The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
Richard Osman is a British comedian whose first book The Thursday Murder Club was a runaway success. A comic crime novel involving an unruly collection of pensioners who manage to outwit a murderer. In this follow up, the team are back at it again with the same cast from the first book: Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron. Plus The Man Who Died Twice brings back Bogdan to add to the mix of colourful personalities.
This time, murder is the name of the game but with some diamonds and a good amount of money thrown into the mix. Osman is a master of storytelling, likely drawn from his experiences on stage, with each chapter leaving you wanting just that one more tidbit of information. With chapters relatively short it is really easy to acquiesce to that and spend a good chunk of the night wanting to know what happens next.
Focusing on each character within each chapter, the story explores how Elizabeth’s ex-husband has become embroiled in diamond theft, mobsters and a whole host of issues for the geriatric gang. His search for help leads them down some fair treacherous pathways which are both humorous, and yet equally unsettling.
Osman has reduced the number of characters in this follow up novel. In The Thursday Murder Club there were many more characters to introduce and create stories for. This time he has focused on the tight four and allowed them to shine in their own way. Joyce, in particular, is a joy to read about. Her tangents are wonderfully told before some great revelation at the end of the chapter that makes the reader stop and reflect. But the same nurturing treatment is given to all the characters by Osman, letting more information through to better colour in the attitudes and experiences of each.
There’s definitely a sense of self-awareness on the part of all the characters in this book. It is where much of the humour comes from. They ‘get’ that at their age things like crossword puzzles and daytime television should be the order of the day, not tracking down mafia mobsters - yet here they are. The violence also adds a layer of dark humour. Life is not quite so precious when you’re in your 90s - it seems.
Osman has a flair when it comes to translating humour onto the page. It’s hard not to chuckle at the predicaments that the cast find themselves in. Many times the fate of millions of pounds rests on the hands of the most unlikely of personalities.
There are poignant moments too. The fear of dementia, the lack of mobility that they once had, and the general fogginess they are prone to remind the reader of their age and their fragility. It brings an authenticity to their plight, and a realism to the writing style. Taking a page out of the James Patterson book of thriller writing, Osman has really worked to employ the unfurling of the drama in an almost clandestine way. It’s clear he has control over the narrative arc from the beginning but never gives away much but allows the characters to evolve, more than simply explain what’s happening. It’s a real testament to his skill with the pen (or keyboard).
A real page turner that is certain to be a glorious gift for readers this Christmas. Hard to put down, easy to love.
Reviewer: Chris Reed