The Thursday Murder Club is at it again, with a new novel, which begins at Christmas just last year. You know it was last year because two of the characters watched the king’s Christmas speech. That would be King Charles, whose first Christmas as king it was. They thought he did a good job.
The Last Devil to Die is full of amusing tidbits, just like the previous three volumes in the series. Numerous cups of tea are drunk, numerous cakes baked and eaten, especially by Murder Club member Joyce — though there’s also a Battenberg baked by one of the suspects.
|A Battenberg from the Great British Baking Show. |
Joyce’s bakes remind me of this quintessentially British food show!
“I am going to make a pavlova later. But with mangoes,” Joyce writes. (p. 349)
“You can’t rely on the food,” says Joyce, unpacking a Tupperware box of chocolate hazelnut brownies.” … “Is it true that Pauline puts marijuana in her brownies?” asks Joyce. “She does,” says Ron. “Marijuana and coconut.” (p. 324)
“It will be Joyce, and she will have cake, Bob,” says Ibrahim. “I am sure of it.” (p. 219)
“I’ll be round with a lemon meringue and a notepad,” writes Joyce about a new neighbor. (p. 53)
While hunting for the murderer of one of their friends, these pensioners are always having meetings that involve light refreshments. Their choices are sometimes trendy; for example, when an intruder looks in Joyce’s refrigerator he sees “Almond milk. Joyce moves with the times.” Although usually not very domestic, Elizabeth on one occasion makes tea at Joyce’s apartment; she uses the almond milk, but is dubious about its appropriateness. Joyce’s daughter, when asked about using almond milk, calls her mother “officially a hipster.” (p. 161 & 348)
|Author Richard Osman drinks a mug of tea (source)|
Richard Osman’s version of the cozy mystery genre appeals to me because it's done with such a light, humorous touch. Along with the tea and cake, Osman does serve some grizzly violence and lots of danger, which offsets the cuteness. The four original members of the Murder Club — Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim — search for the vicious killer of their friend as more bodies pile up somewhat mercilessly, but they don't lose their analytic skills or their taste for a mug of tea. They follow the evidence and search for a mysteriously missing cache of heroin, several desperate drug dealers, and some unscrupulous antique sellers and art forgers. Plenty of action.
The satiric nature of this novel is offset with passages of heavy pathos, deep grief, and genuine tragedy. As in each of the previous books, several chapters consist of Joyce’s diary, which is very insightful and often leads to solutions to the crime puzzles the group is working on. But also in her thoughts we learn of Joyce’s deep mourning for her late husband, who had died several years earlier.
In each of the Thursday Murder series, Elizabeth’s beloved husband Stephen is sinking deeper and deeper into dementia. In The Last Devil to Die, his condition, which has become unbearable, is described in great detail -- very painful reading! This book sees a kind of conclusion and a very great amount of suffering for everyone, especially the brilliant and usually resourceful Elizabeth. Some readers might find the detailed descriptions of a man losing his sense of identity and his memory of himself and of his friends and even of his wife to be a bit mawkish, but I thought it was done with skill and a fair amount of tact.
If you liked the earlier books, I think you’ll like this one. The mainstream publications I read haven't yet reviewed this just-published book, so I can't compare my reaction to that of the professionals!