Literacy 2024: Book 5: The Man Who Died Twice

The second book in the Thursday Murder Club series

Book
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Series
Book 2 in the Thursday Murder Club series

Synopsis
Not long after finding the culprits behind a double homicide in the first book, retiree Elizabeth Best receives an intriguing note from someone in her past life as a spy. Following up on the note involves Elizabeth, along with the rest of the Thursday Murder Club and their new friends, in a case involving multiple murders, mobsters, and the disappearance of a fortune in diamonds.

Pros

  • Gets right into the story, now that the characters and their relationships have been established.
  • Doesn’t feel as aggressively cozy as its predecessor, treating its characters from the start not as “elderly people solving crimes,” but actual characters with a ton of life experience.
  • Light-hearted throughout, but one line in particular actually made me laugh out loud.
  • Does a pretty good job of capturing “the banality of evil.” We see into the minds of (some of) the villains, and are shown that even when we’re in their point of view, they’re not fascinating or even exciting, just willfully ignorant and selfish.
  • Often anticipates the reader’s main theories about what happened, and has a character explicitly call it out, to reassure the reader that they’re in sync.
  • The character of Elizabeth, which I didn’t like much in the first book since she was essentially a super-hero of plot convenience, is more fallible and relatable here.

Cons

  • One of the main clues was disappointingly obvious.
  • The tone overall is “light-hearted but poignant,” so the moments where it descends into outright comedy just feel weird and out of place.
  • Overuses the gimmick of building tension by having a character reflecting on how good their life is right now. (Although the last one was pretty sweet).
  • The climax strains credulity past the breaking point, insistent on tying up every loose end at once.
  • Although I do really like the character of Bogdan, he’s clearly become the infallible super-hero of plot convenience for this book.

Verdict
I think it’s better than the first book, more confident in its main characters and a little less eager to make them quirky and charming. The side characters still seem a little too try-hard, some of the jokes are extremely corny, and the gag of “old people so stubborn and seemingly harmless that they always get their way” has been over-used to its breaking point. But it is absolutely still a fun and light, character-driven mystery story that’s not so light that it evaporates.

Spoilers after the break

Spoilers:

  • I initially thought that the chapter told from Siobahn’s point of view was a cheat, but I re-read it and saw that the wording was carefully chosen so that it could read either way. That was clever.
  • Although I thought the public locker number clue was disappointingly obvious, I did like how Sue (and by extension, I’m guessing, Osman) called out Elizabeth for over-thinking everything.
  • The line that made me laugh out loud was Joyce’s reaction to her daughter’s warning that men on Instagram would keep sending her pictures of their genitals.

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