Saturday, October 14, 2023

Review: The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood

A lot of people read scary books for the month of October. I am not one of those people. I am too much of a coward. But I also want to read spooky books like everyone else. So I compromise with myself. I read spooky adjacent books. You know the ones: they scare no one but there might be a mostly off-page murder or slight thriller-y bits. But I am picky and want something a half degree more plausible than the cozy mystery series that take up a ton of real estate at the bookstore. I may not want the knit shop owner and her cat to solve the murder, but I am all over feisty old folks solving murders. So I was more than delighted to pick up The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood.

Judith is 77. She lives happily on her own on the banks of the River Thames in the pleasant village of Marlow. She is a crossword setter for the Times, loves a glass or three of Scotch of an evening, and enjoys a private skinny dip in the river outside her door. One night she is out for her swim when she hears shouting and a gunshot from the neighbor's across the way. When she calls the police to investigate, they don't believe her so she takes it upon herself, returns to her neighbor's and finds his body. When two more people turn up dead, both also shot by an antique German Luger, it's possible that there's a serial killer on the loose. Judith teams up with Suzie, a local dogwalker, and Becks the very buttoned up mother of two and wife of the local vicar to look into the background of her neighbor in hopes that figuring out what got him killed will help them stop the killer before anyone else dies. As a crossword setter, Judith is quite good at figuring out clues and she, Suzie, and Becks will need all of their collective intelligence to unravel the crazy mystery and catch the killer.

These three women are delightfully kooky and do some madcap stuff in the course of their investigations. Each of them has a nicely worked out backstory (although Judith's has a hint of mystery: why does she keep one room in her house locked and what was her relationship with her late husband anyway?) and their growing friendship is quite appealing as each woman comes to appreciate her own inherent value. Everyone here is a suspect and the plot is rife with red herrings with the eventual solution being completely convoluted. The story can veer into the absurd (the police are really going to let these three women help them?) but the over all effect is fun and diverting if less than plausible. For big old scaredy-pants like me, it's a nice addition to mystery season.

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