Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Pointless murder?

By Ben Soton

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Penguin London 2020,Hardback: 400pp; RRP £14.99; Softback: 336pp; RRP £8.99; Kindle: 382pp; RRP £9.99.

I am a 'Pointless' person; by which I mean a fan of the television quiz show of that name. The co-host of the show, Richard Osman has recently taken up the pen, or should I say laptop as a novelist. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. Set around Cooper’s Chase retirement village in the fictional Kent of town Fairhaven an unusual group of senior citizens get together to discuss murder.
    The group includes a former union leader, a retired psychiatrist, an ex-nurse and the somewhat elusive Elizabeth with a background in the intelligence services. Ultimately what unites them is experience. However, I am surprised by the lack of tension within the group; in particular between the former spook, simply known as Elizabeth, and the union leader Red Ron Ritchie. Anyone with a vague knowledge of the 70s and 80s, not to mention the more recent Spycops’ scandal would know that the security services and the labour movement were not on the best of terms. Meanwhile the investigating officer Donna DeFreitas, who does not take our elderly sleuths seriously is willing to break police procedure and pass them information.
    After the death of a local builder with dubious connections they find themselves aiding the investigation. I have it on good authority that the construction industry has close links with organised crime. In the 1970 trade unionists campaigned against the Lump; un-unionised, non-tax paying, non-national insurance paying labour. Tory governments turned a blind-eye to what was illegal activity while construction firms, often short of money, would sometimes accept no questions asked loans; an effective form of money laundering.
    Osman’s style resembles that of the Tom Sharpe novels of the 1980s; which combine satire, black comedy often with a twist. Meanwhile like any good crime novel Osman is able to discuss relevant issues. Bringing to light connections between the construction industry and organised crime; as well as issuing relating to the aging process and dementia. With much of the novel narrated by Joyce, the ex-nurse, who writes in a confused style in order to show the effects of aging
    If you like a multi-layered story, with a number of twists and turns then The Thursday Murder is well worth reading. I look forward to reading Richard Osman’s next novel.


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