The Man Who Died Twice (2021) by Richard Osman
The septuagenarians of Cooper's Chase retirement home are off on another murderous adventure...or perhaps I should say adventures. Elizabeth, the self-appointed leader of the Thursday Murder Club and an ex-MI5 agent, receives a message asking her if she remembers Marcus Carmichael and asking her to come round for drinks at his new flat at Cooper's Chase. Does she remember Carmichael? You bet. The last time she saw a man named Marcus Carmichael, he was found dead under a bridge in one of her spying escapades. Is she going to accept the invitation? You bet. 'Cause she knows that the man who sent the invite is really her ex-husband, a still-active MI5 agent.
It winds up that Douglas is hiding out from the mafia. It seems that while on an assignment that had him and his partner waltzing through an underworld banker's* home looking for goodies a bagful of diamonds worth 20 million pounds disappeared. At least that's what the banker, Martin Lomax says. Douglas wants Elizabeth, who he knows was the best and whom he still trusts, to help keep him safe. Elizabeth figures it will be a nice adventure and, besides, she knows Douglas. There's diamonds somewhere that she just might be able to find. And she's sure her friends in the Thursday Murder Club will want in on the action
Meanwhile, Ibrahim, one of the other three club members has been mugged and beaten. He recovers physically pretty quickly, but he's shaken and his friends are afraid he'll never leave the retirement home again. The perpetrator is pretty slick and the police know they won't be able to hold him. So the club puts seeking a little revenge...er, justice...on their to-do list as well. As with the first book, the bodies start piling up, and soon our merry band of retirees are trying to figure out who killed whom, who is really dead, and just whose side some of these people are on anyway. Not to mention playing hunt the diamonds and dishing up a tidy plate of just desserts for that nasty mugger.
I'll just say up front that this one requires an even bigger suspension of disbelief than the first book. In The Thursday Club Murders, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Ron, and Joyce were pretty busy for a group of senior citizens--but at least the murders they were solving were home-grown, more related to their community. This time round, they are outsmarting MI5 agents, mafia henchmen, cocaine dealers, and small-time crooks right and left. They manage to hand DCI Chris Hudson and his partner Donna De Freitas a nice bunch of criminals on a silver platter. They whisk the diamonds out from under the noses of everyone. And they do it while trading innocent comments and friendly banter.
This isn't a look for all the clues and red herrings puzzler. But--if you're looking for a rollicking good time, plenty of action, and an argument for life after your sixties, then here you go. This is just plain fun and it was nice to see Joyce make a couple of good deductions that put her ahead of Elizabeth for once. I like Elizabeth--but it is nice when someone else gets to be right. I also enjoyed the twist upon twist upon twist (of course, when one is twenty pages from the end, one knows there must be something else up the author's sleeve...). There is a great deal of humor and also, more soberly, small doses of reflections on friendship, loyalty, growing older, and what death might be all about. A very enjoyable read. ★★★★
*the underworld banker holds collateral for various parties who are working out deals--everything from diamonds to cash and precious art to expensive race horses.
First lines: "I was talking to a woman in Ruskin Court, and she said she's on a diet," said Joyce, finishing her glass of wine. "She's eighty-two!"
Revenge is not a straight line, it's a circle. It's a grenade that goes off while you're still in the room, and you can't help but be caught in the blast. (p. 72)
"It is fine to say 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' It is admirable. But it no longer applies when you're eighty. When you are eighty, whatever doesn't kill you, just ushers you through the next door, and the next door and the next, and all those doors lock behind you." (Ibrahim; p. 116)
Last line: I'm ever so sorry to interrupt, she says, but I don't suppose anyone here knows anything about 20 million pounds from Antwerp?*
Deaths: six shot
*Thanks to Scott for providing the quote that I neglected to write down before sending the book back to the library.