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12:00 AM 11th May 2024
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All Of Us Together: The Last Devil To Die By Richard Osman

 
Wow! That sums it up. Really, I loved this novel but I know you will want more than that, and if you are a regular reader, you will know that I don’t use one word when five hundred will do.

Although the plot is a standalone, it does help to have read the other three novels in the series, preferably in order, to appreciate how the friendships and relationships have developed. The characters we recognise, living in Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village, are all there – it’s like being reunited with old friends – and while details of their past lives might be alluded to, there is no need for a great introduction to any of them, this time around: Joyce, Elizabeth, Stephen, Ibrahim and Ron are joined, once more, by Patrice and Pauline, Bogdan, Donna and Chris, and not forgetting Alan, Joyce’s faithful four-footed companion. Viktor, once more, plays a small but vital role and even Connie Johnson makes her presence felt, despite her prison cell. There are new characters, of course, like Mervyn and Computer Bob and the SIO, Jill Regan, from the National Crime Agency, who tries to put them all in their place and whose presence suggests there might be more to this case than just a bit of heroin going missing and a dead body. Can Donna and Chris really fool Regan when they’ve been told to stand down from this case? (And is she possibly related to Jack, it’s the same spelling after all, but of course, now I’m showing my age).

Stephen’s friend Kuldesh, an antiques dealer, is chosen to store a hefty amount of heroin, until it can be collected by the next criminal in the chain but Kuldesh knows more about the package than he should and makes a couple of phone calls before he is found murdered – execution style - and the heroin disappears. Bad people want it back and the Thursday Murder Club want to know who killed their friend. As they go to work, they meet all kinds of ‘interesting’ people, (including Garth, a Canadian Mountain, not Mountie, who bakes an exceedingly good battenburg) but it seems identifying and capturing the murderer is not as easy as one might expect. Obviously, more deaths follow (including that of Snowy, a friendly fox) and the gang have to stay on their toes if they are to be safe.

...Kuldesh knows more about the package than he should and makes a couple of phone calls before he is found murdered – execution style - and the heroin disappears.
Of course, there’s a twist. Of course, the villain of the piece is someone you least expect and the motive is as old as the hills – greed. There is a strange sense of honour among criminals. If you kill people, you must expect at some time to be killed, so it’s fair, even if the police don’t always identify the correct perpetrator. And Connie is never too far behind and usually out front, always with an eye on the money, always prepared to take a chance and always one to spot an opportunity.

How many of us are vulnerable to scammers? In this day and digital age, it is important to take care out there and Osman weaves in a nice little sub-plot involving ‘romance fraud’, tying things up together very neatly by the end.

There is an emotional punch in one particularly poignant scene and there are definitely tears as the ensemble gathers for the finale.
The humour is gentler in this novel but it is still to be found, rippling through the conversations and asides. Some of the dialogue is hilarious. There is a softer tone, however, and a depth to the novel, as Osman deals very sensitively with the tragedy of dementia. His thoughtful descriptions of that terrible condition are comforting and compassionate and his exploration of end-of-life decision-making is fair and even-handed. There is an emotional punch in one particularly poignant scene and there are definitely tears as the ensemble gathers for the finale. He shows us that while there can be honour among thieves, ‘love has its own laws’ too, and even the toughest has a heart. We learn the meaning of Ibrahim’s boat and Joyce’s reason for writing in her journal, and he explains ‘the urgency of old age’, that there’s ‘nothing that makes you feel more alive than the certainty of death’. There’s plenty of profound thinking in this novel.

Once more, Osman has produced the perfect blend of humour, intelligence and emotion; the Thursday Murder Club does it again. Old friendships endure and new ones are born. I called it the finale but in fact, Osman promises he is only giving his characters a rest while he introduces a new partnership to his readers. The Thursday Murder Club will make a reappearance, not only in book form but on screen as stars have already been lined up for some roles, and I for one, can’t wait.


The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery is published by Viking Press