Book review by Casey Roepke
If you’re in the market for a cozy, low-stress murder mystery, look no further than Richard Osman’s latest novel, The Man Who Died Twice. A follow-up to The Thursday Murder Club, his adult fiction debut centers around the same gang of four septuagenarian crime-lovers, this time taking on a case involving ex-husbands, mobsters, spies and £20 million worth of stolen diamonds.
Osman’s mystery series riffs on the familiar formula of the genre—plucky investigators solve a crime with plenty of surprises along the way—but adds his own twist by introducing an investigative team made up of four elderly friends from a retirement home. In the first book, we meet Elizabeth, a retired intelligence agent; Ron, a cantankerous leftist; Ibrahim, a former psychiatrist; and Joyce, a former nurse.
The quartet are crime-obsessed, gathering every week for the titular Thursday Murder Club where they talk about cold cases and prepare their own theories. After the events of the first book in the series, where they actually encounter and solve a real murder case, in the beginning of The Man Who Died Twice we meet the four friends still riding the high of solving their case but slowly and surely returning to normal. Joyce is considering adopting a rescue dog—a decision Ibrahim is adamantly against—Ron is anticipating the visit of his grandson, and Elizabeth has just received a mysterious letter from her ex-husband.
The inciting event takes the form of a mugging. Ibrahim is badly hurt in the assault, and the rest of the murder club is overcome with rage. Thus begins a twisty, mysterious plot full of murder suspects, spy techniques and whimsy. The cast of characters—our four core pensioners, plus a police duo and other side characters continued from the first book—is certainly the strongest component of the novel, and their charming antics carry the plot forward.
What Osman lacks in writing quality and style, he makes up for with intrigue. The mystery plot is constantly expanding with new clues and suspects, and the ending was a surprise that is hard to see coming (but can be detected with the available information). Still, the constant point-of-view switching between short, snippy chapters was jarring and difficult to follow, and inhibited the strength of the book. The Man Who Died Twice is a solid sophomore novel that doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.
All in all, if you’re after a murder mystery with characters that will win you over and a plot that isn’t too stressful, The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman fits the ticket. If you’re after something a little meatier, check out The Thursday Murder Club first.