Extract: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?
Read on for the first chapter of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – and make sure you don’t miss Richard in conversation with none other than Mark Billingham on Tuesday 1st September at 7:30pm! Register for the online event here.
The Thursday Murder Club
Killing someone is easy. Hiding the body, now that’s usually the hard part. That’s how you get caught.
I was lucky enough to stumble upon the right place, though. The perfect place, really.
I come back from time to time, just to make sure everything is still safe and sound. It always is, and I suppose it always will be.
Sometimes I’ll have a cigarette, which I know I shouldn’t, but it’s my only vice.
Meet New People and Try New Things
Well, let’s start with Elizabeth, shall we? And see where that gets us?
I knew who she was, of course; everybody here knows Elizabeth. She has one of the three-bed flats in Larkin Court. It’s the one on the corner, with the decking? Also, I was once on a quiz team with Stephen, who, for a number of reasons, is Elizabeth’s third husband.
I was at lunch, this is two or three months ago, and it must have been a Monday, because it was shepherd’s pie. Elizabeth said she could see that I was eating, but wanted to ask me a question about knife wounds, if it wasn’t inconvenient?
I said, ‘Not at all, of course, please,’ or words to that effect. I won’t always remember everything exactly, I might as well tell you that now. So she opened a manila folder, and I saw some typed sheets and the edges of what looked like old photographs. Then she was straight into it.
Elizabeth asked me to imagine that a girl had been stabbed with a knife. I asked what sort of knife she had been stabbed with, and Elizabeth said probably just a normal kitchen knife. John Lewis. She didn’t say that, but that was what I pictured. Then she asked me to imagine this girl had been stabbed, three or four times, just under the breastbone. In and out, in and out, very nasty, but without severing an artery. She was fairly quiet about the whole thing, because people were eating, and she does have some boundaries.
So there I was, imagining stab wounds, and Elizabeth asked me how long it would take the girl to bleed to death.
By the way, I realize I should have mentioned that I was a nurse for many years, otherwise none of this will make sense to you. Elizabeth would have known that from somewhere, because Elizabeth knows everything. Anyway, that’s why she was asking me. You must have wondered what I was on about. I will get the hang of writing this, I promise.
I remember dabbing at my mouth before I answered, like you see on television sometimes. It makes you look cleverer, try it. I asked what the girl had weighed.
Elizabeth found the information in her folder, followed her finger and read out that the girl had been forty-six kilos. Which threw us both, because neither of us was sure what forty-six kilos was in real money. In my head I was thinking it must be about twenty-three stone? Two to one was my thinking. Even as I thought that, though, I suspected I was getting mixed up with inches and centimetres.
Elizabeth let me know the girl definitely wasn’t twenty-three stone, as she had a picture of her corpse in the folder. She tapped the folder at me, before turning her attention back to the room, and said, ‘Will somebody ask Bernard what forty-six kilos is?’
Bernard always sits by himself, on one of the smaller tables nearest the patio. It is Table 8. You don’t need to know that, but I will tell you a bit about Bernard.
Bernard Cottle was very kind to me when I first arrived at Coopers Chase. He brought me a clematis cutting and explained the recycling timetable. They have four different coloured bins here. Four! Thanks to Bernard, I know that green is for glass, and blue is cardboard and paper. As for red and black, though, your guess is still as good as mine. I’ve seen all sorts as I’ve wandered about. Someone once put a fax machine in one.
Bernard had been a professor, something in science, and had worked all around the world, including going to Dubai before anyone had heard of it. True to form, he was wearing a suit and tie to lunch, but was, nevertheless, reading the Daily Express. Mary from Ruskin Court, who was at the next table, got his attention and asked how much forty-six kilos was when it was at home.
Bernard nodded and called over to Elizabeth, ‘Seven stone three and a bit.’
And that’s Bernard for you.
Elizabeth thanked him and said that sounded about right, and Bernard returned to his crossword. I looked up centimetres and inches afterwards, and at least I was right about that.
Elizabeth went back to her question. How long would the girl stabbed with the kitchen knife have to live? I guessed that, unattended, she would probably die in around forty-five minutes.
‘Well, quite, Joyce,’ she said, and then had another question. What if the girl had had medical assistance? Not a doctor, but someone who could patch up a wound. Someone who’d been in the army, perhaps. Someone like that
I have seen a lot of stab wounds in my time. My job wasn’t all sprained ankles. So I said then, well, she wouldn’t die at all. Which she wouldn’t. It wouldn’t have been fun for her, but it would have been easy to patch up.
Elizabeth was nodding away, and said that was precisely what she had told Ibrahim, although I didn’t know Ibrahim at that time. As I say, this was a couple of months ago.
It hadn’t seemed at all right to Elizabeth, and her view was that the boyfriend had killed her. I know this is still often the case. You read about it.
I think before I moved in I might have found this whole conversation unusual, but it is pretty par for the course once you get to know everyone here. Last week I met the man who invented Mint Choc Chip ice cream, or so he tells it. I don’t really have any way of checking.
I was glad to have helped Elizabeth in my small way, so decided I might ask a favour. I asked if there was any way I could take a look at the picture of the corpse. Just out of professional interest.
Elizabeth beamed, the way people around here beam when you ask to look at pictures of their grandchildren graduating. She slipped an A4 photocopy out of her folder, laid it, face down, in front of me and told me to keep it, as they all had copies.
I told her that was very kind of her, and she said not at all, but she wondered if she could ask me one final question.
‘Of course,’ I said.
Then she said, ‘Are you ever free on Thursdays?’
And, that, believe it or not, was the first I had heard of Thursdays.
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