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Book Author: Richard Osman

THE BULLET THAT MISSED by Richard Osman: Book Review

Is it a “cozy”?  Is it a traditional mystery with unusual/eccentric protagonists?  Does it really matter?

As those who have taken my WHODUNIT? courses at BOLLI (the Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) are aware, I am not a fan of cozies, although I recognize that they have become the most popular sub-genre of mysteries.  The “official” definition of a cozy is a mystery with little or no violence or sex, the detective is an amateur sleuth, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.

But I think that begs the question.  My definition of a cozy is that the crime takes second or even third place to some other feature of the book–cooking, for example, or knitting, or coffee shops–and the murder(s) is secondary.  That’s why I cringe when people describe Agatha Christie’s books as cozies because they don’t feature sex or torture prominently.  It’s true they don’t, but what they do feature is MURDER!  And that why I read mysteries–for the crimes, not the recipes.

So I don’t think that The Bullet That Missed is a cozy, although that’s how it’s publicized.  The cold-case murders that interest the Thursday Murder Club in the quiet retirement community of Coopers Chase don’t involve much sex or on-the-page violence and the detectives are amateurs (for the most part).  But, and here’s my rationale, they are investigating murders, and that is the point of the novel.

The four members of the Club are Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim, each bringing a different set of skills to their investigations.  Elizabeth was a member of Britain’s Intelligence Service, Ron a socialist labor leader, Ibrahim a psychiatrist, and Joyce a nurse.

In this book, the third investigation by the team, they decide to investigate the murder of television personality Bethany Waites, definitely a cold case.  Bethany’s car went off a cliff nearly ten years before the book starts.  Joyce is the impetus behind choosing this case as she wants to meet Mike Waghorn, the man who was Bethany’s co-anchor (or news reader, as the Brits say) on South East Tonight at the time of the woman’s death.

Although Bethany’s body was never found, there was enough ambiguity about the incident for the police to investigate and decide it was murder.  But they were not able to close the case, and that’s where the Thursday Murder Club comes in.  They will bring their individual skills and personalities to their attempt to find the truth.  Along the way there are murders, prison corruption, fraud investigations, and violent gangsters.  That doesn’t sound too cozy, does it?

The characters in The Bullet that Missed are wonderful.  Beside their individual skills, each brings a distinct voice to the novel, and there’s no mistaking which member of the Club is speaking.  And in a small aside, kudos to the author for the portrayal of the marriage of Elizabeth and Stephen in which readers see Elizabeth’s determination to keep her husband’s dementia hidden as much as possible in order to allow him to remain at home with her and not in a memory facility.

Richard Osman has worked as a producer, podcaster, comedian, and television presenter (or anchor, as it’s called in the United States).  You can read about him at many sites on the internet.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.