Hello, and welcome to the Book Club Review. I'm Kate.
I'm Laura. And this is the podcast about book clubs and the books that get people talking.
When a book sells upwards of five and a half million copies and film rights are snapped up by none other than Steven Spielberg, it seems to us a special episode is an order. And so join us as we dive into an attempt to make sense of the publishing phenomenon that is the Thursday murder club, a cosy grime novel set in a retirement community by TV producer and more recently presenter, Richard Osman.
It's an episode of two halves kicking off with Kate and two very special guests who'll give the Thursday murder club with the full book club treatment. Our first guest is author and friend of the pod Colleen Hubbard, whose debut novel housebreaking was published last year, and is soon to come out in paperback. Some of you may remember Kate's thing how much she enjoyed it in previous episodes, Colleen joined Kate over zoom and brought along her friend Sue, a Pilates instructor and keen reader to help give us more insight into how older readers are responding to this book. After that, it's back to me and Kate for a few of my thoughts and our recommendations for what to read next.
If you're one of the few people left alive who hasn't yet read the Thursday murder club, don't worry, we will not spoil the plot. What we will do is take a friendly but critical overview and see if we can find the secrets behind the books appeal.
That's all coming up here on the Book Club Review.
Welcome Colleen, welcome, Sue. It's lovely to have you both joining me. Thanks for having me. Colleen. Before we get started, tell us about your novel housebreaking. I just saw the cover of the paperback online which is really striking picking up on the theme of your main character UNbuilding a house with her bare hands tell us more
housebreaking is about a young woman who decides to dismantle her house. It's a book about loneliness, about family ties and about really important transformational friendships. I think in terms of publishing categories, it probably falls under book club book for some people probably under women's fiction under family dramas, but we will get I think it's more discussions about publishing categories later.
I think you're right. I think it would make an excellent book club book. I one of the things I really loved about it was the intergenerational friendships. Your main character is just quite young as you sort of early 20s that about right 24 Yeah, many of her friendships are with people who are much older than her and it was no surprise to me then to learn that in your real life, your friendships span, lots of different age groups. Sue, friend of Colleen, thank you so much for joining us. Colleen tells me that you used to regularly host authors for the hay Festival, which here in the UK is one of our biggest literary festivals. Can you tell us more about that the authors make good guests.
So my brother and I had a baby inhale for 13 years. Our first festival was 1999 when the festival was much smaller than it is now. Among our first guests were Carmen Khalil and her dog and Colm Toibin, who were obviously great friends and arrived at the same time. I didn't really know about him at the time. But of course, she was an absolutely huge figure because I used to read her algo obviously we all did.
She's the publisher, wasn't she? Yes, she
was published. She died very recently, didn't she? Yeah. But having the two of them was like herding cats, because the festival will be phoning and saying, Where are they? She's supposed to be on stage. She's supposed to be on stage. Where are they? Where are they? And I go, haven't a clue thinking. I think we're in the pub around the corner. So yeah, we had everybody from Carmen Khalil to Carol Shields to Elizabeth Jane Howard. And they were good, fun, wonderful conversations over breakfast. But in the end, we stopped having the celebs and we just had ordinary folk because we actually wanted to go to the festival. We spend time going to events.
Okay, well, we're going to have lots to get through this episode. So let's turn to the book. Cooper's chase is a peaceful retirement community whose residents keep themselves busy with recreational activities such as swimming, knitting and investigating Cold Case murders. First established by a retired police inspector the Thursday murder club consists of four friends Elizabeth formerly of MI five, Abraham, a former psychiatrist, Ron annex, Trades Union boss and Joyce a one time nurse. They meet in the jigsaw room in the time slot between art history and conversational French to pour over old case reports and try to solve past crimes. How will they respond when a real life murder occurs on their doorstep? The audiobook is read by Lesley Manville Richard Wiseman and Marian Keith. Here's a clip.
Cooper's chase always wakes early. As the foxes finish their nightly rounds and the birds begin their roll call. The first kettles whistle and the low lamps start to appear in curtain windows, morning joints Creek into life. Nobody here is grabbing toast before an early train to the office or packing a lunch box before waking the kids. But there is much to do nonetheless. Many years ago, everybody here would wake early because there was a lot to do and only so many hours in the day. Now they wake early because there is a lot to do and only so many days left Ibraham is always up by six. The swimming pool doesn't open until seven for health and safety reasons. He has argued unsuccessfully that the risk of drowning while swimming unsupervised, is dwarfed by the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or respiratory or circulatory illness due to lack of regular exercise. He even produced an algorithm proving that keeping the pool open 24 hours a day would make residents 31.7% safer than closing it overnight. The leisure and recreation amenities committee remained unmoved Ibraham could see that their hands were tied by various directives and so held no grudge. The algorithm was neatly filed away, should it ever be needed again. There was always a lot to do. I should also give a
little bit of information about Richard Osman are listeners outside the UK who might not be so familiar with him, it's fair to say I think that he's attained the status of living national treasure here in the UK. He was on Desert Island Discs, who introduced him with this helpful summary of his career so far. Richard Osman is a broadcaster TV producer and writer. His first novel The Thursday murder Club was a publishing phenomenon, selling more than a million copies and the follow up the man who died twice became one of the fastest selling titles since records began. Richard grew up in Haywards Heath in West Sussex and his early passion for television led to him devising quiz shows and programme formats from a young age. After graduating from university he worked for a number of production companies where he helped develop and produce shows including total Wipeout Deal or No Deal, and eight out of 10 cats. In 2009, Richard became co presenter of pointless the popular afternoon quiz show. In 2020, Richard published his debut novel The Thursday murder club. It was an instant hit, selling 45,000 copies in its first three days on sale. And as previously mentioned, Steven Spielberg has snapped up the rights. I didn't know anything about Richard Azzaman. Before prepping for this show, I had never I don't watch much TV. And when I do, I'm just not watching things involving Richard Osman. So I did some research, I watched an episode of Graham Norton that he was on I watched an episode of pointless and I listened to that Desert Island Discs. And what I now know is that Richard Altman is the most likeable, charming individual who you would only wish good things towards, I can see how the goodwill perhaps that people feel towards him as a person would then carry through into how people might feel about trying one of his books.
I do watch pointless because my husband loves Richard Osman show. So I've seen all of them, and House of games, and he was on taskmaster, as well. And I think that you're right that he comes across as someone who is very intelligent and very accomplished, but he doesn't use it as a cudgel against anyone else. He just comes across as very kind hearted and a reasonably normal person considering his enormous accomplishments even before he came out with this book.
The recent BBC News report I watched said that this was in September 2022, that he'd sold five and a half million copies. So I'm guessing that that's including hardback paperback and maybe worldsales and the sequels I think, nothing we say here today is going to in any way, dent, Richard Osman success and so with the best will in the world, I do think that we have free rein to express our thoughts, both positive and negative about the Thursday murder Club, which is what book clubs all about. Now clean, and I specifically read this book because I knew we wanted to do a show on it. But Sue, had you come to this just as a reader.
Yeah. And I'm not too sure how or why. I've not consciously watched any of his TV, so I didn't know much about him. I just knew he was this tall guy who was on the telly 2020 was locked down yet the beginning of lockdown I as a keen reader all my life could not I agree I was away from home for four months, luckily. And I took Hilary Mantel with me. I couldn't read. And then eventually I got myself into short stories, which I love, and then came back down home and life began again. So thinking, you know, why did I read Richard Osman, somebody might have recommended it, or maybe I'd heard about it in the press or on radio for I probably got it from the library, I think suffice to say, I have not read any of his books after that.
Well, so then when you came to it without any one's looking over your shoulder, and so to speak, to see what you think, what was your initial reaction to it? How did you find it?
Well, I read it, and I finished it. I didn't enjoy it so much that I thought, Oh, goody, there's another one. I'm just going by it. I'm thinking as an older person, it's quite interesting to read a book where older people are having fun, and getting up to whatever they're getting up to. And they're not just locking beds, which is rather what one feels at the moment. So that is the plus, I think, but no, I can't say I've found it tremendously engaging. Colleen and I were talking to a friend last week, who really loved it, didn't she? Khalid,
she really loved it. And I think for her, one of the things that she mentioned that feels very specific was the time of reading it. She read it during lockdown. And she mentioned how life was really complicated. There were things that were distressing. And it felt like a very easy, uncomplicated, amusing read and amusing was a word that she used repeatedly when talking to us about it. She said that it made her laugh that she could put it down and pick it up a week later, and she wouldn't have felt like she missed something. And she said she wasn't always looking for books to be complicated or complex. She sometimes liked pretty straightforward reads. And this book was that for her.
It is full of jokes, and they're good jokes. They are funny jokes from just almost like little quips. I love the fact that the vegetarian cafe in the little town there where they all live is called anything with a pulse filter you LSE you know, that's just funny. That's just objectively funny. I love this little passage I wanted to read about the retirement community which comes towards the end, there had been a schism in the cryptic crossword club, Colin Clements, his weekly solving challenge had been won by Irene Doherty for the third week running, Frank carpenter had made an accusation of impropriety, and the accusation had gained some momentum. The following day, a profane crossword clue had been pinned to Colin clemencies door. And the moment he had solved it all hell had broken loose. So I think the observational detail about this retirement community is wonderful. And this, I think, is all very much based on the fact that he was inspired to write this by the retirement community that his own mother lives in, where he obviously spent quite a bit of time. And that, to me, was the thing I really loved about the book and thinking about it afterwards, I thought, I really only wanted to read about that. And I wasn't interested in the murder, or all the mechanics of the murder and solving the murder, because really, I wanted these four main characters who I think are the ones that you remember, and the ones that you care about. And the trouble with it for me was, I felt it then got really bogged down in all these side characters. They're there either because they're about to be murdered, in which case, they need a backstory, but we can't really care about them, because otherwise we'd be distressed when they get murdered or their their potential suspects where they still need a backstory. But it's all just very thinly drawn. I found it really hard work trying to keep track of all these characters and remember who they were. So it was a strange mix for me. Colleen, you're coming at this as a reader. But of course, you are also a writer, which gives you another perspective on the book, I'm almost slightly nervous to ask, but how did that affect your reading experience?
I kept thinking about the publishing phenomenon that is this book, which is really interesting to me and was really interesting as well, because when Richard Dawson's book came out was around the time that I sold my book and started my publishing experience. I had an insider view as a person with a book coming out whose book was if you work in publishing, and you're listening to this drop of cold sweat is about to roll down your spine. My book was a quiet book, which in publishing terms means it didn't sell a tonne of copies, but it also wasn't expected to sell a tonne of copies. Richard Osmonds book is the total opposite of that. There was an article that came out when he sold the book saying that his advance was in the seven figures. So he was paid millions of pounds, or at least a million pounds to write this. And that is the beginning of the PR for what becomes a big book is the announcement about how much the author is paid. There is a report that came out just a couple of months ago about author income at the UK. This was from the UK author As licencing and collecting society and some of the information there was pretty shocking. The reports I did a winner take all dynamic and UK publishing right now we're basically the top 10% of writers are earning nearly 50% of the total income of the survey group that they looked at, which is about 60,000. Writers, there is a 60% decline in income in the last 15 years for writers were writing was their primary occupation. And the medium income was 7000 pounds a year. So in terms of my own experience, I have heard of writers where their advance so what they were paid by the publisher for their book before it came out was as low as 500 pounds. So we have that on one side of scale. And on the other side of the scale, we have writers like Richard Osman, and increasingly in the UK, that is celebrity writers who are writing novels that are taken pretty seriously where they are paid millions of pounds. But there's lots of other writers like Richard Osman, who aren't quite as successful, but are tearing up the pages and running up the best selling shirts. So Bob Mortimer, that comedian being one can think of her name, but a young woman from Harry Potter, who is an actress wrote a novel that was really well reviewed and seem to sell well last year. For me, that can feel sometimes like publishing and writing is like a game that's already been fixed. And it's a fixed game that has been fixed to reward the people who are already winners. So people who are celebrities, people who already have massive online audiences, for whatever reason, but also more normal people who just happen to come from wealth. So this report was talking about how the household income for many writers is supported by somebody else who has a much higher wage earner or families that can support the writer, so writers who come from inherited wealth, or maybe they're being supported by their parents. So in terms of Richard Osmonds experience and how that might be a bit different than a typical writers, his debut advances announced that's in the millions of pounds, your advance tends to match up with the publicity and marketing support that you're given internally. And so you may be given I'm sure he was given the most senior people to support him in terms of marketing and publicity. Increasingly, something that was surprising to me is that writers are being encouraged to hire their own PR support, because they're not always given any PR or marketing internally. And here, I'm not talking about self published writers, I'm talking about writers who are working with major publishing companies. And sometimes writers whose names you would have heard of who are basically being told, we just don't have support, we can't do publicity, we can't do marketing for you. And so you should hire your own people. And I have heard of writers within my own group of friends, where they were given quotes for hiring their own publicity where the publicist costs were higher than they were being paid for selling their book. So that is pretty shocking, and I think has put us in a situation where winner take all is a very good description of that dynamic. We talked a bit about Richard Osman, as a person, and I have to say, yeah, he seems really charming and wonderful, and I can only be happy for him and his success. But I do wish that there could be a fundamental look at how publishing works so that that gap between people who are already celebrities and being paid a million pounds for their book wasn't quite so big when compared to people who are being paid 500 pounds for their book and then told to spend 20,000 pounds on publicity.
The interesting thing, I think, that somehow ties into the warmth and goodwill, people feel towards Richard Wiseman is that he is from a very ordinary background. He wasn't in any way, someone who had a privileged childhood, his parents built up when he was quite young, his mom then had to work very hard to support him and his brother on her own. He went to a state school. And he also has problems with his vision. He has a condition, which means he doesn't see very well. So he had to really work extra hard. He ended up going to Cambridge, and he studied politics and sociology, I think it was. So it's very much a story of someone who through his own worth or merits, brilliant, it is brilliant, brilliant, did really, really well. And then when he came to write the Thursday Motor Club, he had already been working for 20 years in TV production, working for animal producing these really successful game shows. So I realised by that point, he had proven that he was someone who could generate money. So then made sense to me that obviously, this book is not the work of someone who is a gifted writer. It just isn't. But he
has an audience, which I think is what was important to the publisher, he had an audience
and did anything. And, you know, he had a good idea. It is a good idea, this idea that you've got this quite overlooked, but significant section of our population, who tend to be thought of as just sort of set aside Oh, well, off they go, you know, they're not really part of society anymore. They're not contributing or doing anything meaningful with their time. Let's park them in care homes or hospitals or whatever and off they dwindled. And what I loved about this, which I think is genuinely very good and very charming is the idea of No, these are people who have had long, successful lives and careers and those skills don't go away. They still have all that. And so what are they doing with all this know how and life wisdom and experience that they've accumulated? I thought that was very pleasing and charming hook, you can't dismiss it. Sue, what do you think about that?
I think you're absolutely right. I remember in my career as a fitness teacher of various kinds going to a master class once on fitness for the over 50s. And the woman said, when you know, they used to have very good jobs. And I thought, in what way does they're very good or not very good job, have any relation on how you would do exercise with them. And I'm sitting there in the front row, clearly older than most of the other people around I was so angry, I drove home so fast afterwards, I got a speeding ticket. I was just so angry with her. Because, you know, why should you stop doing something because you're older, if you're good at it, and you enjoy it, and people want you to do it. Colleen, who doesn't come from UK had not heard of Mary Wesley who started writing when she was at the chamomile norm. Exactly. The camera alone and many others. Yeah, that's the one beauty to have been at. Another friend and colleague of mine was asking, because she wanted to read her and I said, Oh, I've got some here. And there another kind of book that people think, you know, it's just a pretty average kind of a read. Cosy domestic Well, actually, she'd not that cosy, actually, all the time, which was probably the 70s I guess, when she was writing. You know, there's quite a lot of sex and rock'n'roll I didn't about drugs. She went on writing, and she was very successful.
The other writer whose name is sort of hanging over this conversation, but I don't think we've mentioned yet is Agatha Christie, who wrote from the 1920s until the 1970s. So she had a very long career, including writing in her older years, and she was somebody whose work is massively respected in general is somebody who a lot of people would name as their favourite writer. I think she sold the most books of anyone ever. And I would say I would consider myself an Agatha Christie fan, to the extent that I once had a mystery birthday party that my husband organised where he photoshopped my pets, my cats and my baby to look like Agatha Christie characters. I really love her. But I also would say that some of my objections to this particular book the things that I didn't like about it seem pretty typical of the cosy crime genre, and are things that I could say, you know, I didn't like this about Richard Jasmine's book, then characterization and over reliance on plot that you would say are similar and typical of Agatha Christie's books as well. Yes, I
mean, Bridget Olson was by no means the first person to think of having a little old lady running around solving crimes we'll see. The cosy crime genre, I don't read crime, so crime because crime, I thought it was helpful to look it up. It's a genre of crime fiction that is relatively gentle and light hearted, with little or no graphic or gruesome detail. There was also a helpful list on Goodreads of cosy mysteries. The British cosy mystery is not necessarily cute amateur sleuths and cupcakes, but more atmosphere and character than violence. These stories take place within the British Isles. Nothing exceptionally gory or violent but with great atmosphere, dialogue and characters. mysteries that fly off the pages and stay with you long after you've finished reading. I was curious about some of the titles the mysterious affair at styles are cutie pie. Whoa, that's Agatha Christie obviously, the sweetness at the bottom of the pie by Alan Bradley caladium of all food, murder at the vicarage again Agatha Christie, introducing Agatha raisin the quiche of death by MC Beaton from dune with death inspector Wexford. I've heard of him murder at Melrose caught Christmas murder. And then it goes on murder on a Monday and I thought all day of the week perhaps that's the thing buried in a bog by Sheila Connolly, and a scone to die for the Oxford Tea Room mystery series that was surely the apotheosis of the cosy crime genre my personal favourites given how I feel about them pancakes and corpses are given how I feel about pancakes and what corpses by Agatha cross. So yes, that's the other thing to consider isn't it is the Thursday murder club, it's slotting into a genre that people love and have certain expectations of already. How successfully do we think it does that to my mind? I think it does that quite well. It feels warm. There are obviously some birders but not in any way troubling ones. I wasn't unsettled or disturbed by any of them, which I guess is what you want.
I think that there's certain inoffensiveness that also makes this book a really good gift purchase. I can see why. We had three copies in my house I was not expecting. I was looking around and I realised that just multiple people had bought it for us for Chris because it's one of those books that it's not going to offend people, most people will have heard of Richard Azzaman. In the UK, you go to a bookstore and say what book I need to buy a book for somebody for Christmas, what should I buy, and this is one of the books that people would recommend. In this book, there are lots of themes where there could have been an exploration of some social issues, for example, about social care about dementia treatment about the NHS. And Richard Osman isn't trying to do any of those things. I would say that's the same with Agatha Christie, where she could have commented more directly on colonialism and her books on changing social classes, her books and his books aren't intended to be social critiques of the way that we live. Now. What they're both trying to do is amuse and entertain. And I think that they obviously did that successfully with a lot of people. Cosy crime doesn't rely on any direct tackling of social issues that some readers might find offensive. Some readers would have strong opinions about social care in the NHS, they're not going to be bothered by anything they read in this book. There is a level of third characterization which is something that really bothered me as a reader and as a writer, especially the people who are the quote unquote baddies to me felt a little bit cartoonish. There is one in particular who is called in, and when he is introduced within the first three pages of him being introduced, he parks in a disabled spot, he makes really offensive and racist comments about a Polish filter, he tries to screw over this polish builder for a relatively small amount of money. He refuses to buy a coffee because it's Fairtrade and it costs 15 Pence more, and you make some horrific comment to the extent of it wasn't going to pay an extra 15 Pence to benefit somebody he would never meet in a country he would never go to. And then after having this ridiculous back and forth dance about paying this builder, 3000 pounds or something that he's owed, he gets into his car, which is a Range Rover in which he has had gold plated and he makes himself a smoothie with a particular type of Icelandic yoghurt. Here's another baddie who is a sort of gangland drug dealer who's similarly dressed in his leaflets best and tattooed and has all of the hallmarks of being a real battery. If you ask a 10 year old what a battery looks like, they would probably draw this guy. That's still those slots very comfortably within cosi prime.
I know you was saying to me, Colleen, that this is very, very popular in the United States. And you were saying you don't quite understand why. And I'm not quite sure that I understand why. Because with that signal Avilan to somebody in Minnesota or whatever state it might be, who perhaps hasn't been to UK or travelled very much.
The question of cultural translation was fascinating to me as I was reading this book, because so many of the jokes and so many of the details seem incredibly British is so
specific it is. So that's why it's funny. You laugh with this kind of delighted recognition because he nails all these common everyday things, but I can't imagine it American reader and a European reader, you know, what are they gonna make of it, but it does seem to have done okay, you know, it's sufficiently bulletproof that it even survives, taking out all the cultural references and the jokes, apparently,
yeah, it's interesting on my travels, when I used to travel a lot more, I remember meeting a couple Bronk in the States, and they had been watching something on TV that I watched. I think it was dark, Martin, you're right, God, you've got such good memory. And they were appalled that I never watched Doc Martin and wasn't up to speed with characters or anything like that. I think Doc Martin is set in the West of England in Cornwall in a fishing village, something like that. So I guess that seems like the sort of place that you would visit. When you come to the UK on your holidays from somewhere different would be a nice place to go and nice to see nice looking pubs. There is a posh restaurant. Isn't that in the thirsty Motor Club?
I mean, the food I thought in Thursday murder club has quite an interesting role to play, doesn't it? And yes, the residents of Cooper's chase have access to this really fantastic gourmet restaurant where the food all sounds absolutely mouth watering. And one of the funny ongoing jokes is that they're constantly having a credibly boozy, long lunches because they don't have offices to go back to
do read why? Yeah.
I mean, I loved all that. I thought there was a certain amount of wish fulfilment in that because it is a bit of a fantasy. I mean, you know few people. And not to say these places don't exist. Richard Osmonds mother lives in one, but less presumably to his fabulous earnings that have enabled him to help her buy a place there. I think he said that quite openly on that lovely desert island desk because that one of the great pleasures of his success has been being able to give things back to his mother after she gave to him. But the majority's experience of older life is not going to be that you can see how you might wish that it might be and it's quite nice to fantasise about that and know that such places exist. Maybe I think
Sue knows this, but I live right now next to a retirement community. It's not a luxury retirement community. It's very nice. It's on a canal. People who live There are more normal people with normal incomes. However, there is a level of storytelling, gossip. Everybody knows each other's business that felt very familiar to me. And that was, for me the most enjoyable part of reading the book I liked a sense of these people who were very good at things when they were young and working continued to be good at those things when they were older and retired. And yet that sense of this gossipy, in this case, extremely high end retirement community just felt very truly represented. For me,
the heart of this book was the character of Joyce, who is the one who used to be a nurse. One of the structural devices he uses is that we have her diary. And I just wanted to read you a little bit that stood out for me. She says, We arrived at Charing Cross 14 minutes late due to the slow running of this service, which Elizabeth had a good mutter about. I didn't need the loo on the train, which was a blessing. Last time I had been in London was the Jersey Boys with the gang, which was a while ago now. We used to go three or four times a year if we could, there were four of us. We do a matinee and be back on the train before Russia. It marks they do a gin and tonic and a can, if you've ever had it, we would drink them on the train home and giggle ourselves silly. The gang has all gone now to cancers and a stroke. We hadn't known that Jersey Boys would be our last trip. You always know when it's your first time, don't you, but you rarely know when it's your final time. Anyway, I wish I kept the programme. And so every so often, this book would just blindside me with a moment that was so poignant. And so moving. And my mother is in her late 70s. And she has a little gang, and they do this, they go on these trips, I'm always really happy because I know that she's got this group of friends. We don't live too far away. I see her relatively frequently, but I'm not in her life. And I think one of the things that felt poignant about this story in these characters in this community is that they all have children and grandchildren they're mentioned, but they're not really present in their lives, you know, they're off, they're busy, they're doing their jobs, they're working. And that's very much unsaid. But the way things are, there were just moments that really did tug at my heartstrings. Later on. She says, in life, you have to learn to count the good days, you have to tuck them in your pocket and carry them around with you. Just little moments like that. I felt he was getting better at writing as he wrote this book. And it was no surprise to me at all, when someone mentioned on Instagram that they'd read the next two, and that they're better. She said he gets much better at the mechanics of the plot. was seeing someone learning how to do it and getting better and better. It just so happens that he's in this spotlight of having been catapulted to bestseller Doom and multimillion pound deals and now film rights and everything. But nonetheless, what you see is someone basically learning as they go along.
I remembered that was that is of course as you get older, you know you lose your friends. There was the character in the novel who's got dementia wasn't enough. And it's in that bit for people with dementia. And I have a friend who's got some form. I haven't been able to see her for a long time. And I've got friends who have died. My sister actually said to me, not so long ago. Make sure that if you have any new friends are all younger than you. So there's Coleen and she's moving off to Edinburgh.
How dare she, her friends forever, you can't get rid of me.
I was disappointed. I have to say I love a comfort read. I love a book I can switch off to but for me, those books really need to carry me away. I found this strangely hard work. I found it effortful in a way that I'm surprised when I read how many people say, oh, yeah, it was great. It was just such a good book to switch off to I flew through it. Because for me, every time I felt that moment of sinking into the story and sinking into these characters, there would be then some clunky plot device or an old bit of dialogue often threw me out the did that kept jerking me out. And someone said they felt it read almost like a TV programme they could see playing in their head. And I thought yes, you can absolutely see this as a film or TV series currently with some actors bring those characters to life smoothing out all the details. And I could see that working but as a book. For me. It didn't deliver on what I sort of hoped it would I suppose. I think what
you said earlier, but the being so many characters all around the edges. I think you're right, that was a bit confusing. But you know, I've never belonged to a book club. I've never had this kind of conversation in my life. So there you go. You could always do something new, no matter how old you are.
I suppose the other thing I would say is I found it very depressing. The idea of these older people who in the world of this book, although these older people live in a community and they are quite busy doing various things. And then our particular force, I mean, I've got this murder things so they get drawn into the real world and connection with the real life police force. But I found the overarching picture of old age to be utterly depressing. We've been very, very good about not spoiling the plot, and I think that's brilliant. I would hate to spoil the plot but just to say that more than one character at the end of this book ends their own lives, because they just can't really go on. They've had enough. Any anxieties, I may have been harbouring about dwindling into old age and dying. This book just sort of, like held them up and shone a spotlight on them all the time. But I found exhausting. It's just like I got, please tell me that I'm gonna go out running up a hill one day and just go like that. That's what I want to know. You don't don't I mean, I find myself having those kinds of thoughts. Those are not cosy, comforting thoughts. Anyone wanting to read, this is just me as as my own personal hang
up, the final three deaths are extremely depressing, and their deaths because of loneliness and because of illness. And you could argue because of guilt, but they are tied up in old age and ill health. And that was very difficult to read. Because the core four are a very dynamic group who don't seem entirely defined by age and don't want to be entirely defined by their age. They are defined by what their skills and talents are, which is what was so refreshing and interesting. And yet the side characters are sort of defined by loss and grief, and ill health and how they meet their end really is the result of that.
Interesting. So we're talking about books are on one hand, Pete, so many people have said to me, Oh, yes, it was a feel good read this week as I read it during lockdown or after lockdown. And it was a feel good book, and I really enjoyed it. Whereas you find that particular strand in it, which you find upsetting or depressing, which they hadn't seen.
I had to think quite firmly and specifically about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I hold up as someone right there till the end working out every day in the gym solving justice for the States and the world. The Queen also great just powered on those for me. Necessary images to conjure up in my mind after I finish the Thursday Motor Club. Well, let's turn to the online reviewers who are like because they're happy to put their opinions out there and they're not really worried about what anyone thinks of them. Salto and give it five stars, saying, you know, these are difficult worrying times we find ourselves in. So we all occasionally need a break a diversion, some form of escapism, and if that's what you're looking for, then reading this book is one way of achieving that. I'm not easily amused, but I have to say that at times the Thursday Motor Club had me in fits of laughter. This novel is the perfect antidote to the sometimes depressing stuff that's been going on around us of late. My advice is to get your hands on a copy of this book ASAP. Then sit back in your favourite armchair with a mug of tea and a plate of biscuits at hand and just lose yourself in this compassionate, witty mystery created by the inimitable Richard Osman. Mr. Dennis Manning writes, this book is the first one of an amazing set of three so far, they are all some of the funniest books I have ever read. And he adds it probably helps if you're older than 50. But of course, not everyone is a fan guna gave it two out of five stars and said not bad, but seriously overdoes the quirky pensioners when you can predict upcoming old ladies cake talk. It's not a good sign. Guy locked by five by five give it two stars. Not for me too slow, no excitement, boring. Lots of characters who will instantly forgettable. Two stars because I am an insomniac. And I actually did fall asleep a couple of times reading this otherwise one star. I tell you what, I have had some great conversations with people about this book. So I like it for that. You know, we always like the books that get people talking. I wouldn't particularly say do this one for book club. I don't know what you call it. And Sue would think no, no from me. As a partner from Killeen,
I think it's a no from me. Yeah. But it's interesting that it's given us plenty to talk about. And that's often quite good, I think in life to have that even though you think, Oh, I didn't enjoy it, or like that film or whatever it was, but it's given us plenty to talk about. And it's helped somebody go to sleep as somebody who doesn't always sleep very well myself in work for me, but I'm so glad it worked for her.
Thank you both so much for joining me. It's been so lovely to have you here. I'm so glad that we could have this chat.
Thank you very much.
Laura, when I propose doing an episode on the Thursday murder club, as is often the way actually I'm conscious that I was slightly imposing a reading task on you that you wouldn't necessarily have chosen for yourself. You didn't seem keen? Did you in fact, read any of it?
Well, and then I got to get out of jail free card because I went away on holiday to the Baja and Mexico for two weeks. And you just needed to record it and you to get this episode out to our keen listeners. So I just got the treat of listening to you. Coleen and Sue talk about it. I have read the first 10% on my Kindle. But yes, I didn't invest. Beyond that. I didn't pay the 599 that would have let me read the whole thing.
You lived in the UK for a long time. You're probably a bit familiar with Richard Wiseman. He did any of that charm and that appeal that we were talking Wow, did any of that come across to you?
So two funny things. Last night, I was rereading that 10%. And it must be quite a short book, because I got through that fairly quickly.
It didn't feel like a short book.
And my husband was being slightly annoying, but just kind of like, I don't know if your husband does this, but I'm like I'm reading and you know, it's bedtime, and he's puts his head on my shoulder. And I'm just like, you know, this is all very nice, but I'm trying to focus and then he's reading with me, which is even more annoying. And he goes, this seems really basic. He's like, What is this? And I was like, oh, it's the Thursday murder club, this publishing sensation in the UK by Richard Osman. He's like, Oh, yeah. Richard Osman. And I was like, Who, what? And he's like Richard Azzaman. Like, who's Richard Osman. So I had no idea that it was written by a celebrity who I do recognise but don't know by name. And that certainly helped me understand why it had been so successful.
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I think one of my frustrations with it is even now, I'm feeling like, you know, I feel like it wasn't good. But why? Why wasn't it good? When, on so many levels? It feels like it succeeds. It seems like it's succeeding and delivering what people who want cosy chrome want. And it's succeeding in terms of just rocketing up the sales charts, and I'm sure satisfying rituals, wins publishers, and I feel like maybe, you know, the difficulty with it is that ultimately, what I'm trying to critique is capitalism. You know, it's not Richard Osmonds book, it's the fact that in a consumer driven world, a book that objectively isn't that great can achieve these kinds of sales figures. And I think then that was enhanced by having Colleen there and it was written a great book, but which will never achieve even a fraction of originals and sales. And that just seems like a shame. And so I feel like I've wanted it to be a fun, light hearted episode. That was certainly my expectations when we went into it. But I suppose by examining this book more carefully, what you end up shining a spotlight on is the publishing industry, the consumer industry, and that just felt ultimately like a bit of a downbeat. Not such a great story after all.
Yeah, I was surprised listening to you guys. How, in some ways measured you we're about the book,
I feel like if nothing else, we did take it seriously.
Take it seriously. And you also, I think, explains in large part why it is a publishing phenomenon. Partially Richard Osman celebrity, but as you said, he's an ideas man, you know, he knows how to hook people. And he has primarily done that through TV shows and quizzes, but he knows what works. So it's not just his celebrity, I do think this book could well have been successful, without his name attached to it, whether or not a publisher would have taken the leap and decided to invest in it. That's a much bigger question, but I think it would have found a readership. I think what you guys didn't say is that the writing is just really terrible. Like my husband is not a reader, and he's looking over my shoulder. And he's like, gosh, that's really basic. He thought the characters were teenagers when he was reading it, because the dialogue was so simple. I'm like, oh, no, they're supposed to be seniors and a retirement home. He's like, Oh, and then in reading I did online. Some people said that it reminded them of Enid Blyton. Did you come across that kind of like the Famous Five having high jinks going solve a crime together? Yeah. And
I think that was one of the Amazon reviews and what you have to reflect on that is that Enid Blyton sold a lot of books.
Hey, I loved Enid Blyton as a child, and I kind of want to read this book. Now, I don't want to buy it. But if I see it on someone else's bookshelf, or if I can find a copy of the library, I think it's gonna have to be put in front of me served to me on a silver platter. But I'm really curious. Now, I'm really curious about the plot and the crime in the offing of random character. One
thing we can say about this book is that it is highly likely that you will come across a secondhand copy. In my own local bookshop. There were, I think, four copies of the Thursday murder club on the shelves. I think that also tells you something, it's the book that maybe people will pick up and enjoy reading once, but once the crime has been sold, I think you're unlikely to ever want to read it again. And yeah, there are just an awful lot of copies of this book floating around. Okay. All right. Well, let's think about our following recommendations. Did anything come to mind for you?
Well, like you, I don't read a huge amount of crime. I have dabbled with Agatha Christie and enjoyed them very much. I can see why people turn to Agatha Christie when they're looking for a comfort read in the way that we turn to Georgia. And here's romance novels. What came to mind for me was the sanatorium by Sarah purse, which is another recent bestseller. It's not cosy cry. Let's
talk cosy at all. No,
but at the same time, it's not dark, sinister, Northern European crime. It's a fall somewhere in the middle is that Fairy.
You know, if you've read the Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, then your idea of a Swiss sanatorium is going to be very cosy, nice food. It's funny.
I should tell listeners a little bit about that one. Just for context. I read that on holiday and it was a palate cleanser. And I do think context is king. Sometimes when you're reading a commercial novel, if you're primed for something easy, and that's what you're looking for, you can be very uncritical. And so Kate's read this novel the sanatorium after I sort of raved about it as light fiction, and well, I won't put words in your mouth, Kate, but what did you think
it was way too dark for me, but I agree that what was great about it was that she was very good at keeping you guessing. There were a lot of jumpscares in it, which you don't really expect when you're reading. It was quite
a thing. The novel set in a luxury hotel former sanatorium in the Swiss Alps and a young tortured detective, she's still only in her late 20s has travelled to the hotel to attend her estranged brothers engagement party, but then people start to go missing, and it goes on from there. He thought it was a crowd pleaser. Very different, I think an example of what crime can achieve and in some ways I think this book should have been recognised with awards beyond the genre, is the witch elm by Tana French. It's a really dark, disturbing study of a young man's life unravelling after a brutal beating that's left him with brain damage. And this coincides with a skeleton being found in a witch elm that grows at the bottom of his family homes garden, and our protagonist doesn't know if he put it there. He doesn't remember because of this beating. This is a real psychological thriller. There's a very deaf study of white male privilege and what it feels like to lose that through disability. I don't want to read any more tonne of French because this book got under my skin. I know she's great. I can see it. She's wonderful writer. I think she's one of the Queen's of the genre, as I understand it, but nothing too much for me.
I think in a way, that's also something that it feels like people who love this genre, enjoy us knowing that there are other books in a series that they can go on to. It's a bit like fantasy, it feels like a big part of its appeal. I thought a bit more carefully about the cosy crime aspect. I didn't have any contemporary recommendations, because it's just not a genre I ever really read. But going back into the past, I came up with something that I believe I've recommended to you in the past. I'm not sure if you ever get around to reading it. And that's a book by Giorgio hare, who we both love. She in addition to her romances, it's perhaps less well known that she also churned out crime novels. She wrote probably about 20 or so crime novels. And when I was in my keenest phase of Georgia hair appreciation, I systematically read my way through all of them, I found almost all of them incredibly disappointing. They didn't really work for me. And I didn't think they were anything like as good as the romances. But there was one, actually, when the first ones I ever read the thing that made me realise that she wrote these crime novels. It's called death in the stocks. And it is classic crime keeper, you've got this corpse that's found in stocks, you know, like sort of mediaeval stocks that are still standing on this village green. So he turns up, and then you gradually get to know the various other members of his family. There is Detective superintendent homicide of the police force, who is one of his recurring figures. This is one in a series of books where he's a central figure. But in fact, the main character doing the investigating here is a family member. He's a lawyer, his name is Giles. And he is the classic grey owed Georgia hair hero in a way that was all the hook I needed. But what I love about this is that the characters are good, much better. They always know I don't agree, you see, and it feels like in a way, maybe this is the thing. It seems like that's not perhaps such a essential feature of a crime novel. It feels like well drawn.
As I mentioned, George it here. No, I
think, or at least well, this is my point of what I was surprised about. It feels like a lot of her crime novels, the characters aren't really very well drawn. They're very thin and sketchy. And what I love about this particular one is that the characters do feel really rich and rounded. And they're very charming. And it's a good mystery as well. I think she keeps you guessing quite well, not me, because I've read it about 10 times. But yeah, I really recommend that it's really worth seeking out. And another one, probably from around the same era. That's a curiosity I stumbled across in the Oxfam bookshop the other day, is by a mill. Before he found fame with the Winnie the Pooh novels, he wrote a detective novel. I did just want to read a bit from the introduction because he's quite thoughtful about detective novels in general. He says, I have a passion for detective stories of beer and enthusiasts who said that it could never be bad, but that some brands might be better than others. In the same spirit, if I may use the word I approach every new detective story, this is not to say that I am uncritical on the country, I have all sorts of curious preferences, and the author has to satisfy me on many strange matters before I can award him an honorary degree. Thus to take a point, I prefer that a detective story should be written in English. I remember reading one in which a particularly fascinating murder had been committed, and there was much speculation as to how the criminal had broken into the murdered man's library. The detective, however, said the author was more concerned to discover how the murderer had affected and aggress It is to me a distressing thought that in nine tenths of the Detective Stories of the World murderers and continually affecting aggressors, when they might just as easily go out. The sleuth, the hero, and the many suspected all use the same strange tongue and we may be forgiven for feeling that neither the natural excitement of killing the right man nor the strain of suspecting the wrong one is sufficient excuse for so steady flow of bad language. On the great love question, opinions may be divided, but for myself, I will have none of it. A reader all agog to know whether the white substance on the muffins was asked Nick or face powder cannot be held up. Well, Roland clasps Angela's hand, a moment longer than the customer usages of society dictate. Much might have happened in that moment, properly spent footprints made or discovered cigarette ends picked up and put in envelopes. By all means, let Roland have a book to himself in which to clasp anything he likes. But in a detective story, he must attend strictly to business. And it goes on. I love that introduction. And I've been enjoying this. I feel like it's got all the things that you want. It's got the country house, it's got a murderer, but not in any way a distressing one. It's got a visitor to the House who ends up being drawn in and he ends up being the one who's putting the pieces together. I'm pretty sure scones are consumed at some point, which seems like cosy crime, you know, you'd hope for nothing you want exactly. And so I thought perhaps that might be a good one for people to try.
I think for me, those are great recommendations to the point where I don't want to derail my current reading. But I mean, any excuse to recharge in here, especially a novel I haven't read before. I think there's a great Did you see the Agatha Christie series that came out around Christmas a few years ago? Gosh, it's probably like eight years ago now, though. The ABC murder Yeah,
she's really just so not for me that I wouldn't have noticed if they had
the 2018 miniseries, the ABC murders listeners is super good fun. John Malkovich plays for Hercule or Hercules. Claro que Thank you. There you go. John Malkovich. John, Mel, believe it.
It was a long two weeks in Mexico.
Oh, my it was great.
Well, I had her I asked Colleen for a couple of her recommendations.
I have two vintage recommendations and they are Patricia Highsmith Strangers on a Train and also gaudy night by Dorothy Sayers. I have a more modern recommendation, which is a book called mouth to mouth by Antoine Wilson. And it is a literary thriller. It's very slim. It's less than 200 pages. And it is about two old college acquaintances who run into each other at an airport. And one of the men confides in the other story of something that happened to him earlier in his life, which is that he saved a man from drowning. And then he gradually insinuated himself into that man's life without tipping him off to the fact that he is the person who saved him from drowning. So there is a sense of tightness that goes throughout the book of trying to understand why this man is telling the other man this at the airport and also trying to understand what this man is going to do and his backstory. I found it incredibly satisfying read with really elegant writing.
That's quite unsettling, isn't it? And Patricia Highsmith is quite I mean, there's nothing cosy about Patricia Highsmith. That's what I
was gonna say that doesn't sound very cosy.
This is my anti cosy reading this extremely jittery and disturbing reading this maybe, maybe you could say that Dorothy Sayers a slightly cosy Guardian is a lord Peter Wimsey. Part of that series. Strangers on the train is about two men who meet on a train and decide together to eliminate problems in each other's lives. They realise that because they have met, who incidentally, no one is going to be able to track them to murdering people and the other ones lives. And so that is what they decide to do. Each one decides to murder someone in the other person's life. And then obviously, things get a little bit more complicated from there. It's a really wonderful book. It's a really wonderful film. I think Alfred Hitchcock directed the film version of it, but all really wonderful and I guess maybe I should recommend one cosy Agatha Christie. Oh, which one? I most recently reread a murder as announced, which I don't think is her best book, but I think it's a pretty good one. There is a small village the local newspaper runs an advertisement saying that at such and such a time Murder is announced in one of the village homes and the person who lives in the home is surprised to find this. Everybody else thinks it's some sort of murder mystery party that is supposed to happen. They're excited by it. There's a rush of titillation through the village. And so they all show up in this person's home and someone is, in fact murdered. And the clock ticks off from there.
I have one more which I was just reflecting on the Thursday Motor Club and Richard Osman, of whom now I am the world's biggest fan. I'm currently working my way through season three of taskmaster and enjoying every moment of it. He's great. But yeah, I was thinking a bit more about him and the kind of person he is and his love of games and puzzles. And I was remembering a book called Leonard and Hungary pool by an Irish writer Ronan hessian which I read, and at the time, much like Richard Altman's book, I wasn't crazy about it. I don't really like books to be cosy. And I don't really like books that are about ordinary, everyday things. But there is something really lovely about this book. And I'm pleased I read it. And actually, I have to say the degree to which it has stayed with me, and I've enjoyed reflecting back on it has surprised me, let alone hungry Paul is the story of two friends who ordinarily would remain uncelebrated. It finds a value in specialist in them, but is not immediately apparent, and prompts the idea that maybe we could learn from the people we overlook in life, let it and hungry pool change the world differently to the rest of us. We try and change it by effort and force, they change it by discovering the small things they can do well, and offering them to others. So it's these two friends. One of them is called Hungry bull. You never find out why. And it's about their daily lives. It's about their families, they get together to play ball games. It's all very gentle. It's very cosy. But there was a nice quote from author Diane Setterfield, I thought summed up quite well. She said, this quality brilliant book is as funny as it is wise, as tender as it is groundbreaking. Ronan heshan minds the gold in the modest lives and ordinary friendships that might appear on promising to another writer. And my goodness, he finds it. It's also a happy book. And we need those.
You've recommended that book a few times. And every time I just think, ah, sounds boring. But time in place. Right.
Thanks. So it's just that thing about, it would be unfair to say that there wasn't anything I liked about the Thursday murder club, because actually, I did really rather love the little moments in the old people's home, or the little observations, the little everyday things. Sometimes it is nice to pay attention to those things. And I think also the extent to which it's made me reflect on my closeness to my parents, as they age. We live fairly close. I see them regularly. I'm off there for lunch tomorrow. But I suppose it reminded me about the fact that they're not going to be there forever. And I want to make sure that I spend time with them while I can, perhaps is because it's tapping into that and my anxieties about that maybe that I wasn't able to just kick back and enjoy this book in the way that seven and a half million other people have. But that's just me. That's all for this episode. Our book recommendations were the sanatorium by Sarah Pierce, the Witch L by Tana French death in the stocks by Georgette here. The Red House mystery by a mill. Mouth to mouth by Antoine Wilson. gaudy night by Dorothy L says Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith. A murder is announced by Agatha Christie and Leonard and hungry pool by Ronan hessian. To find out more about Colleen and her novel housebreaking, check the show notes for the link to her website, Colleen hubbard.com. Listeners, her book is great. Tell your friends. When the paperback comes out. Let's get it to Osman level sales. Meanwhile, thanks to penguin audio for the clip of the Thursday murder club that's available to buy through your preferred audio book written. This episode of The Book Club Review was edited and produced by me Kate sloth over. If you want to support us, we'll soon be letting you know all the details of our new Patreon service, where for a small monthly amount, we'll bring you extra episodes and book recommendations. We're also after five years of ad free episodes going to have a bit of advertising on the show. So if you want to avoid those, you'll find that option through Patreon as well. Whenever you listen to this episode, if you have thoughts on it, we'd love to hear them. Comment anytime on the episode page of our website, the book club review.co.uk, where you'll also find full show notes, book recommendations and the transcript. comments there go straight to our inboxes so do drop us a line we'd love to hear from you. You can also sign up for our free bi weekly ish newsletter for extra views and recommendations. If you'd like to see what we're up to in between episodes, follow us on Instagram or Facebook at Book Club Review podcast on Twitter at book club RBW pod or get in touch at the book club firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're not already, do subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. And please do take A moment to rate and review the show which really helps other listeners find us but for now thanks for listening and happy book clubbing