In his third installment of The Thursday Murder Club series, Richard Osman, television presenter turned author, has churned out a novel that appears to have ran out of steam.
As with all of Osman’s books, the novel is set in a quiet little retirement home in Kent. The gang comprises of four pensioners who meet every Thursday to solve cold murder cases. Osman being a comedian and TV presenter has, from the start, created a comedic, cozy tone alongside the casual, cold-blooded murders that just you know happen from time to time. The club is certainly an odd bunch with Ron being a well-known unionist who is often seen as the people’s hero (like a glorified Mick Lynch), Ibrahim is an intelligent and composed therapist. Joyce is the overbearing, nosy yet (apparently) loveable mother/grandmother and finally Elizabeth, arguably the ring leader, is an ex-intelligence officer. The Bullet That Missed follows the bunch as they investigate a cold case involving the muder of TV presenter, Bethany Waites. They join ranks with her celebrity colleagues to trawl through the past and look for clues.
As the series progressed the bunch managed to rope in pretty much everyone they know including a Polish man who mainly acts as their “muscle”, a drug baronnes, and two police officers. Osman has intentionally created a causal, mundane vibe to underpin his books. He throws in references to Ron’s bad knees when he goes on dates and Joyce’s stereotypical drivel about irrelevant details like snack trolleys on trains. As he has mentioned in his interviews, the appeal is supposed to come from the fact that they’re old pensioners and it seems sort of crazy and humorous that they’re getting up to all sorts. But frankly, after some time, it just gets boring. Not to mention the fact that a lot of the events are just not believable. Connie Johnson, the local drug baroness, has a Nespresso machine in her room, as well as a TV, fresh fruit deliveries, and pretty much anything else she wants, including knitting needles which incidentally lead to the death of another inmate.
The cocoon of comfort that Osman refuses to veer from means that he fails to create any suspense or thrill at all and given the club has the word ‘murder’ in it, I think that’s a pretty crucial part. Even the supposedly dangerous Swedish money launderer (known as the Viking) who blackmails Elizabeth in an attempt to pressure her into killing his enemy, turns all soft and cuddly after he encounters the team. He even befriends the man who was his sworn nemesis a few chapters earlier. The lack of nail-biting tension, even a small dose of it, places the book squarely in that dreaded category of slow burners.
However, Osman’s (in my view weak) attempt to break away from the norms of what is a conventional murder mystery or thriller writing has not been received badly (I suspect due to his celebrity status) with him already announcing the fourth book.
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