The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I hung back a while from buying The Thursday Murder Club because of all the hype it has received, but in the end I gave in to my curiosity and I listened to the audiobook (one of my Audible trial books) rather than reading an e-book or a paperback. Currently it is no.1 on the Amazon UK best sellers chart and it has been on the list for 26 weeks. When I started listening to it it had over 41,000 reviews and by the time I finished it there were 42,679 reviews – the vast majority being 5 and 4 stars reviews.Unfortunately, I don’t think it lived up to the hype and I can only give it 2 or maybe 2.5 stars.

Blurb:

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’ finds themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing 80, 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:

It’s read by Lesley Manville, who is so good at bringing the characters to life.The estimated listening time is 12 hours and 25 minutes, but I listened to it over 7 days with increasing impatience. It begins well but the labyrinth-like plot is expanded with so much unnecessary padding and digressions into the characters’ backstories that the story soon dragged. More murders follow the first and I was curious to find out who did what to whom, so I persevered. You do have to suspend your disbelief at the way the police, PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson, carried out their investigation and shared information with the four friends.

I did have to rewind several times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything as it’s so easy to get carried away, listening to the chatty style of narrative. There are 115 short chapters, alternating between a third person narrative and the diary of Joyce in the first person. This makes the narrative rather disjointed as it follows several storylines, with each chapter ending at the point where you want to know more, but you have to wait whilst Joyce reads from her diary or until another storyline continues, before you can back to each one. The action is far too slow for me, and the ending, when you finally get there, is a bit of an anti-climax.

I liked the characters, some more than others and in the main they are convincing and believable. But despite all the detail of their life stories I still wondered what Elizabeth’s job really was, although there are hints that she was a spy. She had travelled all over the world and had lots of useful contacts for solving a murder mystery, far too coincidentally useful I thought. She is the leader of the group, an organiser and very bossy. Elizabeth’s husband Stephen is a minor character. He is an enigma; he has dementia but plays a good game of chess.Then there are Penny, who is a retired police officer, now in a coma, and her husband, John. Penny could have explained a lot, but that’s not revealed until just before the end of the book. Joyce is quiet and unassuming, but the waffle in her diary hints that there is more to her than the obvious insignificant old lady she appears to be. She likes Bernard, another minor character, who sits on a seat overlooking the Garden of Rest. Finally, there is the enigmatic Polish builder, Bogdan, who I grew to like as the story progressed.

This is a ‘cosy’ mystery, quietly humorous in parts – not laugh out loud funny, but it did make me smile in a few places. The murder mystery element is over complicated with far too many twists and turns, suspects and false trails. I was glad to finish it. Except when you get to the end of the audiobook it hasn’t finally finished as there is chapter 116, which is a conversation between Marian Keyes, who loved the book and found it much funnier than I did, and Richard about the novel and his experience of writing his debut book.

Well, with so many reviews full of praise and glowing endorsements from numerous other authors and professional reviewers it certainly doesn’t matter much what I think. But I am left wondering just what Ian Rankin meant when he wrote: “So smart and funny. Deplorably good” – surely that’s an oxymoron? And why he is described as “Ian Rankin, New York Times bestselling author of Westwind“? What about his Rebus books ….

Sadly, this didn’t turn out to be as good as I’d hoped, but maybe a film would be better – Steven Spielberg has bought the film rights to the novel – that should be good.

Monday Musing: Audiobooks

In this week’s musing MizB asks’¦

Do you listen to audiobooks? If not, why not? And, if so, what has been one of your favorites, so far?

I rarely listen to audiobooks, mainly because I prefer to read and ‘hear’ the characters in my head for myself. Listening to a book being read is similar to watching a film version (which often disappoints me), although in an unabridged audiobook all the author’s words are there, but with the narrator’s version of the characters’ voices. Sometimes the narrator’s voice is so irritating or the performance of a regional accent is poor so that it spoils the performance and the story for me.

I also find that my mind wanders, particularly if I’m driving or even when I’m a passenger in the car, and I miss sections. I think the most enjoyable audiobook I’ve listened to is Simisola by Ruth Rendell, narrated by Christopher Ravenscroft, who played D I Mike Burden in the TV adaptations of Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series. It helped that I’d watched the Wexford series and knew the plot of Simisola. Ravenscroft’s imitation of George Baker’s voice as Wexford was quite good! But even so, I had to rewind it several times to fill in the missing parts when I’d been concentrating on driving.

Somehow listening to a book when I’m at home doesn’t appeal – I’d rather read.

The End of Summer by Rosamunde Pilcher

end of summerI don’t often listen to audiobooks but a car journey up to Scotland seemed the ideal time to do so – reading in the car just makes me feel queasy. Rosamunde Pilcher’s The End of Summer read by Geraldine James was entertaining enough to fill in three hours of the journey. It’s easy listening, and though the ending was predictable I did enjoy it.

After years living in America, Jane Marsh is summoned back to Scotland by her grandmother to stay at her beloved Elvie, the remote and beautiful family estate. There she is reunited with her dashing and handsome cousin Sinclair, whom she had idolised as a child. She had dreamed of marrying Sinclair but meeting him again she finds he is not as she remembered and she wonders whether he can be trusted. In contrast to Sinclair is David Stewart, the dependable and efficient family lawyer.

This is a gentle story, although there is one dramatic episode towards the end of the book. The most enjoyable parts for me were the descriptions of Elvie, the loch and the surrounding landscape and Geraldine James’s reading of the story.