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The Thursday Murder Club Review

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A woefully poor book, The Thursday Murder Club does not come recommended.

Title: The Thursday Murder Club
Author: Richard Osman
Pages:
400
Published by: Viking Penguin (2020)

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 Journal

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 Issues

I 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.

Presentation Issues

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.

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23 thoughts on “The Thursday Murder Club Review”

  1. I’m so glad I found your review, I just wish I’d seen it before wasting hours of my precious time reading the book. I gave up on reading it just 3 pages before the end. At that point I came across a name of someone who had been a murder victim and I just had no idea who it was. I wasn’t about to read the whole thing over again, so I just stopped. The characters were tiresome, and in the end, I just didn’t care enough to find out who did what to whom and why.

    Reply
  2. I’m new to this author, the book having been recommended to me by a trusted bookseller. I’m afraid I gave it up trying to enjoy it less than half way through. Beyond the lacklustre writing, I found the premise, that the police would engage and share info regarding their investigation so readily with people who: a) had no connection to the crime and b) were not suspects, very hard to swallow. Also, the author wants us to believe the members of the Murder Club were awfully clever when in fact their ‘investigations’ were simply based on obvious deductions which could – and should – have been made by the most plodding police detective. Admittedly I didn’t finish the book but it simply didn’t engage me enough to pursue it to the end. Two thumbs down.

    Reply
  3. Thoroughly enjoying every moment with these characters – listening through audible – is pure joy. -At the end of the day, what gives you joy counts regardless of style – the storyline is authentic to me. maybe you just need to be ollder to appreciate it. But this critic is took a lot of time and effort to work present points that do not detract from my enjoyment of this cozy murder series. Think the effort was not a five example of a review.

    Reply
    • Hi Kelley – thanks for taking the time to comment. My opinion is just one of many, so I’m genuinely glad that you’re enjoying it. I heard the audiobook is read by Lesley Manville, so I bet it’s a great listen!

      Clearly, the book wasn’t to my liking but I absolutely agree with you that joy trumps style. If you’re enjoying it, that’s great!

      Take care.

      Reply
      • I completely agree with your review. Had to force myself to keep reading it to get to the end. Maybe someone of the age group of the Thursday murder club would enjoy it. Still not completely certain on who killed who, with so many characters names thrown in with not much prior explanation.
        I didn’t find it funny, I found it a bit depressing in all honesty, the number of people who died by the end.

        Very disappointing but so pleased I’ve found one of a not many who feel the same.

        Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
  5. 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

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, Linda! Obviously this is just my opinion, and some stylistic choices are subjective.

      Still, I’m glad it helped you figure out why you weren’t a fan. It’s always a weird one when everyone around you is raving about something, and you can’t quite see why.

      All the best.

      Reply
  6. 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!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, Barbara. It’s always a strange feeling when you feel like you’re completely missing something.

      I don’t think you are though – definitely not one of the better cozy crime books.

      Then again, what do I know – he’s written four more since! ha.

      Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
  8. 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!

    Reply
    • Thanks Lindsey!

      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.

      Reply
  9. 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…

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  10. 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

    Reply
  11. 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.

    Reply

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