Seventy-seven year old Judith Potts has a settled life, a mostly solitary routine of crossword setting, drinking whisky and skinny-dipping in the Thames in the evening. That would seem to be enough for her, until during a night-time swim, she hears an altercation at a neighbour’s house – and a gunshot.
The police find nothing suspicious, but determined to find out what happened, Judith finds her neighbour’s body in the garden with a bullet-hole in his forehead. Enlisting the help of Suzie, a dog-walker, and Becks, the vicar’s wife, Judith decides that if the police can’t find the killer, she will have to do it. And she’s certain she knows who did it – apart from the fact that the suspect has a cast-iron alibi.
I’ve been a fan of Robert Thorogood’s work since roughly the start of the blog. As you may be aware, Thorogood is the creator of Death In Paradise, one of the only mystery shows on TV that remembers to include actual clues in the plot, and he also wrote four excellent novels based on the show, featuring the original sleuth Richard Poole – A Meditation On Murder, The Killing of Polly Carter, Death Knocks Twice and Murder In The Caribbean – all of which fans of the show, or fans of mysteries in general, really should read. They are both excellent puzzles and entertaining reads.
Which brings us to The Marlow Murder Club, his first non-DIP novel that I’m aware of, and obviously there are going to be comparisons, because of the title with the recent The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, which looks like it’s going to end up selling more copies than the Bible. Both take the inspiration for their titles from Miss Marple’s The Tuesday Night Club, so I do hope that readers don’t think Thorogood is jumping on the bandwagon – the similarity in titles is coincidence, pure and simple. It happens. The other primary similarity is that they are both excellent books…
I love the central characters here – I’m especially fond here of Becks, the vicar’s wife, reluctant in part to get involved due to being the vicar’s wife and yet desperate to do something exciting because, well, she’s the vicar’s wife but the others are all fully-rounded distinct individuals too. They have back-stories without distracting from the central mystery plot – a plot that is both complex and simple. And here we get the difference that I expected between this and Osman’s book – there are clues here, clues for the reader to deduce who the murder is, rather than being asked to guess who the murderer is.
It’s not an easy feat to properly clue a mystery and still make it an entertaining read, yet I can see the clues dangling in front of my nose and yet as I write this, I haven’t a clue who did it.
You see, as I write this book, I’m exactly 85% of the way into the book and while Thorogood hasn’t explicitly entered a Challenge to the Reader, our heroes have just worked out who did it – and I haven’t got a bleeding clue. And I absolutely love it – I was hoping writing this review would help me get my thoughts in order, but no – I’m baffled.
The Last 15% Of The Book Later…
OK, Rob, you got me. I did have a feeling which way it was going, but I couldn’t make sense of it, so went looking elsewhere. Nice job. [I know Rob will read this, so I thought I’d address that bit to him.] Plenty of clues if you look at them in the right way (which, of course, I didn’t).
Not entirely sure why one of the blurbs on the poster for this book refers to it as an impossible crime as, well, it isn’t. What it is, it’s a very well-crafted murder mystery, with a core of delightful central characters and a twisty-turny plot that managed to twist and turn past me. An absolute delight, and I hope this is the start of a long-running and successful series.
It’s out on January 7th 2021 in hardback and ebook, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. At a time when every piece of news seems to worse than the last one, this was exactly what I needed.
Many thanks to HQ for the review copy via NetGalley.