My favorite septuagenarian sleuth quartet is back!
The second installment of The Thursday Murder Club series is set about a couple of months after four friends from the Coopers Chase Retirement Village; Joyce, Elizabeth, Ron, and Ibrahim, solve their first murder mysteries. Now that the excitement from the murders has died down, it seems like they are having a bit of a lull. The novel begins with Joyce’s plans to adopt a pet rescue dog despite Ibrahim’s objections – at their age, he worries Joyce might die before the pup! But this moment of calm is short-lived because here Osman confirms what I strongly suspected about Elizabeth while reading The Thursday Murder Club – Elizabeth is indeed a retired MI5 agent, and now she has received a letter from the beyond, from an invented man whose death she faked for a case! Intrigued, she visits a Coopers Chase apartment as instructed, and it turns out the letter was penned by her ex-husband, Douglas, who is ten years her junior and her former work colleague. Douglas is in a spot of trouble after stealing twenty million pounds worth of diamonds, from a money launderer to the international criminal community, while on a mission. The diamonds belong to a New York Mafia gang, so Douglas intends to stay low until the dust settles, ride off into the sunset and retire in style. The MI5, who have no clue that Douglas has stolen the diamonds, merely think his cover has been blown. So they let him use Coopers Chase as a safe haven and have Poppy, another agent, for his protection. But, of course, neither the money launderer nor the mafia intend to let Douglas run off with the diamonds, so Douglas knows he is in grave danger and needs Elizabeth’s help. Elizabeth in turn enlists the help of her trusty friends to keep Douglas safe, while they try to figure out where Douglas must have hidden the diamonds.
With so many interested parties chasing after the diamonds, some more ruthless than others, it is only natural that dead bodies will keep piling up. It makes the plot complex, but also exciting because of the twists and turns. This time around though, it is Elizabeth and Joyce who do most of the leg work because early on in the novel, Ibrahim gets mugged and viciously attacked by a teenage punk. This lands Ibrahim in the hospital for quite a while, and it shakes his confidence. Osman handles the trauma of Ibrahim’s mugging delicately. Ibrahim is a retired psychiatrist, so he knows he shouldn’t let the lingering fear fester, but it is hard, so it is up to Joyce to push Ibrahim out of his PTSD and help him heal. Also, Ron, along with Chris and Donna – the police friends of the gang – aren’t about to let the punk who hurt Ibrahim get away with it – he turns out to be a little weasel, but they manage to get him behind bars.
While I thoroughly enjoy the mystery/ crime components of Thursday Murder Club novels, for me, it is the human aspect of the stories that put them over the top. Here, apart from Ibrahim’s mugging, the story also touches on dementia because Elizabeth’s husband, Stephen suffers from it. Stephen was beginning to show symptoms even in the preceding novel, but in The Man Who Died Twice, there are sure signs it is worsening. Stephen is a sweet-natured man as we see in the present-day and from recollections of their courtship, yet in The Man Who Died Twice, there’s one instance where he gets agitated and erratic, making Elizabeth fear him for the first time in her life. This hints that Elizabeth may not be able to hide Stephen’s condition for much longer from the staff and continue to keep him with her, which broke my heart. Also, as it is revealed in the end, the title The Man Who Died Twice is a reference to dementia because of the nature of the disease. ☹️
It is not all sad news with these beloved characters though. Chris and Donna both find love, Ron is ever the optimist when it comes to his romantic pursuits, and Joyce is a hoot, and also on the hunt! 😄 It’s such a charming novel that’s great for escapism, so definitely recommended if you read and liked The Thursday Murder Club.
Note: Many thanks to Pamela Dorman Books for sending me a review copy of The Man Who Died Twice.