CBR15Passport Book I own
Everybody loves this book, the first in a series, and I am no different. Richard Osman is always entertaining whenever he appears on British TV shows like Taskmaster or Would I Lie To You, and his wit, intelligence and humor are evident throughout this delightful murder mystery set in a bucolic retirement community. The murders and sleuthing are expertly written and the characters are completely charming. Especially impressive though is Osman’s portrayal of love amongst senior citizens trying to keep meaning and purpose in their lives as they come to the inevitable end of them. These seniors have experienced professional success, lasting love, betrayal, and grief. They value their own assets and refuse to fade away gently. As one says, “Life goes on until it doesn’t.”
The Coopers Chase Retirement Village is near the coast and a small town called Fairhaven. The community, built on the grounds of a former convent, has several independent living buildings as well as a hospital, chapel and graveyard. Retirees can take transportation into Fairhaven, or swim, or participate in any one of a number of clubs, including the Thursday Murder Club. The membership consists of four people: Elizabeth, the ringleader whose murky past suggests involvement in intelligence/spy work; Ron, the former labor organizer; Ibrahim, the psychiatrist; and the newest member Joyce, formerly a nurse. Joyce has taken the place of Penny, a former police inspector who has entered the dementia unit at Coopers Chase. She and Elizabeth started the club, with Penny bringing in cold cases from her time on the force. Now, Elizabeth visits Penny in the infirmary, talking to her as if she could still understand everything said to her.
Coopers Chase is a successful business venture for smarmy businessman Ian Ventham and his partner Tony Curran, who has a criminal past. Ventham has plans to expand the community but two obstacles stand in his way: the local farmer who refuses to sell his valuable property and the convent graveyard that Ventham wants to remove. After a contentious meeting with residents at Coopers Chase about his plans, some of the murder club see Ventham and Curran arguing. Later that same day, Curran’s dead body is discovered in his home. The murder club is excited to have a hot case to investigate although the local police seem far less enthusiastic about their involvement. Elizabeth, however, can be very persuasive and when she and the other murder club members use their talents and contacts to uncover important information, the newest police officer on the force, DC Donna De Freitas, ends up becoming an ally. Donna and her boss, detective Chris Hudson, are fun characters. Donna, as a woman in a male dominated work environment, often feels unappreciated and under-utilized. Chris is 50, single and not the healthy physical specimen he would like to be. He is good at his job but also kind of lonely and while he initially balks at the the senior citizens’ interference in the investigation, he has to admit that he enjoys their company and that they have an amazing ability to find information that he and his team cannot.
Not long after Curran’s death, another murder occurs and an extra set of bones is uncovered in the graveyard. The pool of suspects widens, and our characters will have to investigate not only the local suspects but also the history of the grounds to figure out who is responsible for the murders and what their motives are. The detail as it emerges is fascinating and keeps the reader glued to the story and guessing to the very end.
I loved this story for a number of reason, mainly focused on the age of the murder club members. These are people who had successful professional lives and who miss having things to do that challenge them. They are sharp and funny, but they also carry fear and pain. Several characters are dealing with grief either from the physical death of a loved one or from the loss that comes when someone you love begins to suffer from mental decline. The members of the murder club demonstrate compassion for people who felt they had to do terrible things to protect the person they love. Everyone has a secret. What you would do to protect that secret is the question that is woven into the whole story. If you enjoy murder mysteries, this is an excellent choice — well written, funny and provocative.