Characters make ‘Thursday Murder Club’ series come alive

By Ted Ayres | April 1, 2024

I recently became acquainted with some interesting people and have become rather attached to them. These new friends include a former nurse, a former spy, a former union official and an occasionally still-practicing psychiatrist. They are all septuagenarian pensioners living at Coopers Chase, an upscale retirement village near Fairhaven, England. Oh, and they meet once a week to solve murders.

They are, of course, members of “The Thursday Murder Club,” the first title in a series of four books by Richard Osman, a British author, producer and television presenter. The debut came out in 2020, and Osman has been on a roll since, following with “The Man Who Lived Twice” in 2021, “The Bullet That Missed” in 2022 and “The Last Devil To Die” in 2023.

Osman’s characters are distinctive and fun. Joyce Meadowcraft is the retired nurse and a widow. Kind and seemingly a bit naive, she loves to shop and knows her way around the kitchen. And while Joyce is 78 years of age, she has not lost her eye for the fellas. Throughout the books, Joyce’s diary entries provide commentary and context on the activities of The Thursday Murder Club and life at Coopers Chase.

The former trades union official is Ron Ritchie, who was one of the first residents at Coopers Chase. Ron, who has a West Ham football club tattoo on his neck, is left-leaning and has a difficult time with authority and/or authoritarians. His key strength, as his colleagues see it, is that he never believes a single word anyone ever tells him. 

He is also the grandfather of Kendrick, an eight-year-old boy who sometimes help with the mysteries.

The psychiatrist is Ibrahim Arif. He is Egyptian, detail-oriented, comfortable around technology and concerned about the environment. He also finds himself providing psychiatric therapy to a cocaine dealer, currently in a prison cell complete with an espresso machine where she continues to run her drug empire.  

Finally, the former spy is Elizabeth Best, who spent her career with England’s security and intelligence services. She has traveled the world protecting England and battling bad people, including KGB agents in Moscow. Elizabeth has been married three times; her current husband, Stephen, is battling senility, which becomes a key part of the series.

The “Murder Club” books are best read in the order of their publication as they build upon what has happened previously with continuing references to past action and characters.

I am loathe to be a plot-spoiler, so allow me to offer just a few teasers. In “The Thursday Murder Club,” the foursome moves on from cold cases to two new murders connected with Coopers Chase. “The Man Who Lived Twice” revolves around the theft of a fortune in diamonds. In “The Bullet That Missed,” the mysterious murder of a young television producer garners their attention. In “The Last Devil To Die,” an old friend has been killed and a dangerous package he was protecting has gone missing, putting our heroes in touch with drug dealers, art forgers and online fraudsters.

Osman’s books have broken sales records in the United Kingdom, and the first is being developed into a movie by Stephen Spielberg’s company. 

Happily, Osman promises that more books are on the way, writing in the most recent that “Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim and Ron will also be sticking around for a long time to come.”

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