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Why We Love Richard Osman’s ‘Thursday Murder Club’ — and Other Novels With Older Sleuths

Like Osman’s, many recent books feature smart and savvy older detectives on the case

spinner image Collage of books including The Queen of Poisons, The Last Word, Lost Birds and Thursday Murder Club
AARP (Courtesy HarperCollins; Courtesy Mariner Books; Courtesy Harper; Courtesy Pamela Dorma Books; Getty Images, 2)

British comedian and quiz show host Richard Osman, 53, has taken the literary world by storm with his 2020 bestseller, The Thursday Murder Club, and the three follow-up books in the series. The humor-filled mysteries feature a quartet of British retirees living in a posh retirement village in Kent who team up to solve murders. Netflix has acquired the film rights to the books — with Helen Mirren, 78, Pierce Brosnan, 71, and Ben Kingsley, 80, set to star.

spinner image Book that says Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club
Courtesy Pamela Dorma Books

The Thursday Murder Club books have sold more than 10 million copies globally. What do readers love about Osman’s series? His U.S. editor, Pamela Dorman, senior vice president and publisher of Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, says she thinks they’re drawn to the characters, who “represent a range of smart, energetic, intrepid seniors, each of whom had an illustrious career — one a labor organizer, one a psychiatrist, one a nurse and one a spy. They bring all that experience to their new lives as amateur detectives.”

She says Osman “wanted to show that seniors are perfectly capable of bravery, intelligence and, above all, humor in their later years.” (The author will debut another series in September with the book We Solve Murders, which features slightly younger detectives: 30-something Amy Wheeler and her 50-something father-in-law, retired police officer Steve Wheeler.)

Nicole Angeloro at HarperCollins, who edits Elly Griffiths’ books, which are often compared to Osman’s (including The Last Word, described below), says readers are attracted to an appealing mix of humor and gravity in The Thursday Murder Club and Griffiths’ novels. In The Last Word, “there’s a lot of affection among the characters and for the characters and fun,” she says, but “you’re still dealing with secrets and death.”

If you’re looking for other fantastic mysteries featuring older sleuths, consider these six, which run the gamut. Some feature Osman-style playfulness; others are darker and decidedly uncozy.

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The Queen of Poisons by Robert Thorogood

English screenwriter Robert Thorogood — who created the BBC One murder mystery series Death in Paradise — debuted his mystery novel series in 2021 with The Marlow Murder Club , about a trio of older women in Buckinghamshire who investigate a murder. The series has become so popular that it’s been adapted into a TV series set to air soon on Masterpiece on PBS. This year, Thorogood released the third book in the series, The Queen of Poisons , in which the Marlow Murder Club is called in to investigate the sudden death of the mayor during a town council meeting after traces of aconite (or “the queen of poisons”) are found in his morning coffee.


Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

spinner image Book that says Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, Jesse Q. Sutanto
Courtesy Berkley

A 60-year-old tea shop owner in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Vera Wong might not immediately seem like the sleuthing type, but when a dead man shows up in her store clutching a flash drive, she decides to channel her inner Sherlock Holmes. After stealing the drive, she assumes that the culprit will most likely return to the store to retrieve it, and she begins befriending and watching the customers who stop in the store as a form of detective work. Chinese Indonesian author Jesse Q. Sutanto also wrote the popular book Dial A for Aunties, which was optioned to be turned into a romantic comedy by Fresh off the Boat TV series cocreator Nahnatchka Khan.


The Night in Question by Susan Fletcher

This mystery set in an assisted-living community is full of warmth and humor. It’s centered around Florrie Butterfield, a kindhearted octogenarian who’s led a life of adventure and romance — while carrying with her a long-ago trauma. After the community’s young manager, Renata, falls to her near death from a top-floor window and ends up in a coma, Florrie and a new friend, Stanhope, try to find out what really happened. Everyone assumes it was an attempted suicide, but Florrie feels in her gut that there was foul play. As she and Stanhope piece together the puzzle, Florrie unspools her own dramatic story.


The Last Word by Elly Griffiths

spinner image Book that says The Last Word, Elly Griffiths
Courtesy Mariner Books

Published in April, this murder mystery by British crime novelist Elly Griffiths, 60, (author of the Ruth Galloway mystery series) follows a mismatched pair of detectives who have their own agency in Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex: the 84-year-old Edwin Fitzgerald, who claims to be the oldest detective in England, and the Ukrainian-born Natalka Kolisnyk, a math whiz who is a half century younger. After a local romance author is killed, the pair go undercover to investigate at a writers’ retreat at an isolated estate. When another murder takes place, they seek out the help of detective Harbinder Kaur, who is featured in three other Griffiths novels.


Lost Birds by Anne Hillerman

The Oklahoma-born novelist, 74, is the daughter of author Tony Hillerman. After his death in 2008, she continued his famous series about Navajo tribal police detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, while expanding the role of a younger cop named Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito. In this latest edition, out in April, a retired Leaphorn takes on a case to find the birth parents of a woman who was raised by a bilagáana (white) family but believes she is Navajo based on an old picture of herself in a Native American blanket. As he dives deep into the backstory of an adoption that might be more than it seems, Leaphorn is contacted by a man he met decades earlier, school custodian Cecil Bowlegs, whose wife has been missing for three weeks — then the call is cut short by an explosion. If you want to see more of these beloved characters, check out the AMC series Dark Winds, which follows Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon, 57) and Chee (Kiowa Gordon) in the 1970s.


Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

spinner image Book that says Old God’s Time, Sebastian Barry
Courtesy Penguin Books

The laureate for Irish fiction from 2018 to 2021, Sebastian Barry, 68, released this acclaimed novel last year, which follows a 66-year-old recently retired policeman named Tom Kettle who lives in the shadow of a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea. With his wife and two children dead, he deals with constant pain, but his self-imposed isolation is disrupted when former colleagues knock on his door and ask him to look into a cold case involving a murdered priest. Far from the realm of cozy mysteries, this is a dark and dreamlike tale that explores themes of trauma, unreliable memories and grief, but still retains some of the poetic lyricism and humane warmth you might expect from the best Irish novelists.

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