The 19th Christmas by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
This is one in a series of the Women’s Murder Club thrillers. I had not read any of the other books in this series, but it didn’t matter because the story stands alone. It mostly revolves around only one member of the club, although she draws on the skills of other members.
Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner witness a bag-snatcher in a shopping centre, run him down, and take him into custody. Once in the interrogation room, the man discloses that he knows about a big criminal event that is going to happen on Christmas Day. Where this is going to take place is part of the mystery, so the police try to forewarn security at various significant San Francisco locations.
Much of the plot is spent dashing about the city going from one important building to the next to the point where I began to think it wants to be a screenplay when it grows up. The visual imagery is definitely the star of the show.
The “Mr. Big” of this criminal enterprise is known by his pseudonym, Loman, and he scatters red herrings all over the place to misdirect the police. In a similarly distracting subplot, one of the Women’s Murder Club tries to release from prison someone who has been wrongly accused of murder.
On Christmas Day there is a major disruption at the airport which draws much of the police force to that location. At about the same time Boxer and her partner figure out who Loman is and where the crime is to take place. It all gets sorted out quickly, but I felt it left a lot of threads hanging. There is also a peculiar epilogue, just in case the reader isn’t sufficiently bewildered.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
You don’t often come across a murder mystery that makes you chuckle, but this one does. The Thursday Murder Club meets in the jigsaw room of a retirement village in Kent, England, and they meet on Thursdays because that is the only day they can book the room for two hours.
This wonderfully diverse group of men and women combine their various skills and talents to try each week to solve a cold case. One of their group was formerly a police officer and she used bring the old files to them to solve until she became too ill. Even though she can’t actively participate, the club continues what she had begun.
When the builder of a new development in the village is murdered, the club puts its experience and abilities to use in solving the mysteries of who killed him and why.
Elizabeth has an inscrutable past but seems to know an awful lot about international intelligence operations. Ibrahim was a psychiatrist who had some unusual clients. Ron used to be a loud union organizer, and he is still quite loud. Joyce is so quiet she is often overlooked, which comes in handy when she wants to overhear conversations. Collectively, they use wit and charm to befriend one of the police officers assigned to the case, and through subterfuge and information-sharing, they find out much more than the police do.
The plot rapidly becomes complicated, but it is written with humour and a clever style of writing that resembles a tightly woven tapestry. I was sorry when the book came to an end and I will be looking out for another Osman book.