The Man Who Died Twice is the second book in The Thursday Murder Club series, written by TV presenter, producer and comedian, Richard Osman. Following on from his best-selling first book, The Thursday Murder Club, we jump straight back into the action with Joyce, Elizabeth, Ron, Ibrahim and their friends at Cooper’s Chase retirement village.
The Man Who Died Twice sees the amateur crime-fighting quartet with another mystery to solve when former secret service agent, Elizabeth, receives a letter from her ex-husband. Still with MI5, Douglas has got himself into some trouble on an assignment and needs Elizabeth’s help. An elaborate hunt for diamonds and murderers soon ensues, with the gang from Coopers Chase racing against time, the secret service and various dangerous criminals get to the truth. And the diamonds.
Despite being caught between MI5, Martin Lomax (middleman to the criminal underworld) and the New York Mafia, the Thursday Murder Club still find time to help their friends at Fairhaven Police, DCI Chris Hudson and PC Donna De Freitas. Early in the story, we see Chris and Donna staking out the headquarters of a local drug dealer, while Ibrahim is mugged by a young thug during an uncharacteristically adventurous day out in Fairhaven. True to form, the gang manage to tie up all the loose ends in one brilliantly devised sting, simultaneously taking down major international criminals, capturing Fairhaven’s most prolific drug dealer, and finally securing retribution for Ibrahim’s assault.
The book is split into chapters, with some being written as diary entries from Joyce’s perspective, and others being written from the perspective of a narrator. While both are brilliantly written, there’s a tendency to jump from Joyce’s perspective, often full of action and carrying the story forward, to the narrator’s, usually just as something significant is about to be revealed. This can be a little annoying at times but of course, a very clever way for Osman to keep the reader hooked.
As in his first book, Osman’s greatest strength as a writer continues to be his characterisation and the depth and complexities of his plot. Osman’s use of language and speech patterns gives each of the main characters a distinctive voice, from Polish builder Bogdan’s proficient, yet not quite perfect English, to former trade unionist Ron’s Scargill-like, unabashed speech – the same no matter who he’s speaking to. Osman’s ability to craft distinctive, well-rounded, relatable characters is remarkable. Throughout the book, we see inklings of the people they were before they were just old people in a retirement village, and who they are outside of the Thursday Murder Club. This allows the reader to develop a great affinity with each character, making the poignant, touching moments in the book all the more impactful.
With moments of emotion, humour and humility speckled masterfully throughout, it would be easy to assume that such sentimentality might detract from the plot, however, this couldn’t be further from the case. Osman has once again succeeded in creating a captivating tale full of twists and turns, with several characters under suspicion at one time or another. You’re kept waiting until the very end when the truth is revealed, and every plot and subplot are brought perfectly to a close.
The Man Who Died Twice is funny, heart-warming and full of charm, but most importantly, it’s a brilliant mystery that keeps you gripped until the last word. With Osman reportedly planning another two instalments of The Thursday Murder Club series, it’s clear the residents of Cooper’s Chase are likely to remain firm favourites in crime fiction for some time to come.
Words by Louisa Merrick-White
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