Review: The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman

Review: The Last Devil to Die by Richard OsmanThe Last Devil to Die (Thursday Murder Club, #4) by Richard Osman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Series: Thursday Murder Club #4
Pages: 432
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on September 19, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

Shocking news reaches the Thursday Murder Club.
An old friend in the antiques business has been killed, and a dangerous package he was protecting has gone missing.
As the gang springs into action they encounter art forgers, online fraudsters and drug dealers, as well as heartache close to home.
With the body count rising, the package still missing and trouble firmly on their tail, has their luck finally run out? And who will be the last devil to die?

My Review:

The first ‘devil’ to die in this fourth entry in the Thursday Murder Club series is an old friend who helped them solve the case in the previous book in the series, The Bullet That Missed. Kuldesh Sharma was an antiques dealer who was lucky enough to be making a decent living in a business where too many people get caught up in buying things they love rather than trading in things they can sell at a profit.

But his luck ran out on a lonely country road with a bullet in his head that absolutely did not miss this time around.

Technically, his luck ran out earlier that Boxing Day, when he was one of the few antique shops open for business on a day when the local heroin importers needed someplace to hold onto a box for them. It was an offer he knew he couldn’t refuse, lest he end up exactly the way he did, dead with his store ransacked.

Those events aren’t linked the way that anyone expects them to be, and thereby hangs a tale. Specifically, this tale of bad luck and worse choices, an utter inability on the part of several unlucky individuals to distinguish friend from foe, a trail of bodies both guilty and innocent, and a small box that may not be bigger on the inside but is certainly a great deal larger in some dimensions than it appears.

Escape Rating A: The Last Devil to Die turned out to be the perfect capstone to this series so far, but I had more than a bit of an approach/avoidance problem to reading it all the way to the bitter end.

I also had the same hard time writing this up because there’s a point near that end that gave me the weepies. Seriously, I started crying. If you read the whole series so far, there’s a strong possibility that you will, too. It’s not exactly unexpected but it does invoke one hell of a lot of feels. Those tears rain over this entire review. Consider yourself warned.

What makes this case so convoluted is that, at least at the beginning, NO ONE really knows what it’s about – but everyone has made assumptions in that regard. Which makes the whole thing fall directly into that cliché about ‘assume’ and asses.

To the police, at least in the persons of the Thursday Murder Club’s police buddies Chris and Donna, it’s all about the heroin, or at least it’s about the local drug kingpins chasing the heroin. Because it would be a really serious feather in Chris and Donna’s caps if they could manage to nail those bastards to the wall.

But there’s a big deal officer from London who has come to take over the case and thrown our friends off the case – with rather extreme prejudice. Leading Chris and Donna to continue their investigation following rather more closely in the footsteps of the Thursday Murder Club – at least in regards to extra-legal methods – than either of them is strictly comfortable with.
Whatever the police think this case is about, the local drug gangs seem to be making a much bigger fuss over a mere 100,000 pounds worth of heroin. That not 100,000 pounds of heroin, which would be a pretty big deal, but rather a small amount of the stuff worth 100,000 pounds.

Big difference. Huge difference. Orders of magnitude difference. It’s only after the Thursday Murder Club follows that trail of bodies that Elizabeth Best puts together what it’s really all about, in a scene worthy of the best of the classic murder mysteries – even if the trail and the reasons for it are anything but old fashioned.

What makes this series work as a whole is that, in spite of how fanciful the idea of a bunch of septuagenarians solving murders might be and often is, and as quirky and eccentric as the members of the Club absolutely are, there’s nothing silly or twee about the way they go about their business.

And it’s not just that they are as deadly serious as the corpses they discover, but also that they are pragmatic and savvy about their place in the world, that they have many more days behind them then ahead of them, that they are often discounted because of that, and that the end is coming for all of them and it’s important how they occupy that time and take care of that end as it comes.

I appreciate their perspective and their approach to their lives at this stage of them even more than I might have otherwise, as I’m now in my mid-60s and honestly I’d like to be them when I grow up. Preferably without having to deal with a string of dead bodies every other month, but the way they all work together and make a difference in the world, as well as their beautiful and supportive friendship, is something to aspire to.

There’s a hint at the end that the Thursday Murder Club will be tying up the loose ends of a case tangential to the one they investigated in The Bullet that Missed when this series continues. Which, according to the author’s afterword, won’t come as immediately as fans would prefer, but will happen once the Club and their legion of fans recover from their grief over The Last Devil to Die.

Review: The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

Review: The Bullet That Missed by Richard OsmanThe Bullet That Missed (Thursday Murder Club, #3) by Richard Osman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Series: Thursday Murder Club #3
Pages: 413
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on September 15, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

One Thursday afternoon in the seniors' center, a decade-old cold case --their favorite kind-- leads the Thursday Murder Club to a local news legend and a murder with no body and no answers. A new foe they call "Viking", wants Elizabeth to kill former KGB chief Viktor, or he will kill her sweet best friend Joyce. Activist marked for death Ron and psychiatrist Ibrahim chase clues for Viking's identity, and investigate mob-queen prisoner from last book.
This third adventure ranges from a prison cell with espresso machine to a luxury penthouse with swimming pool high in the sky.

My Review:

How far would you go to save your best friend’s life? What lengths would you go to? Perhaps a better question would be to ask what lengths wouldn’t you go to? Because that is certainly one of the big questions at the heart of The Bullet That Missed.

First, there’s a cold case, because that’s what the Thursday Murder Club does in its Thursday meetings – it investigates cold cases.

The case they pick this time is close to home, both in time and in distance. Ten years ago, a young reporter disappeared, and has been presumed dead for most of a decade. Bethany Waites was working on a huge story about smuggling cell phones and tax fraud. Millions of pounds disappeared so thoroughly into the labyrinth of money laundering that the money was never found. Which didn’t stop the police from sending one of the perpetrators went to jail for it, while the likely instigator managed to stay out of legal trouble – most likely by doing something else seriously illegal.

But the reporter left her apartment one night, her car was found on the shore bloodied but empty after having been pushed over a cliff, and the woman was never seen again. She’s still much missed, by her friends, her colleagues, and most especially her mentor who never got over her death.

One of the seemingly trivial issues surrounding that very non-traditional event was that the young, female reporter was receiving nasty little threatening messages dropped in her purse, left on her desk and even stuck to her car.

Just as Elizabeth Best is receiving ten years later, although the messages Elizabeth is receiving are much more specifically life threatening rather than the job-threatening ‘mean-girl’ type messages Bethany was getting.

A mysterious personage has threatened Elizabeth that if she doesn’t kill a particular former KGB agent, both Elizabeth and her best friend Joyce will be killed instead. Joyce first, of course, so that Elizabeth has time to reflect on the folly of her (non) actions.

But the man that the mysterious criminal Elizabeth ends up calling “the Viking”, because he very much resembles one wants so very, very dead, is also a friend. An old and dear friend who Elizabeth would very much like to save as she doesn’t have many of those around – not just anymore but ever.

The cases don’t really intersect when Elizabeth and company get involved in them. They really, really don’t. But, and it turns out to be a big, huge, but, ten years isn’t all that long ago, especially in a small town like Cooper’s Chase.

Because all of the players for the cold case are still around for the fresh case. All except one.

Escape Rating A-: There are two ways of looking at the adventures of the Thursday Murder Club. On the one hand, the mostly fun side of the equation, there are the murder cases that seem to find their way to the club’s door – even if Elizabeth has to push them in that direction more than a bit. And sometimes they push back – as the Viking’s part of this entry in the series does.

But then there’s the much more serious side, the one that can be summed up as “old age is not for sissies’. Because it isn’t and they aren’t and none of them are remotely planning to go gentle into that good night no matter how hard some people – including Elizabeth’s oldest and dearest enemies – try to shove them in that direction. With a surprising amount of extreme prejudice.

Then again, one does get the impression that Elizabeth Best is the spiritual sister of Hetty Lang from NCIS: LA and Victoria Winslow, the character that Helen Mirren played in the movies RED and RED 2.

But seriously, the mystery – in spite of or because of the increasing number of victims – is the fun part of the story. It’s also the part that changes most from book to book in a series.

The real reason that people keep coming back to any particular mystery series over and over again (this is book 3 in this series already, after The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice) is because we get involved with the lives of the ‘Scooby gang’ that does the solving of the murders and not so much the murders themselves.

So what makes the Thursday Murder Club work as a series is the way that it revolves around and utilizes the strengths and weaknesses of the members of the club. The particular charm of this series is that it neither shies away from the issues of aging nor does it turn the idea of septuagenarians successfully solving crimes into anything twee or cutesy. (If you remember the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman, that got both cutesy and twee over the course of its run.)

The members of the Thursday Murder Club are also all dealing with loss (realistically but differently according to each of their personalities), either in the past or the present, but are still very much living in the here and now – and dealing successfully with it – something we don’t see nearly enough.

I was tempted to say something like ‘they still have a lot to give’ which doesn’t convey the right sentiment because it implies they’re an exception to some rule in the same way that telling a woman she doesn’t look her age may be intended as a compliment but actually reinforces the idea that looking whatever age she is isn’t good enough – when it should be.

I’d say that Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron have always had a lot to give and have never stopped giving it. While giving readers a terrific mystery to savor along the way.

Speaking of which, they have one more mystery to give us this year. The Last Devil to Die will be out later this month. And it’s already on my reading calendar because I can’t wait!

Review: The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Review: The Man Who Died Twice by Richard OsmanThe Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club, #2) by Richard Osman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Series: Thursday Murder Club #2
Pages: 355
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on December 16, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

It's the following Thursday.
Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He's made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.
As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn't that be a bonus?
But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn't bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

My Review:

The Thursday Murder Club series is not merely a guilty pleasure of a read, it’s just the kind of guilty pleasure you feel when you filch some of the semi-sweet chips straight out of the bag while baking chocolate chip cookies. You know you’re not really supposed to, but they taste so good, sweet with just the right amount of bitter in the aftertaste that you can’t resist – and you can’t eat (or read) just one.

This series is the same, with its story of murders in a retirement community solved by the skills, the talent and especially the combined experience of the 70something residents, who live in a place where the appearance of an ambulance screaming through the streets is an everyday occurrence – and that the next time it might be for one of them.

We first met the members of the Thursday Murder Club in the book of the same title, as the four septuagenarians who solved Cold Cases as a hobby found themselves in the middle of a fresh case right on their doorstep.

At the end of which, their ‘leader’ Elizabeth Best received a letter informing her that a man she thought was very, very dead was not only alive but back in her life, followed by the virtual ‘mic drop’ of the book’s end.

In The Man Who Died Twice we get the full story behind that mysterious missive, a story that wends its way back to Elizabeth’s days in the spy game, combined with her personal past in the form – and eventually the body – of her ex-husband and fellow retired spy Douglas Middlemiss. (I’m sure there’s a pun in his name, but I’m not quite getting there. Or it could be one of the many, many tasty red herrings that abound throughout this story.)

Dear Old Doug needs a safe house and protection from the mob. And he wants one more chance with Elizabeth, who was most likely the love of his life even though the reverse was absolutely not true. But then, Doug always believed he was a bigger hit with the ladies than he actually was then – let alone now.

He may not have a chance with Elizabeth, but he really does need that safe house and he knows she’s still damn good at the game even if she acts like she’s no longer playing it. Although the number of favors she called in during the first book call that into question – and so does the agency she used to work for.

The thing is that Doug really did steal £20,000 in diamonds from the New York mafia by way of their, let’s call him their escrow agent and insurance broker, in Britain. There really are assassins, and that’s definitely plural, out to get both him and the diamonds. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

Whether it was a successful business or not is an entirely different question. At first it looks like at least one set of assassins succeeded, but the clues that Doug left his ex-wife about where he stashed the diamonds make it seem like maybe they didn’t.

And Doug has form for that, leading the Thursday Murder Club on a merry chase to figure out who done what to whom. Just in case that the old spy had one last game in him after all.

Escape Rating A-: I started this book back when it came out in 2021, but bounced off it for some reason that I absolutely cannot remember nearly two years later. The reason I can’t remember is that when I picked it up this weekend, I absolutely could not put it down. So whatever it was, it must have been both a ‘me’ thing and a ‘then’ thing, because this cozy-ish, thriller-ish mystery was a whole lot of fun.

What makes the Thursday Murder Club so much fun is the way that the members of this little gang both are and are very much not exactly what they appear to be. They are all in their 70s, they have all lost a step or two physically, but often fewer steps than people assume from their age. And they all have hidden depths AND hidden assets that they are able to bring to bear to protect their friends and each other – and to help Elizabeth take care of the secret business she was never supposed to tell anyone about – but did anyway.

Part of the fun of this particular entry in the series is the way that Elizabeth’s adversary is also her mirror, a woman very much like herself who has also made her way into the upper echelons of the spy agencies, who came up through the ranks hearing about the ‘great Liz Best’ and wanted to best her at her own game. The way they work both in concert and in opposition, as each tries to ‘win’ a game that was never a contest, is fascinating to watch even as it throws so very many red herrings out of the basket and into the plot.

The ‘B’ plot of this book (and these do have an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ plot like a TV series that I wouldn’t be surprised to see come out of the BBC one of these days) is even closer to home as one of the Club members is attacked, and the Club pulls out all the stops to make it as right as they can – all the while acknowledging that at their age not everything can be put right, that they can only do the best they can.

But there is a touch of bitter mixed into the sweet of a good caper well solved and justice being righteously served, and that’s in the real identity of ‘the man who lived twice’. A revelation that has nothing to do with the spy game and everything to do with being all too human.

The Thursday Murder Club series continued with last year’s The Bullet that Missed, and I’ll be reading that sometime in the next few weeks so that I can catch up with the series in time for The Last Devil to Die, arriving – and apparently dying, late next month.

Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard OsmanThe Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Pages: 368
Published by Viking on September 3, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to...

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' find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty 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 Review:

At first, The Thursday Murder Club seemed like an amateur version of the British TV series New Tricks. The title of that series comes from the old cliche about not teaching an old dog new tricks, as the “cops” in that series are all retired, and their job is to solve cold cases. Which occasionally turn rather hot. It’s quirky and it’s fun but it often has a serious tone underneath. Because they can indeed learn when they want to, and their old skills in investigation and detection are still extremely useful.

But as the story goes on, the reader learns that the leader of the Thursday Murder Club probably walked a lot of mean streets in a lot of dark places with Henrietta Lange, the old Cold Warrior in charge at NCIS: Los Angeles. Hetty and Elizabeth would certainly have a lot to talk about, and probably knew a lot of the same people. Elizabeth may be old, but she’s no amateur at looking into dirty deeds done in dark places.

As the story continued, I began to wonder if it wasn’t going to end up somewhere near An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, which is wry and marvelous and certainly lives up to its title. In the end, it sort of does and sort of doesn’t, which hopefully tells you so little that it’s not a spoiler.

There is clearly at least one someone, and probably more, up to no good in and around the luxury retirement village of Cooper’s Chase. While the Thursday Murder Club may have begun by looking at cold cases provided by the retired DCI in their midst, they’ve always wanted to sink their investigative teeth into something new.

That’s just what they have, two fresh corpses – plus a newly discovered body that isn’t fresh at all. Along with the sure and certain knowledge that at least one of their neighbors is a murderer. Possibly even one of the members of the Thursday Murder Club.

Escape Rating A-: This was a lovely, twisty, turny mystery, that I picked up way too early but simply couldn’t put down. We begin by knowing nothing, but we think we know so much. As readers, we make all kinds of assumptions about the members of the Thursday Murder Club, just as PC Donna De Freitas does when she arrives in Cooper’s Chase thinking that she’ll be giving her standard, utterly canned talk to senior citizens about personal security.

Elizabeth and her friends, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, are well past any need for that particular lecture. Elizabeth could probably GIVE that lecture in way more depth and with more personal experience than Donna, not that we’re aware of that at the beginning any more than Donna is.

Their little club really just wants to sink their investigative teeth into another cold case to solve, if not to police satisfaction, at least to their own. Donna finds herself involved and even swept away by Elizabeth’s rather implacable charm.

Still, it all seems like fun and games until the owner of their retirement development is found dead in his lavish, garish house with an old photo pinned to his corpse. Not that Ian Ventham will be missed – more like the opposite. But it’s a fresh murder right on their patch and the Thursday Murder Club wants in.

And Elizabeth, who seems to have an endless number of fascinating people owing her favors all over the world, has a way about her. A way that gets Donna assigned to the case, and gets her and her fellow club members a ringside seat to the investigation. And occasionally the other way around.

Ventham was so detested and detestable that at first the entire thing feels like a bit of a lark. The story has all the trappings of a cozy mystery, with its eccentric crew of amateur detectives, the police who are more-or-less willing to go along, and a corpse that no one will miss. Ever.

But then it starts to get its hooks into the reader as the secrets that everyone is desperately hiding begin to ooze into the light. And the bodies start piling up.

Part of the charm of this story, and it is charming, is the way that it shows readers that these seemingly doddering and certainly quirky pensioners are all more than they appear. And that just because they are all old and rightfully worried about what comes next, they are also living very much in the here and now and aware of what powers they still have and what they are still capable of, even as they mourn those people and those capabilities that they have lost.

And that they all have long-past misdeeds that they have yet to atone for. Still, there is compassion in that revelation and in the atonement that follows.

So come for the murders. Stay for the portrait of a group of people that refuse to go gentle into that good night – and who plan to care for each other at every step of the journey. While they dispense their own brand of justice.