plot. My new favourite gang of quirky seniors is back in Richard Osman’s follow-up to The Thursday Murder Club, and it’s everything I had hoped for.
“That twinkle in his eye was undimmed. The twinkle that gave an entirely undeserved suggestion of wisdom and charm. The twinkle that could make you walk down the aisle with a man almost ten years your junior and regret it within months. The twinkle you soon realize is actually the beam of a lighthouse, warning you off the rocks.”
The Man Who Died Twice combines murder and intrigue with the banality of life and growing old in a way that is simultaneously fast-paced and gripping and delightfully comic. Osman expertly intertwines his tangled plot threads while studding the entire narrative with so much genuine character the reader cannot help but be invested.
“I’m involved about as much as I want to be with the Thursday Murder Club. If they can plant cocaine in someone’s cistern, I don’t want to think about what they’d do with my love life.”
Admittedly, the book contains a certain amount of blood and violence that puts it on the fringe of the cozy mystery genre, if not off the roster entirely. The relationships still feel cozy, though. The ring-leader of the Thursday Murder Club, retired secret service agent Elizabeth, is back and kicking, devising plans to punish the baddies and mete out her own version of justice that dwells just outside the boundary of the law. Kind-hearted Joyce, the real MVP and source of most of the comedy, uses her ditzy façade to beguile people into just where she wants them, while we are given glimpses into her wit and cunning (and total lack of technological awareness) through intermittent journal entries.
“More women are murdering people these days,” says Joyce. “If you ignore the context, it is a real sign of progress.”
If anything, this sequel has even more heart than the first novel. We delve deeper into the complicated relationships and histories of our much-beloved seniors who, while solving murders and out-witting professional criminals and law enforcement agencies alike, never lose sight of the trivialities of everyday life. Richard Osman has a knack for characterization that I continue to envy and hope to one day emulate.
“I am learning that it is important to stop sometimes and just have a drink and a gossip with friends, even as corpses start to pile up around you. Which they have been doing a lot recently.
It’s a balancing act, of course, but, by and large, the corpses will still be there in the morning, and you mustn’t let it spoil your Domino’s.”
The Man Who Died Twice reads like a comedy, and you will laugh; you can be sure of that. But beneath the quirky and amusing runs an undercurrent of sobering reality. Particularly touching is the storyline that follows dear, pensive Ibrahim as he has a brush with his own mortality and struggles to retain his confidence and courage. The all-too-real themes of coping with loss and facing the doubts and fears of the changes that come along with aging are tackled with a self-awareness that makes Osman’s characters so incredibly relatable.
“We are all gone in the blink of an eye, and there is nothing to do but live while you’re waiting. Cause trouble, play chess, whatever suits you.”
“The secret of life is death. Everything is about death, you see. In essence. Our existence only makes sense because of it; it provides meaning to our narrative. Our direction of travel is always towards it. Our behaviour is either because we fear it, or because we choose to deny it.”
It’s a droll and clever mystery enhanced by charming characters that propel the story through rapidly-shifting viewpoints and scenes, building tension while maintaining a light-hearted and witty style.
“There are certain steps you take in life that you can’t easily turn back from. So take them with care. You don’t want to make a fool of yourself.”