The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

The Blurb On The Back:

Four unlikely friends.

A murder with no body.

And trouble knocking at their door … 

It is an ordinary Thursday and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club is concerned.  A decade-old cold case leads them to a local news legend and a murder with no body and no answers.

Then, a new foe pays Elizabeth a visit.  Her mission?  Kill … or be killed.

As the cold case turns red hot, Elizabeth wrestles with her conscience (and a gun) while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim chase down clues with help from old friends and new.  But can the gang solve the mystery and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again? 

You can order THE BULLET THAT MISSED by Richard Osman from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s several weeks after THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE but the Thursday Murder Club never rests on its laurels and this time Joyce has picked the cold case murder for them to investigate.

Bethany Waites was a TV journalist and co-anchor of the regional news show South East Tonight with Mike Waghorn.  10 years ago she was conducting an investigation into a significant mobile phone VAT fraud when her car was found crashed off Shakespeare Cliff with her blood and clothes in it but her body was presumed washed out to sea.  Police later convicted Heather Garbutt for the fraud and she’s still in prison serving her sentence but while it was believed that Heather was merely a stooge for Jack Mason (a local crook), he was never prosecuted.

The Club invite Mike Waghorn to come and do a piece on the Coopers Chase retirement village followed up with an interview with union firebrand Ron to try and get Mike to tell them more about Bethany.  Thankfully he and the show’s make-up artist, Pauline Jenkins, are more than happy to share what they know and it isn’t long before the gang are digging deeper into Bethany’s investigation and the nasty notes that someone was leaving her while calling on PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson for information on her last movements.  

Ibrahim volunteers to discover what Heather has to say visitinge Connie Johnson who is currently on remand for her trial following the events of THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE in the same prison as Heather.  Connie makes Ibrahim aware that she will be killing Ron and Bogdan once the trial finds her innocent of murder and diamond and cocaine smuggling but is interested enough in the mystery to agree to help, not least because she’s intrigued to know what exactly has Heather so terrified.

Meanwhile Elizabeth has issues of her own.  Stephen’s Alzheimer’s is progressing more quickly and she’s finding it difficult to hide it from the others.  Worse, someone is sending her text messages saying that they know what she did and when she and Stephen are kidnapped, a mysterious figure she nicknames the Viking reveals that the diamonds stolen in THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE belonged to an ex-KGB chief turned criminal money launderer called Viktor Illyrich.  The Viking wants Elizabeth to kill Victor for him and if she doesn’t, then he will kill Joyce …

Oblivious to this threat, Joyce has acquired a small dog called Alan and is experimenting in the worlds of bitcoin and oat milk.  She is sure that Bethany’s murder has something to do with Fiona Clemence, the reporter who took over as Mike’s co-anchor when Bethany died and who now hosts the widely popular TV quiz Stop The Clock.  If she could just persuade Elizabeth that Fiona requires closer investigation …

The third in Richard Osman’s bestselling THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES is an absolute delight.  Osman’s lightness of touch carries the plot forward with a lot of humour while Ron and Ibrahim are fleshed out a lot more here than in the previous books.  At the same time, Stephen’s Alzheimer’s is sensitively shown and is slowly becoming more heart breaking while the hint of a new Coopers Chase resident in the next book offers a lot of potential.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB and THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE so was very much looking forward to reading this latest book and it did not disappoint.  Osman has really found his milieu in the cosy mystery genre.  He has a fabulous lightness of touch with his writing, which means that he can get across who his characters are without overburdening the reader with detail and I genuinely believe in his pensioners and their friendships with each other.  For example, Ron with his bad knee but his unwillingness to use a stick (second only to his reaction to Viktor’s declaration of his historic relationship with Elizabeth), Ibrahim’s relationship with Ron’s grandson Kendrick, Joyce wanting the approval of her daughter Joanna but feeling that she’s letting him down and Elizabeth’s fears for Stephen and herself.  

The humour works very well – whether it’s one liners or set ups to scenes (my favourite being when Pauline convinced Ron to go with her to a spa and his discomfort at having a massage).  At the same time, there is a lot of sadness in the book as Osman shows the impact that Alzheimer’s is having on Stephen.  It is done in a sensitive rather than a mawkish way and it is genuinely heartbreaking as you see what it is doing to him and what the effects of it are on those who know and love him (a scene where Elizabeth breaks down in a bathroom is particularly believable and all the more shocking given what you know about her).

There are also a lot of secrets being kept within the book and it will be interesting to see what happens when they begin to seep out.  For example Bogdan and Donna’s relationship is very much in the new love stages and although it’s very sweet (and I do love Bogdan), he is a murderer and not averse to criminal activity so it will be interesting to see how his background puts a strain on that.  It’s becoming obvious that Elizabeth is not going to be able to keep Stephen’s condition secret for much longer so the ramifications of that will undoubtedly affect the Club’s members.  Ibrahim knows that Connie is planning to kill Bogdan and Ron but doesn’t seem to have told the others while Ron discovers something from Pauline at the end of the book that he doesn’t seem minded to let them know about.  I really liked this because it shows that while they’re friends, they’re also individuals with their own lives and interests so it really brings more depth to the book and to the series as a whole.

The mystery itself is actually quite thin but I only realised that once I’d finished the book because the way it rolls along and is supported by the Viking storyline is so enjoyable.  That said, I enjoyed how starstruck Joyce is with Mike Waghorn and Fiona Clemence (with Osman fully indulging his love of quizzes with the show that Fiona fronts).  There wasn’t as much Chris and Donna as I would have liked and they are very much restricted to side kick and love interest territory, but I still enjoyed their dynamic and a scene where Chris is screen tested to take over from Chief Constable Andrew Everton and Donna is supporting him is a real delight.  I would have liked more interplay between Everton, Chris and Donna given that he is their senior officer but what you see with his promotion of his self-publishing writing career is entertaining and the end of his storyline definitely rang true.  If I had a nitpick then it was that the clues that unravel the mystery aren’t signposted enough for the reader so had a bit of a gotcha feel to them – not that this was a fatal issue for me but I do like at least a chance to try and figure it out for myself.

I actually found the ‘B’ plot with Viktor Illyrich more enjoyable than the main mystery because Illyrich is such a fun character given his wealth, connections and history with Elizabeth.  To be fair, the plot is as thin as the main storyline but I just thoroughly liked everything about it from the first interaction between Elizabeth and Stephen with the Viking to learning who Viktor is and how Elizabeth resolves her dilemma.  There’s a hint at the end that Viktor may become a more permanent member of the Thursday Murder Club and I would definitely be a happy camper if that happened.

All in all, this has left me very impatient to now read the fourth book in this series – if only to find out what Connie Johnson is going to do.  If you are into cosy mysteries or want a read with some gentle humour to it, then I definitely think you should check this book and series out.  

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