There is something strangely light and refreshing about reading a book from an elderly perspective, even if it is packed with murder! Richard Osmand’s debut novel The Thursday Murder Club is full of surprises, red herrings and leading you down all the wrong tracks. But the surprises are not just about murder, the characters and their age are also surprising.
Elderly people love to stereotype teenagers, but the younger generation also loves to stereotype the older ones. Of course, there are the typical traits of the elderly forgetting things, their mind lingering on death and knitting clubs! But Osmand paints his characters refreshingly and humanely. Joyce, Elizabeth, Ron and Ibrahim all have a deep and intricate history that has shaped the way they want to spend their last years and their approach to the ongoing investigation.
The book begins with Joyce (the narrator) being asked to join the Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth discovers her in the restaurant, knowing she used to be a nurse, asking her how long it would take for someone to bleed to death. As a retired woman living in a luxurious retirement village (a village that is portrayed splendidly and I’d quite happily pack up and move there), Joyce sees no harm in checking out their club and ends up sticking around.
Just as she gets involved, a fresh new murder arrives right in their retirement village, and she is dragged on all kinds of adventures uncovering more and more information about the elderly people she lives amongst and the history behind the village she lives in.
There is not one, but three murders to be uncovered in this novel and I didn’t expect a single of the culprits. Well actually everyone seemed to be a suspect which only made the book more enticing. But let’s talk about Joyce, the narrator.
The book has two narrators. Some chapters are labelled Joyce in which we get a glimpse into her diary. First-person narration in which she gives an insight into her thoughts and personal life. She’s a bit shaky to start with, learning to pick up the pen again. She tells us “I will get the hand of this, I promise”. The intimacy and vividness of her voice are fun and enjoyable at first. But as the book progressed I felt her interception into the more objective narrative fake and controlling. Just to put it out there: I don’t trust Joyce. And I hope in the second book Osmand comes to explore this some more.
There is no doubt Osmand is a clever man. He is well-read and certainly aware of the unreliable narrator trope. And I think this is what is happening here. At one point Joyce alludes to her dishonesty: “I try to be honest where I can, so I hope you don’t mind me saying, I don’t like him”. If she’s not unreliable, she’s certainly biased and feeding us a certain perspective. Concealing certain information from the reader.
The other parts of the book are as I mentioned before, narrated in the third person — but it’s evidently Joyce filtering through the narrative. About a third into the book the narrator slips up saying “Mentioning Joyce again. Easier every time”. Joyce is also in the background of the story. She is mentioned less than the other characters and often gets forgotten. Now and then another character will mention her name and Joyce is brought back to life. She’s like a ghost meandering through the novel, implicating every scene but never seen.
I love an unreliable narrator and I can’t wait to see how Osmand unpacks this some more in his next book. Of course, I only gave this book three stars. I really enjoyed it and I couldn’t fault the writing, and if I were to read it again with the insight I have now, I would probably add a couple of extra stars onto it. The three stars were because at times I got a little lost and confused. There are so many characters, so many scene shifts — just a lot going on. And I’m not quite sure about all the bribes Elizabeth pulls! The book becomes a bit disorientated which is perfect for the narrator to throw you off track of the real murderer, but not so good for the reader who just wants a little bit of fun!
The Thursday Murder Club is not your conventional murder novel, but there are too many of those out there! It’s nice to see elderly characters get a shot in fiction for once and show their perspective on the world. Pointless is probably a daily ritual on their TV and they’ll no doubt know who Osmand is! It might also give them a bit of joy during the lockdown, so if you have a copy maybe lend it to them the next time you visit!