The fourth installment of Richard Osman’s hugely successful Thursday Murder Club series find the quartet of crime solving pensioners caught up in the international drug trade. When a friend of theirs turns up shot through the head in his car, Elizabeth, Ron, Joyce, and Ibrahim discover that his antique shop had been used as the drop point for a major shipment of heroin. All Kuldesh had to do was hold the box it was stored in overnight and sell it to the man who came looking for it the next day. Instead, for reasons that bewilder his friends in the Thursday Murder Club, he apparently decides to steal the drugs and sell them on his own, resulting in his death.
Solving the crime requires the group to stick their necks into some dangerous areas, something their friends on the police force would rather they didn’t do. However, when the investigation is turned over to a national task force, Donna and Chris are forced to join forces with the Club on the sly.
The fun of this series is in the Club using their age to their advantage by thwarting other people’s expectations of them at every turn. When they need to, they can play the helpless, harmless elderly stereotype to get what they want, but they are also much sharper than they look.
Of the four books in the series, this one contains probably the least compelling mystery. Though there are several twists along the way, the plot is not nearly as complicated as those of the first three novels. There is a dearth of suspects that really limits the directions the reader’s mind can go.
Osman tries to create memorable bad guys by making them rounded and realistic, a la Elmore Leonard. Whereas Leonard’s bad guys became recognizably real by dint of having favorite drinks and idiosyncratic opinions about old movies and TV shows, Osman’s might have strong opinions about tea or Everton Football Club.
The bigger focus for Osman is in deepening the relationships between his core foursome. A recurring plot in the series has dealt with Elizabeth’s husband Stephen and his worsening dementia. Osman, though not quite on a sure foot in depicting the dementia itself, writes quite beautifully about Stephen’s condition and it’s affect on Elizabeth and her friends.
Though a step down from the first three books, The Last Devil to Die will surely be enjoyed by fans of the series.