They say you should not judge a book by its cover but, in the case of the debut novel by UK TV presenter Richard Osman, such a mantra should perhaps be put to one side.
One reason is the cover itself which is particularly striking and imaginative. Then there are the front cover guest author recommendations which include, no less, than the great Ian Rankin who declares the work to be “deplorably good.”
With praise like that from such a luminary of the book world, surely you can’t go wrong?
Osman, the amiable chap who co presents the long running and hugely successful Pointless quiz on BBC tv, most certainly does not go wrong with this charming and entertaining page turner.
The start really sets the tone with this, “I was at lunch, this is two or three months ago, and it must have been a Monday, because it was shepherd’s pie.”
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings, exactly the sort of thing you can imagine happening in a funny sort of way.
But when a local property developer – the sort of Panto villain of the piece – shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Well, it beats playing dominoes all the time.
The four ageing friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be septuagenarians, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
The answer to that unfolds over nearly 400 pages of relatively undemanding but nonetheless delightful prose which will make for some great summer reading.
Osman, in this his first ever outing as an author, shows a real sympathy and dexterity for spotting the seemingly irrelevant but important minutia of English suburban life and elevating it to another level.
Quaint references to, among other things, Sainsbury’s “Taste the Difference” will, for instance, find a certain resonance with many readers – even expats like this writer.
As our OAP sleuths seek the killers – yes, there is more than one murder to solve – you find yourself growing in affinity with the characters.
The whole thing reminds one possibly of that great Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers, where a dear old pensioner finds herself at the centre of a “criminal network.”
It was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Crime & Thriller Book of the Year 2021 and it is easy to see why.
The only slight criticism is that the ending seems to be unnecessarily convoluted which is out of sync with what has come before it.
But that is a very minor quibble and readers are left with the exciting prospect of a follow book, “The Thursday Murder Club 2”.
With this impressive debut, the clearly very talented Osman is laying down a template for future novels in the series.
It can surely only be a matter of time before the typically English story of Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, Ron et al hits the small (or big?) screen.
“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman is published by Penguin/Viking. It is priced £12.99 and available in all good book shops.