The Man Who Died Twice – Richard Osman (Penguin, $37)
Reviewed by Louise Ward, Wardini Books
This novel is the second instalment in the Thursday Murder Club series featuring the residents of Cooper's Chase retirement village — Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron.
For those unfamiliar with the set-up, these four indefatigable friends hold a weekly meeting to investigate cold cases, their intelligence coming from various favours called in by Elizabeth, a former member of the British Secret Services. Ibrahim was a psychologist, Joyce was a nurse and Ron was, well, a bit dodgy.
The story of The Man Who Died Twice revolves around a former paramour of Elizabeth who has emerged from the woodwork bearing stolen diamonds. Also involved are MI5, the American Mafia, a refined British gangster with a penchant for gardening, a cheeky drug baron and a wannabe hard guy who is actually a deluded boy. Bogdan is the real hard guy — Polish, enigmatic, dependable, handsome, tattooed and a great friend to the Thursday Murder Club.
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The plot is tightly woven and intriguing with lots of opportunities for the sleuthing reader to follow the clues.
Elizabeth's story is told in the third person and we are offered an insight into her many years of spy craft, her great love for husband Stephen (slowly succumbing to dementia) and her surprise at her late in life chance at true friendship.
Joyce's narrative is in the form of a first person diary and offers the greatest fun – she's canny, not above one-upmanship and judgment, delightfully open and honest, deluding her marks into taking her for 'just' a sweet old lady.
There's a lot happening in this instalment. Ibrahim is in crisis, Ron has to call on his acting skills, police officers Donna and Chris are again in awe of, and slightly irritated by, the Murder Club team. The characters are an absolute delight and the author's skill is in convincing us that they are real, living in the South of England, baking treats and dabbing blood stains from their cardies.
The Man Who Died Twice is possibly more riveting than the first book – absolutely delightful and one of those books that I highly recommend for any gender and age over about 15. It's a cracker.