The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood: Laugh-out-loud humour, superb plotting and a full-throttle finale - book review -
Septuagenarian crossword compiler Judith Potts has more than just three-across to puzzle over when she finds herself spearheading a hunt for her neighbour’s killer.
The picturesque riverside town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire becomes the unlikely (but charming!) backdrop for a thrilling new cosy crime series from Robert Thorogood, master of the murder mystery and creator of the hit TV series Death in Paradise.
Think classic crime with a lively, contemporary vibe and you have The Marlow Murder Club, a team of enchanting amateur sleuths comprising the adorably eccentric Judith, prim – and only occasionally improper – vicar’s wife Becks Starling, and the doggedly determined and down-to-earth dog walker Suzie Harris.
In this first entertaining and enjoyable outing – featuring all the perfect whodunit ingredients plus a larger-than-life cast of characters – the daring detective trio find themselves hot on the trail of a devious and dangerous serial killer.
Judith Potts is seventy-seven years old and blissfully happy living on her own in a faded mansion on the banks of the River Thames near Marlow. There is no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink and, to keep herself busy, she sets crosswords for a national newspaper.
Come rain or shine, every evening Judith loves to slip out of her home and enjoy the ‘frisson of naughtiness’ that comes from swimming naked in the river. And it’s there one hot summer’s night that she hears her neighbour, art gallery owner Stefan Dunwoody, cry out followed by the unmistakable sound of a gunshot.
When Stefan’s body is found in the river, the local police, led by acting senior investigator DS Tanika Malik, put his death down to an accident or suicide rather than murder, so Judith decides to investigate for herself and is soon joined in her quest by the forthright Suzie and Becks who is getting fed up with being ‘the kids’ mum, the vicar’s wife and the house’s wife.’
Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club and when more bodies start to turn up, they realise they now have a real-life serial killer on their hands. And the mystery they set out to solve has become a trap from which they might not escape…
Thorogood is on to a winner with this clever new murder series as the intrepid crime-crackers prove to be a top-class team, facing a barrage of bodies, clues, suspects, red herrings and fascinating twists and turns on their journey to nailing the culprit.
And there is a fourth female player in this addictive slice of escapism in the shape of the sorely tested DS Tanika Malik who must negotiate not just the task of finding a killer but operating in the shadow of the indomitable murder club.
But star of the show is undoubtedly Judith, the contented loner with a dark secret who discovers the joys of friendship and shared endeavour, and whose skinny-dipping, whisky-drinking and cycling antics are set to steal the hearts and minds of quirky crime fans.
Add on Thorogood’s heartwarming and celebratory exploration of the often maligned older woman, plenty of laugh-out-loud humour, superb plotting and a full-throttle finale, and you have the perfect read to fill the long, lockdown nights of winter.
(HQ, hardback, £12.99)