Senior sleuths step in to solve the crime in ‘The Thursday Murder Club’

With wry British humor, and a cast of intrepid retirees, Richard Osman’s delightful mystery caper offers surprising depth.   

Courtesy of Penguin Random House
“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman, Pamela Dorman Books, 368 pp.

Older people are more often portrayed as crime victims than crime solvers, even in the genre of cozy mysteries. Richard Osman’s “The Thursday Murder Club” turns that stereotype on its head with a droll tale of four septuagenarians who meet weekly to solve cold cases culled from the files of a retired police detective.  

The group includes a psychiatrist, a nurse, a union organizer, and a woman who did something mysterious in intelligence. All four live at Coopers Chase, an upscale retirement community on the grounds of a former convent in the English countryside. It’s a place with a superior restaurant, Pilates classes, lovely views, and a treasure-trove of hidden secrets.

We first meet this bunch as they discuss cold cases, but soon the four are involved in solving the murder of the establishment’s developer, drawing the local police detectives into their efforts to find the culprit. Using their specialized knowledge and skills, they manage to unearth serious malfeasance while skating just on the inside edge of the law. The occasional memory lapse aside, they prove themselves capable of (sometimes literally) digging up clues where the actual detectives would not think to look.

Their efforts are helped by Donna, a police constable who fled London with a broken heart and spends most of her time giving talks about security to pensioners or making tea for the lads at the station. The Thursday Murder Club puts her talents to better use and soon she is sharing bits of information with the group, which is reciprocated. 

The bodies begin to pile up when another of the retirement community’s owners is murdered and a possible homicide from decades earlier is uncovered. The plot sometimes gets a bit fussy, but Osman detangles the interwoven strands as the crimes are solved, even if a few incidents remain deliberately hidden by the senior sleuths.

Humor is everywhere, and it is very British – smart and a little prickly – but it would not be lost on an American audience.

The wit and the plot will bring readers back for more of this series, but what is truly memorable is the kindness and respect with which these friends treat one another and those they encounter. They have lived long lives, and they know that you can get a lot of mileage out of a cup of tea, a good lemon drizzle cake, and young people’s assumptions that older folks are a bit doddering. Of course, Donna, her partner, and the detective chief inspector fall for that trap only once, but it is a feint that comes in handy while collecting clues from unsuspecting suspects.

What surprises are the bittersweet moments, the more somber scenes dealing with aging and death and outliving partners and friends. After one such evening, one of the four “walks out into the darkness. A quiet, cloudless night. A night so dark you think you might never see morning again.”

“The Thursday Murder Club” is a mystery, but it can also be seen as a novel about friendship and longing and coming to terms with who we are, making it much more substantive than your average whodunit.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Senior sleuths step in to solve the crime in ‘The Thursday Murder Club’
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today