Friday Book Whimsy: Top Five of 2020

Like many others, I did a lot of reading in 2020. I would find my interests going back and forth. Sometimes I would feel like a murder mystery. Sometimes a ghost story appealed to me. I read many good books and a couple of duds. After careful thought, here is a list of my five favorite books of this past year.

The Thursday Murder Club This quirky novel by Richard Osman is the story of a group of senior citizens living in a retirement community who help the police solve a murder. Wonderful characters that I hope return as a series.

Blacktop Wasteland S.A. Cosby’s book, touted as a thriller, is so much more. Beauregard Montage is a black man who is trying to make it outside of his former criminal career. The book is a great example of the problem poor people, and especially poor Black people, often face under difficult circumstances.

One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow I think Olivia Hawker’s book about two women in the mid-1880s in rural Wyoming was my very favorite of the year. I loved the rural setting and reading about how these two women managed to keep their families safe and fed during difficult times. More than that, however, it was about forging friendships and letting go of anger.

Daisy Jones & the Six This novel, written by Taylor Jenkins Reid, reads like an oral biography. The format is so unique and so realistic that I found myself googling to determine if the band actually existed. It didn’t, though I’m sure it models other bands that were popular in the 1970s. I was worried that the format might throw me, but I ended up loving the book very much.

The Book of Longings Sue Kidd Monk writes a novel about the human life of Jesus and those who loved him. The emphasis, however, is not on Jesus, but on his wife Ana. Obviously the author takes great liberty in telling this story, but she tells the story very well. I was left with a much clearer appreciation of the difficult role of women in ancient times. Well written and very interesting.

I’m looking forward to some good offerings in 2021.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Thursday Murder Club

For many years, my mother-in-law lived in a retirement community. She immediately made four friends, who became like family to her. The five of them did everything together. They ate together, they attended classes together, they took the bus to movies and the library, all together. They were buddies.

At one point, I got what I thought was a brilliant idea. I should write a mystery novel featuring characters based on these five women. There would be a murder of someone connected to the community, and someone of whom they were very fond would be accused of the murder. These five women would get together and solve the mystery of the real killer.

Needless to say, I never quite got around to writing that novel, but author British author Richard Osman did. His characters are, of course, somewhat different, but the notion is the same. My bad, because it worked extremely well.

The Thursday Murder Club features four elderly residents — Ibraiham, Ron, Elizabeth, and Joyce. The four become friends when they form a ad hoc organization they call The Thursday Murder Club. They meet weekly to discuss cases that the police have never solved, and are surprisingly adept.

And then, someone connected to their retirement community is murdered. Finally they have a current and active case on which to work. The four are each extremely smart in their own way. One has tech experience. One has police experience. Having met one of the police officers involved in the case when she made a safety presentation to the retirement community, they convince her to share information.

And then another community-connected individual is murdered, and these four are ON IT. In between wine parties and romantic liaisons, these four solve the murder mystery.

The Thursday Murder Club is cleverly written. Best of all, there are very few elderly stereotypes. In fact, there are few stereotypes at all, except perhaps for some of the bad guys. But the detectives are all active and funny and astute, each in their own way. And the lead detective — a middle aged man — is paunchy and balding and wholly unlike most featured detectives, at least in American fiction.

Suffice it to say, this was a wonderful book to read at a time when things are so serious. And DANG, why did I let Osman beat me to the punch (and do a much better job). Thankfully, it looks to be a series.

Here is a link to the book.