It’s another Thursday at Coopers Chase, and another problem to solve – well, several problems in fact. Ibrahim, the former psychiatrist is lying in a hospital bed, a recent mugging making him fearful not just for his life but for everything else. PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson are having difficulty with a local drug dealer, and, most worryingly, Elizabeth’s ex-husband has taken shelter in the community. The reason he needs shelter is that he has “accidentally” come into possession of twenty million pounds worth of diamonds that belong to a deeply unpleasant individual. And that individual will stop at nothing to get them back…
When the body count starts growing, it seems a particularly ruthless individual has decided that nothing will stop them getting what they want. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of ruthless individuals circling Coopers Chase…
So, this is the second book from Richard Osman featuring the members of The Thursday Murder Club after, um, The Thursday Murder Club. You might have heard of it, as it broke almost every single bookselling record last year and was almost universally praised. I say almost, because there were some nay-sayers in my little community, the community devoted to the classic detective mystery that were irked by the comparison to Agatha Christie, primarily due to the lack of clues in the book. Me, I’m more willing to forgive that sin if I enjoy a book and that was the case – I liked the characters, the mystery had some heart to it, especially the ending. All in all, I found it a satisfying read.
This one… I found less so. I’m always reluctant to give a less than glowing review to a new release, but let’s face it, I’m never going to dent Mr Osman’s sales and it’s already got over 80% 5 star reviews on Amazon, and one of the (currently) three 3 star reviews complains about the formatting of the ARC e-copy which I doubt will be a problem in the published version.
But I didn’t enjoy this anywhere near as much as the first title. The relationships between the four leads is still as strong as before, and that between Elizabeth and her dementia-suffering husband is particularly touching. The moments where the down-to-earth Joyce one-ups the ex-spy Elizabeth are also fun. But Elizabeth is part of the problem too.
If you recall – let’s face it, you’ve all read it – Elizabeth had a mysterious past in the first book. Well, here the curtain is completely pulled away. I was expecting a drip-feed of reveals of her goings-on as the series progressed, not a scene where she drops into conversation with Joyce that she’s killed a lot of people as part of her work. With those secrets revealed, the book becomes as much a spy thriller as a mystery novel.
The police characters, PC Donna and DCI Chris, seem to have suffered too. Chris has a nice personal arc – nothing controversial, just nice and cosy – but they also casually collaborate in framing a villain by someone planting cocaine on them and also cover up shenanigans that resulted in a couple of deaths. It just seems fairly jarring behaviour – and the fact that a PC and a DCI are so chummy comes across as even odder than the first time round.
The villains are another problem, as one seems to have waltzed in from a Roger Moore Bond film and a second from… well, the same sort of thing but about drugs and stuff, rather than arms dealing. They just don’t seem real or threatening and the confrontations between the members of the club and the villains in question just make the villains come across as incompetent, which they clearly aren’t supposed to be.
The plot does a good job of tying the loose ends together, but a lot of those loose ends don’t relate directly to the primary murder. On top of that, there’s a fake solution that’s actually more interesting that the real one…
There are some good bits here and you could tell that Osman had fun writing it. As I said, I loved the relationship between Elizabeth and Stephen, and Joyce’s diary entries are fun, apart from the laboured Instagram joke – and I could have done with a bit more with Ibrahim and his struggles, as that thread tied the story into reality. I’m sure it will do well, but to be honest, this wasn’t the best book called The Man Who Died Twice that I’ve read this year…
The Man Who Died Twice is out now in hardback and ebook. Many thanks for the review e-copy.
Sorry you didn’t enjoy this; I hadn’t read the first one but still found this good fun; the humour and the realistic treatment of the problems that come with age. The mystery too I thought was fun–but on reading your review, I agree perhaps that the fake solution would have been more fun.
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