Review | The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

An enjoyable cosy mystery with great characters. 4/5 stars.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman cover image

Thank you to Penguin UK for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

My take:

I was delighted to get a review copy of this book and overall I really enjoyed it. However, I do think the blurb is a little misleading: the “before it’s too late” line gives the impression that everyone at the retirement community is somehow in mortal peril or this is some sort of thriller. And it most definitely is not!

This is a cosy mystery which is more about the retirement village residents than the whodunnit. I enjoyed the focus on the older protagonists as they have all had interesting lives and are still making the most of their time. Elizabeth in particular is fascinating, and it was great how we find out bits about what she’s done in the past and are left to come to our own conclusions about exactly what her fomer line of work was.

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Review | Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

An intriguing collection of murder mysteries in a clever frame. 4/5 stars.

Eight Detectives Alex Pavesi book cover

Thank you to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules. Grant McAllister, an author of crime fiction and professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out.

But that was thirty years ago. Now he’s living a life of seclusion on a quiet Mediterranean island – until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor, knocks on his door. His early work is being republished and together the two of them must revisit those old stories: an author, hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But as she reads, Julia is unsettled to realise that there are things in the stories that don’t make sense. Intricate clues that seem to reference a real murder, one that’s remained unsolved for thirty years.

If Julia wants answers, she must triumph in a battle of wits with a dangerously clever adversary. But she must tread carefully: she knows there’s a mystery, but she doesn’t yet realise there’s already been a murder…

My take:

In Eight Detectives we are given a series of seven short murder mystery stories strung together by a unifiying narrative device.

And I liked the unifying device, as Julia and Grant talk about the book he wrote years ago, very much. It was clever and intriguing, including the use of mathematics to explain the various permutations of the plots. When the final twists are revealed (and there are quite a few!), I was impressed by just how much work had gone into the small details needed to set them all up.

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Review | A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh #2) by P. D. James

I doubt this is James’ best, but it was a good place to start. 3.5/5.

A Mind to Murder by P. D. James

The blurb: When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Dalgliesh must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts resulted in murder.

My take:

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from P. D. James… perhaps something more spectacular? Anyway, this is a perfectly well-written detective story. In fact, it reminded me of the two Poirot stories I’ve read, although the detective in this case – Dalgliesh – isn’t as much of a “character” as Christie’s Belgian sleuth. In fact, he’s practically personality-free, which isn’t a bad thing, as it means the focus is on the “whodunnit” aspect of the book.

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Review | Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith

Please, someone, edit these books! 3.5/5 stars.

Career of Evil Robert Galbraith

The blurb: When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

My take:

If you’re unfamiliar with my mixed feelings towards books 1 and 2 of this series, here are my reviews of The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm.

I’m pleased to report that there are a couple of ways in which Career of Evil is an improvement on its predecessors. With the first two books, I was irritated that the mysteries were impenetrable right until the end when we finally get some idea of what the heck is going on. This isn’t any fun for the reader because it feels like we’re being shut out rather than carried along as part of the investigative team. Thankfully, Career of Evil is much more inclusive of its readers because it begins with Strike setting out his four clear suspects and then working to eliminate/incriminate each of them. This made motive and connections between events and suspects clearer. I actually managed to figure out bits of what was going on this time!

We also get more Robin, which can never be a bad thing. And, in general, making this case personal to Strike and Robin was a good move. After 2 books we now care enough about them to be invested in their personal safety and so putting them in jeopardy is great for building tension.

But my largest issue still remains. Once again, the book is far too long. In fact, I think this book had more unnecessary length than the first two. There were whole sections I thought could have been cut to move things along more quickly without losing anything crucial in terms of plot, characterisation or drama.

So, if the next book is a snappy 400 pages or less, I think I’ll stick with the series. If only because I’m now so invested in Robin’s happiness I want to know what happens next for her. Personally, I’m still hoping Matthew – the devious little weasel – has an unfortunate accident!

Overall: this series continues to entertain and is becoming increasingly involving and inclusive of its readers. I’d still say to get them from your library though… just in case they’re not for you!


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

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Review | The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith

A slight improvement on book 1: solid and entertaining but still overlong and overly complex. 3.5/5 stars.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith book cover

The blurb: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

My take:

I read and reviewed Book 1 in this series – The Cuckoo’s Calling – back at the start of December and gave it 3/5 stars. As you can see, I’ve rated this second installment slightly higher, mostly because it’s mercifully free of the over-blown language which featured in the first book and irritated me by no small measure. If you missed my slightly ranty review of Book 1, you can see it here.

Otherwise, I could pretty much copy what I said about Book 1 and paste it here. To be brief:

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Review | Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

The 1934 classic is a lesson in how to make the highly unlikely both entertaining and plausible. 3/5 stars.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

It’s happened to us all. You’re on a luxury sleeper train travelling across Europe. One night the train gets stuck in a snow drift and someone gets murdered. All the passengers but one in that carriage are suspects. And, as luck would have it, the odd one out is Hercule Poirot, Belgian master detective. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I think most people know, in general, “whodunnit” in the case of Murder on the Orient Express. But if they can remember all the ins and outs then they have a far better memory than I do. The devil is most definitely in the detail in this surprisingly short tale (only 250 pages). The sheer number of passengers/suspects means it’s quite hard to keep track of who’s who and what’s what, diverting our minds from asking questions such as: “Really?!”, “Would that ever happen in a million years?” and “Would even Sherlock Holmes be able to make such accurate intuitive leaps?”

Wait! There’s more. Click for the rest of the review!