British TV presenter, producer and director Richard Osman adds "novelist" to his resume with The Thursday Murder Club, an imaginative and witty whodunit set in the luxurious Coopers Chase Retirement Village in Kent, England.
Solving cold-case murders isn’t an activity listed in the retirement community brochure, but it’s quite popular with a quartet of whip-smart resident septuagenarians—Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron—who are dedicated to the cause. The group meets in the Jigsaw Room; the time slot is “booked under the name Japanese Opera: A Discussion, which ensured they were always left in peace.”
Little do they know that Coopers Chase developer and owner Ian Ventham has built the place with ill-gotten money, and he’s got plans to expand while, er, taking care of some criminal-underworld-related issues. When Ventham’s business partner Tony Curran, a talented builder and prolific drug dealer, is murdered, the club seizes the opportunity to work on something fresh and exciting (even if their help isn’t necessarily welcome). Not long after, there is another murder, plus the discovery of human bones that don’t belong in the cemetery where they were found. The investigation’s urgency ratchets up accordingly—and the number of viable suspects increases, many of them right there in Coopers Chase.
Through some hilariously masterful manipulation, the group unearths clues and teases out witness testimony, no small thanks to Elizabeth’s impressive network (she just possibly might be a former spy) and the club members’ talent for using stereotypes about the elderly to their advantage. Joyce, the group’s newest member, chronicles the club’s hijinks in her diary with a tone of hesitant glee, and also muses on motherhood, mortality and romantic love.
Osman’s careful attention to the realities of life in a retirement village ensures that The Thursday Murder Club is a compassionate, thoughtful tribute to a segment of the population that’s often dismissed and ignored. It's also an excellent example of the ways in which a murder mystery can be great fun.