Monday, March 25, 2024

No ordinary tale

 by Ben Soton

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman; Penguin, London 2024 Pbk £9.99 432 pp

The Last Devil to Die is the fourth instalment in Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series based around a group of elderly crime-solving amateur sleuths.  Once again Ron, Joyce, Ibrahim and Elizabeth are brought together to solve the murder of an antique dealer.  Meanwhile a hundred, thousand pounds worth of heroin goes missing; naturally the two events are closely connected.  The plot of the novel revolves around various and often fatal attempts to locate the box. 
As one might expect elderly characters have a limited shelf life and it appears that Osman is preparing for life’s most definite certainty by bringing in new characters.  In this case a computer expert known as Computer Bob and Mervyn, a septuagenarian who appears to be a victim of an online dating scam – who, at face value, may not make the best of detectives.  However, this character might be in the novel to remind us that not all pensioners are as street wise as the main characters. 
 Mervyn’s tragic situation provides an interesting side story to the main plot of the novel whilst at the end of the novel we hear of the arrival of a new resident – Edwin Mayhew.  Meanwhile the relationships between the secondary characters continue to develop.  Bogdan and Donna consider marriage and Ibrahim, a psychiatrist, visits the convicted criminal Connie Johnson in prison.  
The Last Devil to Die also shines a light on the tragic and delicate issue of dementia.  We see Stephen, Elizabeth’s husband, entering the final stages of the illness.  For many years he has been a keen chess player and often plays it with the local handyman, Bogdan.  However, as his memory fades, he now believes that Bogdan is going to teach him how to play the game.  The question arises as to what point to you lose a loved one when they have the condition –  there will come a point when Stephen is no longer aware who Elizabeth is.  
This aspect shows the darker side to old age. Not everyone in their seventies and eighties is as mentally active as the main characters.  However, the main characters; Ron, Joyce, Elizabeth and Ibrahim are as mentally astute as ever.  Whilst unlike Agatha Christie’s somewhat implausible Miss Marple, a seventy something spinster who has barely set foot outside her West Country village, this gang of four actually has a wide-ranging set of life experiences.
The question is has Richard Osman come up with an ultimately unique idea?   A group of pensioners, living in a Kent retirement home have become the new amateur sleuths of the twenty first century.  Perhaps more plausible than Miss Marple, Poirot or even Sherlock Holmes.  

No comments: