Return to Coopers Chase:
Last year, Richard Osman’s novel, The Thursday Murder Club, had become a bestseller. The funny and charming book, was set in a fancy senior citizen’s community called Coopers Chase and focussed on a gang of four friends, who help the cops solve a crime. That they are in their seventies is no deterrent to their energy and problem-solving skills. If required, they put on the confused, helpless old person act, when they are anything but doddering elders.
The much-awaited sequel, The Man Who Died Twice, is even better than the first—faster paced and tautly plotted. The mysterious past of the briskly efficient Elizabeth Best is revealed here, when her ex-husband, Douglas Middlemiss, turns up at Coopers Chase along with a handler, Poppy, to ask for help and protection. There is a fortune in stolen diamonds involved, local gangs, Mafia mobsters and MI6 spooks.
To keep their cop pals DCI Chris Hudson and Constable Donna De Freitas (she is gobsmacked by her mother’s romance with her boss) busy, there is the town’s biggest drug trafficker, Connie Johnson. Running alongside Douglas and Poppy’s story is an incident that affects the four friends a lot more. One of them, Ibrahim Arif, is mugged by a petty hood, and the other three, Elizabeth, Ron Ritchie and Joyce Meadowcroft, go all out to make sure the attacker is punished. Elizabeth’s cohort and admirer, the strong, silent, stoic Bogdan Jankowski returns with a bigger role, even as he sportingly drops by to play chess with Elizabeth’s husband, Stephen.
The multiple tracks come together most satisfyingly, the four seniors and their cop friends have a blast, all baddies get their just deserts.
While Osman does attempt to change the way people look at seniors—with a mix of pity and forced respect—he does not paper over the problems of old age. Stephen suffers from dementia, Ibrahim is borderline agoraphobic, and the writer suggests that people like them be treated with empathy. The family plays an important part too—a delightful segment involves Ron’s razor sharp grandkid, Kendrick, who enjoys spending time at Coopers Chase, and helps unravel a very important clue.
The Man Who Died Twice is humorous, warm, very entertaining and shows that age has nothing to do with living life to the fullest. However, while there may be a need to care for the elderly, there is no need to pity them–the message is gently dropped, not hammered down.
The Man Who Died Twice
By Richard Osman
Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking