I wanted to love The Thursday Murder Club. I really did.
Like most people, I was drawn to it because of the author. I love Richard Osman; he’s smart, witty, and possibly one of the most pleasant people on television.
So I’m sorry to say that I found The Thursday Murder Club to be a very poor novel.
The Writing Style
The trouble with 3rd person present…
The Thursday Murder Club shifts from a 3rd person present tense narration, to a first person journal perspective by Joyce – one of the members of the Thursday Murder Club.
3rd person present is facing a resurgence in popularity, but it’s notoriously challenging to write well, and this novel demonstrates why.
I can see what Osman was trying to do – The Thursday Murder Club is cosy crime fiction set in an elderly residential community, so narrating their actions as they happen could be quite whimsical and quaint.
However, it doesn’t come across like this.
It reads more like the voice-over narration of a Saturday morning TV show for children, but this isn’t a novel aimed at children. It’s jarring and patronising.
It’s not as if 3rd person present can’t be done well (see my glowing review of The Sound Mirror) but The Thursday Murder Club is a terrible example of it.
Joyce’s sections are denoted by a handwritten ‘Joyce’ at the beginning of her entries.
To me, this implied that I should expect journal entries from other characters. I particularly looked forward to reading Ibrahim and Ron’s perspectives – two of the more interesting characters.
So, I was rather surprised – and very underwhelmed – to find that as the novel unfolded, it simply alternated between an irritating 3rd person present narration and Joyce’s journal. That’s it.
‘He Says, She Says’There’s a lot of ‘he says, she says’ in this novel.
Everybody ‘says’ things, as opposed to gesturing. I think this is possibly why the novel feels patronising to read.
There’s a particular paragraph where three characters are speaking, and instead of the dialogue flowing normally, each character’s dialogue is undercut with a ‘says Ron’, or ‘says Elizabeth’.
At its worst, this happens five or six times on the same page.
It’s so basic and it’s just poor writing.
Structural IssuesI have no idea what is going on with the chapter breaks in this novel.
Early on in the book, text is occasionally broken up by a book symbol. There doesn’t appear to be a trend with its usage, and bizarrely, this stops appearing some way through the novel.
Other times, the text is broken up by numbers. Chapter breaks – simple enough, right?
But by that logic, there are over 100 chapters in this novel, which doesn’t seem right. These so-called chapter breaks also appear at completely the wrong points. Plenty of times, Osman shifts the narrative from one scene to another within the same paragraph, let alone chapter.It’s all very puzzling.
Forgettable Characters and Plot
The idea of a group of elderly people coming together to get to the bottom of unsolved crimes is a brilliant idea. It should be funny and perhaps even a little moving. And very occasionally, it is.
I liked Ron and Ibrahim’s relationship; they’re very different people. Ron is loud and brash, but with an earnest moral compass. Ibrahim is more reserved and more socially aware. Their interactions were a real highlight to me – there’s one moment in particular where Ron opens up to Ibrahim and it’s a wonderful exchange.
Moments like this are far too few.
The characters are, on the whole, thinly-veiled stereotypes. The Thursday Murder Club includes the fraudulent priest; the supercapitalist property mogul; the socialist rabble-rouser; the hardworking Polish builder; the mid-life crisis policeman… I could go on.
I don’t mind overly familiar characters, but they have to have something unique about them – something that sets them apart from the cookie-cutter mould.
If The Thursday Murder Club was a pastiche of sorts, you could maybe forgive the characterisation as a nod to the genre. But it isn’t, and whilst it’s probably unfair to say that it’s lazy, I think the characters needed to have something more original about them.
As for the plot, it just isn’t very interesting. It lacks genuine intrigue – a must for a crime fiction novel – and it drags.If you enjoy cosy crime fiction, you might get something out of it, but it wasn’t for me.
Now, admittedly, the version of The Thursday Murder Club that I received is an advance reading copy. I know what to expect from this, and the final version will no doubt be properly formatted and presented.
However… even by ARC standards, this novel is formatted appallingly.
Bizarre line breaks are littered throughout, with sentences running into new lines only half way across the page.
Where new paragraphs should begin, they don’t, so the reader ends up with walls of prose.
This won’t affect my final score because it’s an advance copy, but I do expect much better from a publishing house like Penguin. The amount of money and reputation involved in this novel demands far higher standards.
Better for TV?
On a positive note, I think that this novel would translate very well to television.
At times it’s quite witty, and Osman makes some amusing cultural observations. With a good producer onboard, and some good actors, a TV series could be quite successful.
It’s the sort of story that I can imagine the BBC picking up for some easy Sunday night viewing. I think the humour would probably play out better on screen.
Final Verdict ⭐
I must stress that I thoroughly dislike publishing bad reviews – especially for authors I genuinely admire.
But this is a review of the art, not the artist, and The Thursday Murder Club is a poor novel. It’s a simple idea, potentially quite good, but executed terribly.
The problem with poor writing is that it breaks the reader’s immersion. You become conscious that you’re reading a novel, constantly.
Interestingly, The Thursday Murder Club and its sequel (upon reaching the end of the novel, you’re implored to ‘PRE-ORDER THE SECOND BOOK NOW’. Yikes…) commanded a SEVEN-figure sum for its publication in the UK.
With genuinely world-class literature coming increasingly from cash-strapped indie presses and even self-published authors, this perhaps demonstrates that publishing continues to be a microcosm of our own society.
Not a criticism, just an observation.
Anyhow, I was left desperately disappointed by The Thursday Murder Club and I do not recommend it. However, if you really love Richard Osman or cosy crime, your experience may vary.
It’s a hard pass from me though.
*I would like to thank Penguin Viking sincerely for providing an advance reading copy for this review. Even if feedback is negative, I think putting novels into readers’ hands prior to publication is a very important part of the publishing process.*
What did you think of The Thursday Murder Club? Enjoy it more than myself? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
*For more information on the Tales from Absurdia rating scale, please read the review rating system.
15 thoughts on “The Thursday Murder Club Review”
Thank you for the review and the comments. I loved the concept of the book and was so excited to start it. I wasted my money. I could not get into it. At this point, I am about 30 pct thru and likely won’t finish. I can’t even get excited enough to skim it. I cannot stand the style of writing, bouncing all over between first and third. This feels like a failed cozy. I happen to enjoy cozies, along with all sorts of ot other types.
I am so relieved to find this review. I really disliked this book, but didn’t have the analytical skills to work out why! Now I know
Although I found the writing very patchy, I thought there was something wrong with me as I couldn’t get into it. My mind kept wandering off. It was very reassuring to read negative comments after all the wonderful reviews on the book’s inside cover. Now I don’t feel guilty about abandoning it a third of the way through!
Glib, lazy style. I couldn’t figure out if I was reading a MOR cozy novel or a parody of the genre. And two hours after ploughing thru it, I completely forget who the killers were. And really don’t care. BTW, it has tv afternoon movie written all over it. The author will make a shed load on selling the rights.
Interestingly, Spielberg has picked up the rights for a movie. I was slightly puzzled by that as I think it would actually better fit a short TV series.
Great review John! I have this book and just couldn’t get into it as it was quite confusing to read. I still have it so may give it a go another time. Great insight into writing styles, thank you for sharing!
It’s one of those that seems to divide opinion. Obviously it’s sold incredibly well, as has the sequel, so plenty of people are enjoying it, but it didn’t click with me.
Like I said in the review, I think this would be brilliant for screen, provided they get a decent screenwriter on board, mind.
I’ve been having similar problems with it, so I’m relieved to find I’m not the only one. Being a writer myself, I’m aware of the problems with not only third-person present but, more troubling for me, the omniscient narrator, constantly head-hopping from one character to another – and so many characters that it’s impossible to hear an individual voice for each, or get any sense of their own motives, perspectives,and backgrounds. It really does read like a book that has been written by someone who has only ever watched tv programmes, where the camera can more easily follow multiple viewpoints/characters, rather than read any literature. I wonder if many readers nowadays are in the same position, so don’t find their immersion broken by these issues? The book was recommended to me by a friend who described it as ‘just like Agatha Christie’, but he doesn’t read books – just watches films or tv programmes and listens to radio adaptations…
Thanks for such thought-provoking comments, Gavin. I think that’s a really interesting take.
It’s often said that we live in a golden age of television – something I would probably agree with. Very interesting observation about its effects on literature.
So lovely to hear an honest review and not a gushing appreciation because of the author’s reputation. A single plot with some side distractions would have worked for me and although I won’t be reading the second novel I would definitely watch the TV series – well the first episode! Thank you x
Thanks for the comment, Tilly! I believe Steven Spielberg has picked it up for a movie.
If they get a good writer and director onboard, it might be good fun. We’ll see!
Couldn’t nt agree more. Lazy, cliched, occasionally weird and boy did it drag. Did anyone edit this? Reliance on ‘cultural’ refernces such as Whispas, does not make a book witty.