Cosy crime with surprising depth

I came late to these crime novels written by Richard Osman. Mostly this was because of the publicity that surrounded the books and my feeling that it is somehow unfair for celebrity authors to get marketing budgets and media time when less well known writers struggle. I was also influenced by my mother telling me that she hadn’t enjoyed the audiobook and had given up listening to it. In the end I found the first book (The Thursday Murder Club) very cheaply in a charity shop and gave it a go. I loved it and now feel ashamed that I thought that so many people could be wrong.

The Man Who Died Twice is the second in what is obviously intended to be a long running series and is as good as, or maybe better than, the first story. I suggest that you read them in order to understand the characters and their interactions better. The book features a number of older people who are retired to a very expensive and exclusive retirement village. They have amused themselves by looking through old files of cold cases provided by an ex-police officer (dead by this book) but also in becoming involved in real life murders.

In this book Elizabeth’s ex-husband gets in touch in an unusual way but soon he and his partner are murdered – or are they ? The four main characters investigate and use their life experience but also the disguise of fragile old age to solve the crimes. Each of the four has had a full life before retirement – Elizabeth was part of the security services, Ibrahim was an accountant, Ron was a trade unionist and Joyce was a nurse. They are all intelligent, experienced people with very little left to lose and following the first book they have friends in the local police force and a helpful accomplice.

This is all enormous fun and very enjoyably written, although more than slightly unbelievable. What the author does to give this book depth and to make it rise above the average is to tackle dark and difficult things in the lives of the characters. He includes the sadness of creeping dementia, dealing with bereavement, the generation gap, being left alone and the way that older people are dismissed, mistreated and ignored by many. One minute you are chuckling out loud and the next you are very moved.

This is a fun and entertaining book which is deeper than you might think. I have loved both the books in this series so far and I now await the third.

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