“We were all looking through the files for a new Thursday Murder Club case. There was a spinster in Rye in the early eighties, for example, who had died, leaving three unidentified skeletons and a suitcase containing fifty thousand pounds in her cellar. That was Elizabeth’s favourite, and I agree, it would have been quite jolly, but…”
The Thursday Murder Club is back at it with a decade-old cold case—a murder with no body and no answers. The quartet unravels the mystery with the help of old friends and new, including a local news legend that has Joyce a bit starstruck. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has been given a deadly ultimatum by a shadowy new foe, and several burgeoning romances balance out the tension with some light-hearted fun.
Richard Osman’s third in this series is as charming and warm-hearted as the first two novels. The plot is satisfyingly complex, but the real power of the book lies in its characters. Osman’s grasp of his diverse cast’s unique concerns and inner voice is remarkable—he writes a very likeable group of people, none of whom are too sickeningly perfect. The characters seem so real, while the fantasy world they inhabit is layered with improbable crime and intrigue. The plot is slightly more unhinged and detached from reality than the other two books. Still, if you can suspend your disbelief enough to relish the banter and camaraderie, it’s a lovely entertaining read.
“The Thursday Murder Club?” says Mike. “Sounds made up.”
“Everything is made up, when you really think about it,” says Ibrahim.
The old gang is up to their regular tricks, although in this one, Elizabeth and Joyce take center stage more than ever, and Ibrahim and Ron seem relegated to supporting background players. They both have side quests that contribute to the plot, of course, but they don’t play quite as prominent a role as the two women. Admittedly, Ron going for his first-ever massage is possibly the funniest chapter in the book.
“That’s a cracking smile, to be fair to her. Is Pauline in his league? Late sixties, a bit young for him? What league is he in these days? It’s been a long time since he’d checked. Either way, what a smile.”
It’s fun to see elderly people portrayed vibrantly with sharp wits, vivid backgrounds, and real fears and flaws. Joyce’s diary entries are a highlight again; I adore her wide-eyed perspective and instant girlish crushes. And Bogdan. Bogdan has gradually become my favourite character of the series, and technically he’s not even part of the Thursday Murder Club. This book shows the more tender side of this outwardly-tough thug.
I will admit that the villains of the book are not exactly threatening, and it’s obvious throughout that our protagonists will prevail in the end, but hey, it’s a good bit of fun. It’s kind of amazing that a mystery with such a body count can still be considered feel-good. It’s jam-packed full of adventure, intrigue, humour, and genuine heart—and darned if it didn’t have me crying big soppy tears by the end. I’ll avoid the spoilers, but let it be known that Osman hasn’t shied away from the more heart-breaking side of aging, either.
“Angry waves batter the foot of the cliff, hundreds of feet below, the noise rising to greet them like a muffled argument from a downstairs flat.”
Although this book could stand alone, many of the in-jokes and references will go over your head if you haven’t read the first two books. Best to start at the beginning and follow the character development; then, by the time you come to this, the third book in this delightful series, it will feel like joining old friends on a new adventure.
“It’s the people, in the end, isn’t it?” says Viktor. “It’s always the people. You can move halfway around the world to find your perfect life, move to Australia if you like, but it always comes down to the people you meet.”