‘The Thursday Murder Club’
Set in an upscale retirement village in Kent, England, Richard Osman’s immensely entertaining debut follows the doings of elderly residents who meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss old, unsolved cases. The club is led by Elizabeth, a quick-witted, acerbic former secret agent. Also present are Ibrahim, a psychiatrist; Ron, a militant former union organizer; and Joyce, a retired nurse recruited by Elizabeth after an instructive conversation on fatal knife wounds. Fortune shines on the members when a real live murder lands in their laps, that of a shady builder in league with a soulless property developer who threatens their peaceful enjoyment. This murder is followed by another, its perpetrator and motive obscured by a shoal of red herrings. Lesley Manville delivers this very funny, at times moving tale in a nicely brought-up English voice, her mood ranging from quizzical to compassionate to crotchety and highly affronted. (Penguin, Unabridged, 12½ hours)
‘Red Island House’
At the center of Andrea Lee’s third novel is Shay, a Black American scholar married to Senna, a wealthy Italian who has caused a grand house to be built on one of Madagascar’s minor islands. The couple and, in time, their children spend holidays there from the 1990s to the present. For Shay, though, the sojourns are troubling. Her position as mistress of the estate is anomalous and discomfiting, and her negotiation through the customs of the Malagasy is both tortuous and instructive. Composed of a sequence of vignettes, the novel makes plain the de facto colonialism of the island’s White property owners. The book is persuasively rendered by narrator Bahni Turpin in her quiet, melodious voice, as she calls upon her remarkable mastery of accents. The story concludes in an event that perfectly sums up and answers all that went before, not only in this marvelous novel, but also in the island’s history. (Simon & Schuster Audio, Unabridged, 12 hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.