I bought Richard Osman’s first novel, The Thursday Murder Club, mainly out of curiosity. I enjoy Osman’s television persona on various UK panel shows and as the co-host of Pointless and the host of House of Games and I thought that his intellectual brand of humor might make his book a diverting read. The massive sales figures and rave reviews clued me in that The Thursday Murder Club might rise above the typical level of “TV star turns their hand to writing fiction” output, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how well-written and deftly plotted a mystery it was. I eagerly purchased the follow-up, The Man Who Died Twice, on it’s U.S. publication date.
As in the first novel, The Man Who Died Twice follows four residents of a UK retirement community who use an interest in unsolved crime to pass their copious free time. This time, however, trouble comes looking for them. When retired spy Elizabeth receives a curious note, it turns out her mischievous ex-husband Douglas has something in store for her: a caper involving a cache of diamonds worth millions he’s stolen from a nefarious moneylender.
Douglas’s plan to hide out in the quiet little retirement village goes awry nearly immediately, and the Thursday Murder Club must reconvene to find the diamonds and a murderer or two. They also must deal with the aftermath of an attack on one of their own, as retired therapist Ibrahim is mugged and assaulted by a group of teenagers looking to steal his phone. Ibrahim’s slow recovery and retreat from the world are some of the more poignant sections of the novel, and the way Osman enfolds his narrative in with that of the murder investigation is a nifty bit of work.
Osman also makes time to include the love lives of the Thursday Murder Club’s two police-officer members. PC Donna De Freitas goes on a series of underwhelming dates while worrying about being alone forever while also dealing with the fact that her boss and best friend DCI Chris Hudson is now dating her mother. The two of them are stuck with the thankless task of trying to take down a local drug dealer who might just be a little smarter than they are.
As in the first novel, the members of the Thursday Murder Club thrive on the lowered expectations of their adversaries. What harm could these septuagenarians do, after all? Osman might stretch that just a little far in this novel, as their charms apparently extend to mobsters, drug dealers, and members of the nation’s clandestine services. However ridiculous this might seem in real life, Osman does a good job maintaining an air of pleasant near-reality which lets let figuratively get away with murder.
Beyond the excellent plotting of the mystery, the charm of Osman’s writing in how he humorously humanizes his elderly protagonists. The reader can laugh at their exploits and even at their foibles, such as the retired nurse Joyce not understanding why her new Instagram account, @GreatJoy69, gets so many private messages, without ignoring their humanity. The formidable foursome might pester their children to visit more often, or not understand why young people like getting tattoos so much, but their still living, learning, and trying things. While Richard Osman might not be quite fit for the retirement village just yet, I’m glad he too tried something new.