Book Review – The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Pages: 423
Published: 16th September 2021
Genre: Mystery
Trigger warnings: Drugs, sexual references

This was a buddy read with my Ellie @ Read To Ramble. We read the first book in this series together and we have had a great time with the characters and it has made us laugh on numerous occasions. I cannot to read to read the next one with her.

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?

The first book in this series was an absolute sensation and on this evidence, that extraordinary level of success is poised to continue. Here we have another thoroughly entertaining read that reunites us with a truly wonderful group of characters, gentle humour mixed in with meaningful reflection, and a plot that is a joy to untangle as it unleashes a multitude of unexpected twists.

For all the talk of murder and death and MI5, the story has an enduring tone of cosiness which makes it all the more pleasant to read and along with the short chapters, and it is that more than anything that keeps inviting you to read on. And while there may be more literary artistry and flair on show from elsewhere in the crime genre, the key is not to take it too seriously. The plot does get a trifle silly at times, but then again it is supposed to be that way.

A week after solving two murders that occurred at their retirement village Cooper’s Chase, the Thursday Murder Club are thrust into another case as former spy Elizabeth receives a letter from someone purporting to be called Marcus Carmichael. In reality it turns out to be her ex husband Douglas, who arrives and asks for her help in protecting him, as his life in under threat over the theft of some diamonds that are worth a total of £20m.

Before long, MI5 are involved and Elizabeth finds herself on the hunt for an elusive and ruthless killer, having to draw on all her experience in the service to decipher a succession of clues. With the help of her friends Joyce and Ron, she finds reasons to suspect everyone, even the most unlikely of candidates. Meanwhile, they are also determined to avenge Ibrahim, who is left shaken after being assaulted by a lawless youth.

As all this is taking place, DCI Chris Hudson and PC Donna de Freitas are trying to build evidence against local drug dealer Connie Johnson, but find themselves roped in to the mystery of missing diamonds. They are hidden somewhere and Elizabeth is determined to find them before the murderer does, but whoever it may be, they seem intent on outwitting her as the deaths start to mount up.

Things happen very quickly at the beginning as the arrival of Douglas sets off a complex and frenetic chain of events. When deaths start to occur and the diamonds become exceedingly difficult to locate, the mystery intensifies before we get a revelation that tantalisingly sets up the rest of the book, narrowing the list of potential suspects.

The humour and the informal tone disguise a very intricate plot that in the end is brilliantly pieced together, with each character’s narratives interweaving before falling into place. There are certain moments where it feels like you have landed on the correct theory and even the author makes you believe it, only to be proven wrong some chapters later. It is such a fun ride, and slightly more captivating than the first book.

Again, everything is told in the third person with the exception of Joyce’s diary entries, which are such a delight to behold. Joyce is full of warmth and quiet intelligence, while her little observations about topics ranging from television subtitles to defrosting frozen foods are simply hilarious. It was also entertaining to see her set up an Instagram account and create a stronger double act with Elizabeth, but generally she would just be a great person to have a conversation with.

The first book teaches you not to be surprised about anything you learn about Elizabeth, and there is so much more to uncover here. Her relationship with Douglas is central to the mystery, helping to provide many of the clues that lead to where the diamonds are kept, and it turns into a powerful meeting of minds between her and the killer. At the end, we are reminded of just how ruthless and calculating she can be – in a good way.

It was sad to see Ibrahim so withdrawn after being attacked, but the vulnerability he feels is explored movingly along with Stephen’s increasing memory loss, just epitomising the compassion that this series has at its heart. We equally get to see a softer side to Ron, who still lacks subtlety yet is always fun to read about. Then we have Bogdan, who is the most laid back character in all of literature, and all the better for it.

I love the affection Chris and Donna have for the Thursday Murder Club, and how they are willing to bend the rules on their behalf. Their contrasting fortunes on the romance front is a prominent sub-plot here, and what helps make it less tiresome is that they are both really likeable. Despite being an MI5 operative, Poppy is rather innocent and sweet, whereas Douglas is smooth and unashamedly smarmy.

The writing is very much in line with the tone of the book; conversational and light-hearted in comparison to the high stakes, though at times it does carry a lot of sensitivity. It is like the antidote to a serious crime novel that strives for gritty realism, with its seamless narrative and quirky characters acting as the perfect accompaniment to the mystery at hand.

Taking everything into consideration, the identity of the killer in the end is not an almighty shock as there are some minor hints in the dialogue every now and then, but what makes it so effective is that the author has you barking up the wrong tree with Elizabeth and Joyce’s hypothesis until they finally deduce the truth. At one stage I thought that I had it all worked out and the book then seemed to back me up, only for it to swerve in a different direction later on.

Overall, this is a super fun mystery that guarantees laughs and sheer unpredictability. The affection you feel for the characters we met in the previous novel is only enhanced and the lighter tone, not to mention Joyce’s diary entries, makes it a comforting read. With an exciting plot and occasional moments of emotional heft, there is so much to love.

A really enjoyable read that brought everything back from the first book in the series and more. It is so cosy and light, I could have managed another 200 pages.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

3 thoughts on “Book Review – The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

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