Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books for the ARC of this book.
I’m not entirely sure what the make of this book. Despite containing several murders, suicides and drug criminals, it is a very easy, fluffy, cosy, British and just ever so nice crime book. It is set in a retirement community and boils down to 4 OAPs sitting around effectively saying “There’s been a murder, oh how jolly! Would you like another slice of cake while we solve it?”. I think I do prefer a nice cosy crime read like this to the far too prevalent reams of gritty psychological thrillers featuring the abuse/torture of woman and children. However, this chatty, friendly, nice style does make the plot feel a little low-stakes in spite of all the death.
I think you can definitely tell that this is a first novel. The writing manages to be face paced (short chapters, chatty prose) and plodding at the same time. Richard Osman throws in so many red herrings and misdirects that by the end of the book it feels like none of the characters really care that much who has committed the murders, let alone the reader. I think there is something lacking in the set up and resolution of the whodunnits, this is probably because Osman is more interested in his characters than in his plot.
I like Richard Osman and I think his voice comes through very strongly in the book, despite half the entries supposedly being written as a 80-something(?) year old woman’s diary entries. There are lots of witty asides and unnecessary facts added in, probably to the detriment of the narrative but fun for the reader. I feel like Osman has looked at the demographic of his fans, mostly OAPs who watch daytime TV due to his popular TV quiz programmes, and written something specifically to appeal to them in order to sell more books. I’m not sure I find OAPs to be the most compelling protagonists. This is a shame because, according to his author’s note, he was trying to highlight how people in retirement villages all have had interesting worthwhile lives and experiences.
This is the first in a series of books but I’m not sure whether I would bother to read the next one. However, they may improve as Osman gains greater experience as a writer. I can see how it might be nice to follow some of the characters, particularly the police officers, to find out what their future holds. Osman clearly has a great fondness for the characters he has created, so I’m sure he will develop them well over time.
I must add that I absolutely love the cover design for this book. The title is instantly engaging and the font is beautiful. it’s really well done and makes the book seem really appealing. I’m sure it will do really well. It’s probably an ideal comfort read for these troubling times.