The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Books 2022, 33) 📚

Not just another murder mystery, but an undeniably cosy one. OK, the deaths aren’t cosy, obviously, but the mood and vibe of the book certainly is.

The club in question is made up of four residents at a retirement village. They start out by speculatively investigating cold cases that a former member, who had been a police officer, had records of. But soon a hot case lands right in front of them, and things get interesting.

It’s hilarious in places, moving, well-plotted, and, let’s face it, a tad unconvincing. But you don’t let that bother you while you’re reading it.

Which you should do.


Still Life by Val McDermid (Books 2022, 14)

A Karen Pirie thriller,’ the description on the cover says of this. I’m not sure ‘thriller’ is quite the right term. It’s exciting enough, but there isn’t the tension that would take it up to ‘thriller’ level. Not least because Karen Pirie is never in any danger, other than possibly pissing off her boss, the deputy chief constable of Police Scotland.

I’ve never read Val McDermid before, so picking up one of her later ones — possibly her latest: published in 2020, set just before the pandemic, and ending as lockdown starts — would be a strange choice. But sometimes you’re in a holiday house and there are some books and it’s not so much a choice as an offering. I’ve fancied checking out some tartan noir for a while, anyway.

It’s good. I enjoy a crime novel from time to time, and this one certainly kept the pages turning. Backstory was filled in very efficiently, without it feeling like infodumping. And reading about the chill autumn in Scotland (with slight detours into France, the north of England, and Ireland) took the edge off some of the Greek heat.

The title is a little confusing. There is some art involved in the story, but none of it is a still life. There’s at least a double meaning to the phrase, of course, and that makes sense in context. But maybe the French term, nature mort, is even more applicable. Not least since Karen Pirie works cold cases for the Scottish police force.


The Secret Place by Tana French (Books 2020, 23)

Crime fiction set in Dublin. In a posh boarding school, specifically, which causes it to have elements of young adult (YA) fiction. We studied it for the ‘Genre’ module of my MA course. It also dips into magic realism, so it’s particularly appropriate for that module.

I hadn’t read any of French’s books before. This is volume five in a series about the Dublin Murder Squad, but they’re only loosely linked. I enjoyed it a lot, and wouldn’t mind reading more.

She has a great way with colour imagery, and compelling characters.


Boiling a Frog by Christoper Brookmyre (Books 2020, 8)

The last Brookmyre I read was Pandaemonium, in 2010. Before that, his first, Quite Ugly One Morning, before I started writing here. The second of those introduced campaigning journalist Jack Parlabane. There’s another one before this, but you don’t need to read them in order. There are also a stack more.1

Anyway, what’s it like? No bad, as we say in Scotland. It starts off with Parlabane in prison. Part of the story, including how he ended up there, is told in flashback. It’s all set in the early days of the new Scottish Parliament, around 2000, 2001.

It’s a decent page turner, I can’t deny. My main criticism in writerly terms is about the old ‘show, don’t tell,’ thing, which we’ve discussed here before.

In at least one of those pieces I counsel against setting that injunction in stone. But it’s notable how much of this novel violates or ignores it. For large chunks of the flashbacks we’re told what happens. It’s fine. The writing style flows and it doesn’t feel like infodumps, but I was certainly aware of it.

Worth reading. I’ll probably read more of him, eventually. Still looking for a sequel to Pandaemonium, though.


  1. Apparently I’ve also read Be My Enemy. I don’t remember anything about that one, and I only mentioned it in passing there. ↩︎


Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? by Paul Cornell (Books 2016, 7

Some books take weeks or even months to read. Others slip down in just a few days. This was the latter kind.

Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police series is part of a thriving subgenre now. He and Ben Aaronovitch started out at a similar time, I guess, and they’re friends, so I don’t know if they came up with the idea together, or what. Maybe it was just steam-train time. But London cops who deal with the magical, occult side of the city’s problems are very much of today.1

This latest volume picks up not long after The Severed Streets finished, and our characters are in some dark places personally and professionally. But then the ghost of Sherlock Holmes is found murdered at the Holmes museum, and a serial killer starts murdering people in ways inspired by the Holmes stories. The game is afoot, obviously, and our heroes must take part.

This is really, really, good, and highly recommended. Though if you haven’t read them yet, start at the beginning with London Falling.


  1. Though I can’t help but wonder if Charlie Stross started it all. His Laundry Files series is about secret agents with occult dealings, rather than police, but there are obvious similarities. ↩︎


Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (Books 2015, 9)

The pages, how they turn. I'm sure I've said that before of JK Rowling's work, but not in public, it seems. Amusing to note that The Silkworm was my number 10 last year.

Plenty of Robin in this one, and it’s probably the best of the three. Certainly better than the last one.

Strangest thing about it is the music. By which I mean: the title is taken from a song by Blue Öyster Cult, and quotes from them precede most of the chapters (some chapters have titles, and those are the titles of BÖC songs).

Now, I had no idea that Patti Smith wrote some lyrics for BÖC, but apparently she did1

Still on a musical note, in passing, one of the ancillary characters roadies for a band who are called Death Cult. Since JK Rowling is about the same age as me, and since she obviously pays attention to music, I would expect her to know that The Cult used to be known as Death Cult, and before that as Southern Death Cult. But perhaps you had to read the music papers in the 80s to know about that kind of stuff.2

Anyway, the Death Cult here have nothing to do with either the famous Cult, nor the Blue Öyster one.

The ending is a tad unsatisfying, as it leaves a number of things unresolved – which is fine, as there will no doubt be more books – and doesn’t really give us enough time post-denoument to decompress with the characters.

Still, highly recommended, as long as you’re not put off by gruesome scenes.


  1. We went to see her at the Roundhouse the other day, incidentally, on the 40th anniversary tour for Horses; but I digress. ↩︎

  2. And it turns out not to be quite as I remember, as according to Wikipedia, the only connection between SDC and Death Cult/The Cult is Ian Astbury. ↩︎


Weird Law-Enforcement Things

There were three slightly weird law-enforcement- or intelligence-related stories in the news today:

  • Two jailed in Northern Ireland over police officer's murder.

    I heard the policeman’s wife on the radio. She spoke calmly about how getting the murderers off the streets was good for the community, and positively about the people who had bravely given evidence (at least one had to be given protection).

    The odd, disturbing, and intelligence-community-related thing is that army intelligence had a tracker device in the car of one of the murderers, and at first they refused to reveal its details to the police undertaking the investigation. The police had to threaten to get a warrant. Then when they did provide the data, it turned out to have sections mysteriously missing. You have to sympathise with the PSNI here: they had both the Continuity IRA bampots and the army working against them.

  • 'Dark Arts' involved in MI6 officer's death.

    So what, this GCHQ codebreaker on secondment locked himself inside a bag using magic? I’m surprised that they’re even considering that it might not be murder here; or at least that someone has covered something up. More importantly, there’s the fact that the DNA evidence got messed up by a typo. Surely there’s got to be a better way?

  • Police officers deleted records of crime gangs

    And then there’s this business about the corruption in the Met. Evidence allegedly deleted on the orders of crime gangs? That’s some scary stuff. I’m pretty sure that when the Serious Organised Crime Agency was set up, it was meant to be anti-organised crime.

No real connection between these, I just heard about them all today.