Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Better than a Homicide Detective by Richard Osman - Mystery Readers Journal: Senior Sleuths (36:3)

Richard Osman's Author! Author!essay appeared in Mystery Readers Journal: Senior Sleuths (Volume 36: No. 3, Fall 2020). Since then Richard Osman has published several more mysteries in his delightful Thursday Murder Club series. The Senior Sleuth issue of Mystery Readers Journal is still available in PDF and print format. Check out the Table of Contents.  Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.


Richard Osman: Better than a Homicide Detective

The detectives in my novel The Thursday Murder Club are four very unlikely friends, all in their seventies. Elizabeth, a former spy; Joyce, a former nurse; Ibrahim, still a psychiatrist; and Ron, a once-infamous labour activist.

I have been asked time and again why I chose older people as my sleuths. And the answer is simple. Because of my Mum.

My Mum, Brenda, is 78 years old and, in all honesty, I would trust her to solve a murder far more than I would trust anyone else. To explain why, I thought I should write you a little list. My list is entitled…

The Top 3 Reasons My Mum Would Be Better at Solving a Murder Than an Experienced Homicide Detective

My mum has an awful lot of time on her hands.

My Mum spent a lifetime as an elementary school teacher, and raised two sons single-handedly. So I want to make it clear that she has always been a hard worker. However, it is fair to say that, these days, my Mum has a pretty nice schedule. I mean, really, what is she doing all day? She gets up whenever she wants, she hangs out with her other 78-year-old mates, watches a bit of daytime TV, has a couple of glasses of wine at lunchtime, maybe a quick snooze, and then kicks back and relaxes for the rest of the day.

Which means, of course, that if one of my Mum’s neighbours was murdered, she would have plenty of time to gather evidence, interview suspects, illegally interfere with the police investigation, and track down the killer. Which is exactly what Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron do in the book.

My mum always knows who the murderer is on any TV programme or film I’ve ever watched with her.

Honestly, you’ll be 20 seconds into an episode of Murder She Wrote and my Mum will say ‘I bet the man in the orange jumper did it. He’s probably the ex-husband of the horse racing trainer, and he’s stolen some horse tranquiliser and slipped it into the drink of the local newspaper reporter.’ And we’ll watch to the end, and that’s exactly what will happen. As Jessica Fletcher leads the man in the orange jumper off to jail, I will look at my Mum and, once again, shake my head in wonder.

I should point out, however, that my Mum didn’t guess the killer in The Thursday Murder Club. So if you work out the solution you are even better than she is.

My mum is underestimated.

If you met my Mum (and it can be arranged, she loves visitors) you would leave thinking ‘what a lovely, kind, gentle woman.’ Don’t be fooled. My Mum is the cleverest person I know.

If you were a murderer (and I’m not accusing you, by the way, I’m just saying if), she would invite you round for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, you would have a lovely conversation about the weather, or the garden, and by the end of it, she will have worked out exactly how you did it. Minutes later, you would be in handcuffs.

This is Joyce’s skill in The Thursday Murder Club too. She is kind, thoughtful and polite, and she is always underestimated, and she is always overlooked. But she misses nothing.

We have got used to the people with the loudest voice and the strongest opinions running the world. My Mum, and Joyce, are a reminder that you should probably let the quiet people take charge once in a while.

My Mum would fit straight into The Thursday Murder Club. A gang of friends, from very different backgrounds, with very different experiences, who team up to solve whatever case you put in front of them.

They are clever and loyal, they have seen great happiness and great sadness, they are funny, they are unorthodox and they are old enough to not care too much for the rules. They are kind and ingenious, they value their friendship and they respect their differences. And—and this really can’t be stressed enough—they do have an awful lot of time on their hands.

The story is full of twists, full of dark misdeeds, full of mystery and full of suspects. But, at its heart, it’s about the brilliance of a generation of older people, who, we all know, can turn their hand to anything. They share my Mum’s heart and soul and intelligence.

So when people ask me why I have chosen a group of sleuths in their mid-seventies, my real answer is ‘why on Earth would I choose anyone else?’

Richard Osman has worked as an executive producer on numerous UK shows. Richard’s popularity and tremendous knowledge of trivia led to him presenting his own BBC quiz show and several others, as well as being the host of Pointless with 7 million views. He is also a regular on panel shows and writes a column for the Radio Times.

Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.

1 comment:

Libby Dodd said...

And the books are brilliant.
I think his mom has rubbed off on him!