My thanks to Penguin UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
The Man Who Died Twice is the second book in the Thursday Murder Club (the Agatha Christie/Marple allusion just struck me when writing my review) series by Richard Osman. Set in a retirement village, Coopers Chase, the Thursday Murder Club comprises four friends, Elizabeth, former MI5 operative with a very sharp mind and mysterious past, Ibrahim, a psychiatrist with acute observation skills, Joyce, a former nurse who also writes a journal and can also solve puzzles, and Ron a former trade union leader. They are also friends with and work alongside PC Donna de Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson. We also have Bogdan Janowski who is a good friend to them all.
In this one, Elizabeth receives a mysterious letter/invitation from someone she knew in the past, one that both puzzles and intrigues her. Soon, she finds that this is an old colleague who is in quite some trouble. He is accused of having stolen diamonds worth £ 20 million from Martin Lomax who acts as a sort of insurance man/middle man for the mafia and has billions of pounds worth of treasures in his custody. Now both Lomax and the mafia are after him.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim is the victim of a mugging which not only hurts him physically but leaves him deeply scarred. Chris and Donna don’t have enough to get the person responsible and encourage the club to handle things their way.
Chris and Donna also have a case of their own, a drug dealer and possible murderer Connie Johnston whom there are trying to get enough evidence on to arrest, but who seems to be getting the better of them so far.
Alongside, we also follow the characters’ personal stories, and the issues each of them is dealing with.
Although I had hoped to read the first book before I got to this one, it didn’t end up happening, but this didn’t turn out to be too much of an issue for I could not only follow the story but absolutely loved this one. This was an engaging, warm, humorous, and yet realistic read which had at its centre a very satisfying mystery as well.
I loved the humour throughout the book. One source is of course Joyce’s account (the only one in first person), but the humour comes not only from that but also from the eccentricities of some of the characters (like Lomax for instance who deals in billions, murders at the drop of a hat but wonders how he will spend the £70 pounds which he might make from selling brownies—I won’t tell you where the brownies come in, though), some of the situations and also the matter of fact way in which some things are spoken of between the characters.
I also took to all of the characters in the book almost instantly and really enjoyed following their adventures. I loved the bond they all share, the support they give each other (even the younger ones like Donna) and the fun they have together—very warm and uplifting. Also the fact that each of them contribute to solving the case in some way or other—Elizabeth is intelligent and can work out most things, but it isn’t without Joyce that she gets all the answers (it is they who work on the matter of the diamonds for the most part). Ibrahim has almost Holmes like observation skills which help identify his attacker instantly; I loved his crossword puzzles and found myself trying to work out the clues as well; Ron helps more in Ibrahim’s case in this one, while Bogdan helps them across the board with more things than one. I also loved Ron’s little grandson Kendrick (there for a visit) who is not only friendly with them all but also spots a crucial clue that none of the others do.
At the same time, amidst all the fun, the book is also very realistic. We get that feeling of melancholy that comes with the time of life the characters are at—the loss that they experience and the fears that they live with every day. There is also vulnerability—like in Ibrahim’s case, while Elizabeth must cope with her husband Stephen’s dementia which means he isn’t always at the same point in time they are (though he still enjoys his chess games with the very patient Bogdan). But at the same time, I loved they don’t let any of this or the changes that come with age deter them in the least, and pursue their adventures with zest.
The mystery itself was also quite an exciting (and dangerous) one with twists and turns very step of the way. Even at the end when the denouement scene of sorts was being set up, I was really excited to see how it would play out (even though I don’t usually enjoy very dramatic scenes, but this one promised to be fun), but when it did, there were twists and surprises there as well which made it very different from what I thought would happen.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this one, and am looking forward to the next one (luckily, I still have the first to read as well).