Joyce. Ibrahim. Ron. Elizabeth. A former nurse, psychiatrist, trade unionist and… well, Elizabeth tends to keep her past to herself. And every Thursday, to pass the time at Coopers Chase, a luxury retirement village, they meet up to discuss murder. Cold cases, but needless to say, soon an actual murder takes place.
The victim was a rather unpleasant builder who worked on the development of Coopers Chase, but had fallen out with the owner, who has dubious plans to expand the village. But what can four determined seventy-plus year olds do that the local police can’t? Well, quite a lot, it seems.
I felt I had to get my hands on a review copy of this one – indeed, I probably would have bought a copy if NetGalley had said no. Richard Osman, if you don’t know, is the sort of successful polymath who really ought to get on your nerves if he wasn’t so bloody charming. British viewers will know him as the tall bloke behind the desk on Pointless, but his CV is much longer (and more impressive) than that. And now he’s turned his hand to writing a mystery novel.
It’s generated amazing word of mouth, but it’s not as if a celebrity had written a decent-ish book and people vomiting unconditioned praise all over it hasn’t happened before. So I thought I ought to take a look and, despite being a bit of a fan of Richard, give it an honest look.
I’ll start with the negative (apart from the bad formatting of my review copy). There aren’t really any clues for the reader to spot. It’s best described as a cosy thriller, I suppose. More than one innocent person is accused before the truth comes out. Just so you know going in, it’s not that sort of mystery.
But it’s a damn good read. I’ve read a lot of crime novels, as you may of noticed, and I think I can say that this is the biggest emotional rollercoaster that I’ve read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, etc… the characters, the central four members of the club and Donna and Chris, the police who are entangled in their shenanigans, are wonderful creations. All of them have hidden backgrounds, and Osman has carefully woven their development into the tale. There’s a moment towards the end, concerning two of the characters, where you think you know where it is going, but there’s a lovely twist. It’s nothing to do with the investigation, but it’s lovely all the same.
Some writers have said how they aren’t sure how a book will turn out until they have written a good chunk of it. It’s clear though that Osman had this plotted out from the start, as the plot twists and turns towards a beautiful conclusion that ties the whole thing up in a beautiful bow. Add in some serious ruminations on guilt and innocence that will keep the reader pondering long after the last page has turned, and you end up with a truly magnificent read.
My general rule is “Don’t Believe The Hype” – it’s usually true. In this case, you can believe it – this is a wonderful read, with characters and themes that will stay with you for a good while after finishing it.