Book Review – The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

Pages: 408
Published: 15th September 2022
Genre: Mystery
Trigger warnings: Suicide, drugs references

It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.

To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed…

While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

This is simply a welcome continuation of the quaint yet uplifting and reassuringly cosy mysteries this series and its wonderful characters provide. Told with the same gentle humour that brings a smile to your face, as well as the occasional moment of solemnity, its general frivolity and laid-back tone disguises what is actually a complex story in which a lot of thought clearly went into its execution.

Many of the storylines from the previous two books are developed further here and lead to a few surprises, most of which are fun such as an unexpected but perfect romance, with one rather heart-rending exception on the topic of dementia. The increased number of characters means there is a lot to juggle and it may include one element too many, although it remains highly entertaining throughout.

After their eventful last case, the Thursday Murder Club at Cooper’s Chase retirement village are looking for their next unsolved mystery to tackle, they stumble across the 2013 death of television presenter and investigative journalist Bethany Waites. They corner her former colleague and local news anchor Mike Waghorn after he interviews Ron, and he agrees to help them try and bring Bethany’s killer to justice.

Bethany’s car went off the top of a cliff and her body never found, at a time where she was close to uncovering a dangerous group of money launderers. She is remembered with great fondness by Mike, but before her death she was receiving unpleasant notes believed to be from one of her fellow crew members, casting suspicion on her on-screen replacement Fiona Clemence and make-up artist Pauline, who has now just entered a relationship with Ron.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and her husband Stephen are kidnapped as they are taking a walk, and driven miles before being threatened by a man who they come to refer to as the ‘Viking’. She is told to stop looking into Bethany’s case or her best friend and fellow Thursday Murder Club member will be killed. Soon after, someone else connected to the case is found dead, raising the stakes even higher.

Such is the appeal of the writing style and the characters in this series, and it can perhaps be easy to focus slightly less on the plot, but all the various aspects of it are woven together well here. The case of Bethany’s death carries a handful of suspects and a few intermediaries, and with the help of that and some clever enduring puzzles, it is fun to try joining all the dots.

Some of the things that happen are admittedly bizarre and I felt that the story would have been a bit better without the addition of the ‘Viking’, whose motives were flawed and did not always make a huge amount of sense. The sections involving the police officers Chris and Donna were ingenious however, and the way everything played out at the end was unpredictable, amusing, and totally worth waiting for.

The narrative follows exactly the same pattern as the previous two books, with the majority of it written in the third person except Joyce’s adorable, conversational musings in the form of diary entries. Although the higher number of characters means that there are some you get to spend less time with here, it is still engaging in its own very unique and laid-back way.

Joyce is wonderful as ever with her often idle chatter that – along with her age – causes criminals to fatally underestimate her, while it was good to see her friendship with the methodical daredevil that is Elizabeth be explored a little more. Ibrahim has some good moments despite not appearing quite as much, but of the four main Thursday Murder Club members it is actually Ron who arguably gets the most development.

It was such a nice surprise to see Connie return as although she is a criminal, the way it is written makes her a lot of fun to read. The scenes involving the chief constable also made me laugh out loud, especially with any mention of his attempts at writing novels. Pauline came across as highly suspicious throughout, while Viktor was another quirky character to add to the collection.

The writing does have its more meaningful passages, but for the most part it is light and relatively informal, which generates a perpetual sense of cosiness and makes the story somehow more immersive. There was a great deal of poetic justice in the way the ending played out and although there was one key twist that I had mixed feelings about, I liked how it was resolved.

Overall, another immensely enjoyable book in a series that through its delightful characters and manner of storytelling, provides a real degree of escapism. It could have done with one less element but otherwise, the mystery was very well thought out and it complimented everything else impressively, so there is hardly anything not to like.

It is always nice to return to this series, and this time was no different. Not quite as good as The Man Who Died Twice, but still a very fun and likeable read.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

2 thoughts on “Book Review – The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

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