Review : The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads )

In a peaceful retirement village , four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings .

But when a local property developer shows up dead , ‘ The Thursday Murder Club ‘ find themselves in the middle of their first live case .

The four friends , Elizabeth , Joyce , Ibrahim and Ron , might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves . Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late ?

My thoughts on the book :

The retirement home setting where the everyday pace of life is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the modern world and the bunch of amateurs eighties – pushing sleuths is such a refreshing change from the deranged murderers , psychological profiling of the disturbing characters , cliques with secrets , unreliable narrators and everything in between that the current gen suspense fiction can ‘ t seem to do without . What is even better is the fact that the gang has two murders to solve . . .

The narrative is highly engaging and the author manages to keep the suspense quotient up despite the easy tone of the narrative . A good two – thirds into the novel , the author starts playing with the reader by throwing the red herrings left , right and centre and except for very few , the reader wouldn ‘ t guess them for what they are ( atleast I didn ‘ t identify several of the red herrings . But , it did not bother me at all and I was only too happy to let the author surprise me . . . ) .

Another thing I loved about the book is it ‘ s character sketches – especially those of the eighty plus amateur sleuths . Richard ‘ s amateur sleuths are not spry just because they happen to be the protagonists – they have their own fears about possible memory decline and concerns about each other ‘ s physical and mental well – being .Only a brave author could do what Richard has done with these four – creating characters with weaknesses and showing the readers how they have learned to live with them . Aside from the sleuthing , the dynamics amongst the residents of the retirement home offers a poignant picture into old age and it ‘ s hopes , fears , regrets and everything else it entails . . .

It is a breezy read – there is suspense but without the tension that comes with the regular supense fiction narrative . In these times , I think we would like a mood booster read and I guarantee you that this IS one . If you are a hardcore suspense fan who is loath to pick up any other genre but still need a change from the gore , police procedurals and detectives with egotistic tendencies , unreliable narrators , shades of disturbing psyches etc etc , then this is the book which you didn ‘ t know you needed . . .

I am looking forward to #2 and #3 in the The Thursday Murder Club series . If you are checking out Audible version , it has the author interview by Marian Keyes as a bonus . . .

Rating : 4 . 5 / 5

If you have already read The Thursday Murder Club , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . . . Until the next review then . .

Review : Playdate by Alex Dahl

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads )

It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover. Now it’s an abduction .

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie . Later that evening , Lucia’s mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight .

That was the last time she saw her daughter .

The next morning , when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up , the house was empty . No furniture , no family , no Lucia .

In Playdate , Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation . Who has taken their daughter, and why?

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Alex Dahl read . Having seen the positive reviews and award nominations for her debut , I picked up her latest when it became available on Audible . Play Date has multiple POV narrative with even Lucia Blix narrating some chapters . While having a child narrator seems to be a great idea ( considering that the abduction of this narrator set in motion the events which the other narrators are currently narrating ) , the execution of little Lucia ‘ s voice had me thinking if the novel could have done without her narrative . Perhaps Dahl could have had a third-person omniscient narrator . The problem with Lucia is that she is a 7 year old who at times talks like a 5 year old and at times talks like a 11 year old ( which is even worse . . . )

Selma , the investigative journalist is clairvoyant which brings something fresh to the story instead of yet another what ‘ s – her – name investigative reporter who is an amalgamation of several other investigative reporters in previous reads that you are only concerned that he or she does not die during investigation and would not give a second thought once you turn the last page of the book . While Selma would not stand a chance of being memorable if we get another suspense fiction heroine like Salander , still Selma deserves mention for being probably the first clairvoyant sleuth in suspense fiction . The downside of Selma ‘ s clairvoyancy is that it allows the author to pin few interesting suspicions to her gut feeling ( without going into the trouble of PROPER sleuthing ) which she then follows up to give the readers the next big twist . Sometimes , it seemed to me that the author was using clairvoyance as a escape hatch from laying out detailed on – the -ground sleuthing procedures . The Norwegian setting also brought in something new ( atleast for me ) . . .

The story is simply superb and just when I was thinking I had figured it all out , Dahl had to introduce another literally jaw dropping twist and end the story on a high note . While several plot points become predictable as more characters start to talk and despite the previous mentioned fails , the ending is something that you would not see coming . . . A word of caution about the blurb – Dahl has not put a microscope on the kidnapped child ‘ s family – you get the regular family drama with the alternately grieving and hoping parents of the kidnapped child , the strain on the marriage following the disappearance of the child , one ( or both ) the parents having secrets and every other drama you have seen already when it comes to the missing child premise . . . #SettingTheExpectationsRight #NoGreatExpectations

Spoilers Ahead . . .

Why would Selma come to the conclusion that one of the Blix parents has done something in the past when she spills some soup and the soup stains bring to mind blood which turn her thoughts towards crime and possible retribution when she could do some proper on – the – ground work ? Also her explanation of taking an interest in a particular accident in town when there are several others that same year in the same town are not very convincing . . .

Rating : 3.5 / 5 **

** The rating would have been a 3 if it had not been for the simply superb finish . . .

Interestingly , I had another thriller dealing with the missing child premise – Little Lies by Jennifer Hillier . You can check out the review here . If you have already read Playdate , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . . . Until the next review then . .

Reviews : Jane – Emily by Patricia Clapp & Dolly by Susan Hill

Jane – Emily

Emily was a selfish , willful , hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday . But that was a long time ago .

Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane’s grandmother’s house , a large , mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden — and the face that looks back at her is not her own .

Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place . And she never left . Now Emily has dark plans for little Jane—a blood-chilling purpose that Louisa , just a girl herself , must battle with all her heart , soul , and spirit . . . or she will lose her innocent , helpless niece forever .

There are times when the midsummer sun strikes cold , and when the leaping flames of a hearthfire give no heat . Times when the chill within us comes not from fears we know , but from fears unknown – and forever unknowable .”

It is not a case of remembering , child . One never forgets . One simply covers them up , hides them somewhere , builds a wall so they cannot be discovered . . .

Patricia Clapp , Jane – Emily

This is my first Patricia Clapp read . While the writing is engaging and keeps the reader invested in Jane ‘ s fate , Emily ‘ s antics as the malevolent spirit does not pack the punch to shock the reader ( atleast for me ) – a few were very much predictable . Little Emily satisfied me as an evil personified child and surprisingly shocked me with her cunning & temper tantrums than the ghost whose actions were downright tame .

While this book might have ” thrilled and chilled ” the previous generation , several of the plot sequences are now often seen in our horror movies that they no longer can shock the modern reader . The finale` effectively extinguished any little interest I might have had in reading more of Patricia Clapp . Somebody finally musters up the courage to stand up to Emily and the mere courage finally vanquishes and banishes Emily from the house and all is well . Doesn ‘ t this sound too familiar ?

Rating : 2 . 75 / 5

Dolly

The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn , lost and damp even in the height of summer . At Iyot Lock , a large decaying house , two young cousins , Leonora and Edward are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper . At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses appear simply spiteful , calculated to destroy Edward ‘ s equanimity . But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants , affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying , life destroying , consequences for everyone .

“Places are often filled with their own pasts and exude a sense of them, an atmosphere of great good or great evil, which can be picked up by anyone sensitive to their surroundings.”

Susan Hill , Dolly

I had previously read The Woman In Black by Susan Hill and loved it . After the disappointment with Clapp , I was apprehensive about trying new authors and decided that a known author was the safest bet . Hill ‘ s atmospheric narrative is the highlight of her storytelling . Her descriptions of the dreary landscape and the bleak weather set the tone for the rest of the narrative – vivid with a constant undercurrent of something sinister waiting to happen . It had me reading too much into the narrative hoping to pick up clues to guess the plot trajectory but I failed miserably . Dolly ‘ s ending is something that you wouldn ‘ t see coming . The reader knows that the incident with the Dolly bodes something ill for Leonora but never would one guess the superb final twist .

However , on the flipside Dolly leaves a little too much to the reader ‘ s interpretation . There are also several unanswered questions . I am ready to overlook these flaws for the simply brilliant narrative except that there is no convincing explanation as to what actually set in motion the chain of events . I would have loved if Hill had written a full length novel instead of a novella at 153 pages . These days while we have some novels with chapters which read like they were written as an afterthought , I could not help wondering at Susan Hill . The plot premise still has a lot of meat and Hill leaves her readers to work out a chunk of it by themselves which is somewhat frustrating . . .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5 **

** If it were for the story line alone , it should have been a 3 only . But Susan Hill ‘s narrative is simply entralling that I am bumping it up to a 3 . 5 . . .

If you have already read the novellas , you can say in the comments section about your thoughts on them  . Until the next review then . . .