The Thursday Murder Club (2020) by Richard Osman

Today’s review sees me continuing to play catch up with the latest releases, that have come out in the last couple of weeks.


‘In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?’

Overall Thoughts

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this book, though being aware of the elderly nature of our amateur sleuths and their retirement village location I did have images of New Tricks and Waiting for God floating around in the back of my mind. I suppose you could say Osman’s book has elements of these TV series, but by and large I would suggest the novel marks out a path of its own.

Let’s begin with what works well…

Osman has a very confident and engaging writing style. In particular I think he pitched the understated attitude of the elderly sleuthing quartet towards murder and death effectively. This comes across from the very first page when Joyce writes in her diary that:

‘Elizabeth said she could see that I was eating, but wanted to ask me a question about knife wounds, if it wasn’t inconvenient? […] I was asked what sort of knife she had been stabbed with, and Elizabeth said probably just a normal kitchen knife. John Lewis. She didn’t say that, but that was what I pictured. Then she asked me to imagine this girl had been stabbed, three or four times, just under the breastbone. In and out, in and out, very nasty, but without severing an artery. She was fairly quiet the whole thing, because people were eating, and she does have some boundaries.’

Moreover, later in the story Joyce records Elizabeth as saying that ‘we were all witnesses to a murder […] which needless to say is wonderful.’ Naturally occasions such as these provide a gentle, though perhaps at times dark, sense of humour. One of the more memorable scenes from the book, is a home security talk given by a police constable, at the retirement village. Unsurprisingly the residents run amuck during the talk. They are not remotely interested in her rehearsed pieces of information and instead want their wide range of questions answered. The topics of these questions are hilarious in their lack of boundaries and lack of concern over saying the right thing.

As I mentioned above some of the story is narrated through Joyce’s diary excerpts, yet these are interspersed with third person narration. I thought this combination was successful as it gives us the personal perspective yet does not deprive us of a bird’s eye view of the case.

I was not surprised to learn that Osman is going to be making this book into a series, with the second one billeted for next year, as his characters are very much set up for such a sequel, particularly his main police characters, PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson. I enjoyed the relationship dynamic between the four residents of the retirement village, as they have an interesting variety of life experiences and personality traits. It is fun to watch them act outside of conventional rules, much to the exasperation of DCI Hudson. Yet these four are still vulnerable to the problems of old age and I felt this added some emotional resonance to the piece at times. Ibrahim and Ron operate in a comic role, whilst Joyce is seemingly wall flower like, yet has a subtle power to draw people out. Elizabeth is very much the maverick leader you would expect, but you have to accept her for the deus ex machina she is, with her actions behind the scenes very much pulling rabbits out of hats, which enable the case to progress. This is comically done but is a partial weakness of the book.

So to recap the setting up of the first death is well done, with events structured to make it a surprise victim choice. The comic scenes in the beginning of the book also captured the essence of the main characters entertainingly too. Yet the plotting after the initial murder becomes noticeably weaker, due to the minimal investigative components being stretched over a page count they did not warrant. Many pages are consumed with the police and even the amateur sleuths following leads concerning the obvious suspect and the narrative is slow to reveal other possible suspects and motives. A second death did provide Osman with the chance to strengthen the puzzle aspect of the book, but this opportunity is not utilised well.

This is not a book where you can get far ahead of the characters in solving the mystery and as the Puzzle Doctor writes in his own review of this novel, ‘there aren’t really any clues for the reader to spot.’ This in my book is rather problematic for a detective story… So I am rather baffled why one quote on the dust jacket describes this tale as ‘a properly funny murder mystery steeped in Agatha Christie.’ Anyone who has read a Christie novel will know that at her best she was an extraordinary plotter, who deftly weaved her clues into her narratives. In addition, I do not think it was a good idea for the investigation to hinge upon photographs as much as it did. Such visual items are effective in a TV drama, but not overly useful in a book and instead just keep the reader in the dark. There are exceptions of course, such as in Christie’s Mrs McGinty’s Dead.

The solution(s) are not particularly satisfying, coming from the peripheries of the book. They are not solutions you have much investment in as a reader. Worse, they are solutions you have to be told, as you cannot uncover the back stories to the crimes. Osman heavily relies on the guilty extensively confessing their misdeeds and past histories.

Whilst I was not bowled over by the mystery aspects, I think Osman has nevertheless crafted an attention-grabbing cast of characters. The unfolding of the case did not hugely engage me, but the antics of the retirement residents often did. With these strong foundations I can only hope the plotting and cluing will improve for the next book.

Rating: 4/5

See also: The Puzzle Doctor has also reviewed this title here.


  1. Thanks for the review. 😊 Having read Puzzle Doctor’s take earlier on, I was wondering if you might offer a different perspective – but on the puzzle-aspects I believe there is agreement? Which makes me wonder if hijinks is enough reason for me to purchase a copy… 🤔 I had hoped that ‘Eight Detectives’ and ‘Thursday Murder Club’ would turn out to be mysteries in the Golden Age puzzle mould – but it seems like this may not exactly be the case? It seems like of the recent publications, Sophie Hannah’s new Poirot novel might best fit the bill! Will await to see what reviewers make of Stuart Turton’s new novel.

    P.S. Did you get round to hunting a copy of Ovidia Yu’s new novel?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No I haven’t yet. It fell off my radar somewhat. What would you say the puzzle factor is like in that book?
      I had hoped Osman’s book would have had a greater puzzle component, and sort of I guess expected it of him.
      I can’t remember if you have read Moonflower Murders?


  2. I’m surprised you gave it 4/5. I would only give it 1/5 on the basis of the effort of writing it. I can only assume it was published because of the high profile name. It’s as if I live in a parallel universe seeing all the 5* reviews on Amazon and Osman’s gushing thanks to all the people that helped him. The reason I found your site was because I was looking on the internet for someone to tell me what on earth it was all about? I lost track of all the characters and different strands of the story. I won’t be reading any future novels by him that’s for sure.


    • Agree with your review, Carole 1418. This was recommended to me by a fan of mysteries (which I am not) and by an ex-pat Brit who liked the references to familiar places and customs. But I found the characters uninteresting, did not appreciate any subtle humor, and finally gave up after reading about 50 pages.


  3. I’vs just finished the book & am feeling slightly underwhelmed, I came on line for clarification. I enjoyed some of the red herrings but the body count in the closing pages got a bit ridiculous. I managed to get quite confused & missed the importance of some of the events. I cannot remember who Peter Mercer is & Penny’s crime is totally lost on me. If I’ve got it right someone stabs their girlfriend & fakes a burglary. This reads like a minor youthful misdemeanour & totally swept away. Just to nitpick, the glass from the broken window would have been over rather than under her body & the case easily solved. I enjoyed the setting up of the book but am still bemused by the ending & not sufficiently interested to reread it. I am doubtful that you could die from a leg wound.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I think underwhelmed was similar to how I felt. Maybe because of my impressions of Osman, I had expected this wonderfully crafted plot, which might not have been fair to expect in a debut book? What probably irks me more is the sheer level of promotion this book has received. If it was a really good book then it would feel more appropriate, but it isn’t, and instead superior mysteries are more overlooked because they don’t have a massive PR machine behind them.


  4. Yes, it will be forever so that publishers keep their doors wide open for celebrities, especially for the Christmas market. At least the author is entertaining & can write a book on his own!


  5. I have never read a book with so many chapters; some with only one page. From a printers viewpoint, why were so many pages without pagination?

    A serious surfeit of deaths, both by murder and suicide. Also, the main murderer gets away with it, presumably because he is a nice man and his diy skills are indispensable.

    Some page turner elements and some good characters, but the plot was very unconvincing and the ending both disappointing and incomprehensible.


  6. “The unfolding of the case did not hugely engage me”

    I agree with you. In fact, it so failed to engage me that I stopped reading it back in December. I made it only to page 104.

    Personally, this all seemed extremely unrealistic to me. My mother was in an assisted living facility for the last two years of her life. In America these places are manned by indifferent and often incompetent workers, some of whom have no medical backgrounds at all. A fire alarm went off while we were visiting one day and the staff had no clue how to properly evacuate the building. It was a fire drill, of course, but I was amazed that the staff and supervisors were arguing over proper procedures. You’d think they’d have at least a few registered nurses, but they were all in administrative jobs, not actually caring for the clients. Only licensed practical nurses were on staff who have less schooling and a different type of license. My mother was in advanced stages of senility and we had to hire someone to watch over her at night because their staff was so lacking in compassion and unwilling to provide extra services without tacking on outrageous “upcharges” to the monthly bill. This was a highly rated, clean, and seemingly the best in Northern Florida. But they fell short and showed impatience with us and our frequent visits the longer my mother lived there. “Why are the Norris sons showing up so often? Don’t they trust us?” my brother told me he overheard one administrator say to another. Unreal. I think they expect people to stay less than a year, hoping they will die and give up the room for a new “guest.” It’s all so disheartening. Not an experience I would want anyone to go through, no matter how “high grade” or “luxurious” the facility.

    Hardly any of the elderly people had the mental faculty or activity level to act and behave as these characters do. This book was all too “cozy” for me that I couldn’t suspend disbelief at all. The only character I enjoyed was Elizabeth, the leader of the group, and Joyce was just starting to become interesting. But the men were like cliches of dotty senior citizens you see on darling comedy shows. It may al have changed after page 104, but I have no interest to find out.

    I doubt I’ll ever go back and finish the book. Too much waiting for me in my various TBR boxes containing books so much more intriguing and inventive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that Joyce and Elizabeth were the most interesting characters. I had less issues with suspending disbelief, but the way the mystery is approached and unpacked was poorly paced and plotted. I am not chomping at the bit to read the second one. I think I will read some reviews of it first and see if the issues of the first book have been improved upon.


  7. Like John Norris, I also did not finish the book. These were my comments at the Puzzle Doctor’s post on the book.
    “I read 6 chapters of this book and then gave up. The story did not seem to be getting anywhere. Not for me !”

    Liked by 1 person

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