‘The Man Who Died Twice’ by Richard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can the Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

So, like many people who loved ‘The Thursday Murder Club’, I was hungry for more and bought the next book in the series, ‘The Man Who Died Twice’, as soon as it was published.

It was a book that had a lot to live up to. It almost managed it, but not quite. If this had been my first Richard Osman book, I’d be writing a really positive review saying:

‘Hey, look who I found. This guy can write, he knows how to deliver a clever plot that mixes spy book with heist thriller and murder mystery and has some unusual but credible characters. Read him.’

I had fun with ‘The Man Who Died Twice’. There was a lot to like. All my favourite characters from ‘The Thursday Murder Club were there. Elizabeth took centre stage as her past caught up with her and she found herself at the centre of Byzantine plotting, brutal execution-style shootings and a chase for missing diamonds. But Elizabeth didn’t go it alone, she took her fellow Murder Club members along with her, although Ibrahim’s role was reduced by an unfortunate encounter towards the start of the book. The plot was strong and full of surprises. The humour worked and it was nice to learn a little bit more about each of the ensemble cast. It also managed to stay grounded in the plausible, even though it involved guns and a Safe House and American gangsters and spies who were long ago thought dead.

It was a satisfying, entertaining read.

But it wasn’t ‘The Thursday Murder Club’.

Sequels are always a challenge. You don’t want to repeat the first book but you don’t want to lose what made the first book special and you need to come up with something new that will keep everyone moving forward. ‘The Man Who Died Twice’ did a pretty good job in the circumstances but the first book cast a long shadow and there were things about it that I missed.

‘The Thursday Murder Club’ was driven by the discovery of characters and their relationship to one another. Yes, the plot was driven by secrets and lies but they were very personal secrets. They felt domestic and closely linked to the people and it was always the people and not their secrets that kept me turning the pages. ‘The Man Who Died Twice’ is driven by a clever plot that, while it’s closely linked to Elizabeth’s past, still takes us far away from day-to-day life. The characters that made the first book special all have a role to play in making the plot work. Their roles fit them well and I enjoyed seeing them work together to do their thing. But it wasn’t as intimate as the first book.

Still, I had a good time and I’ll be there for the third book.

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