My Father's House

Fr Hugh O'Flaherty has quite the story. As you read this fictitious account, based very much on the fact you quickly come to see his story as one that needed told. I had never heard about this Irish priest, a Schindler type hero who attempted to save lives in the bravest kinds of of ways with the Nazi’s most brutal regime eye balling him as he did so.

There is something contemporary about My Father’s House too. War in Ukraine in the age of social media has had us follow individuals trying to make a difference on the ground. It takes courage. Fr O’Flaherty seems to have had that is spades.

Joseph O’Connor it seems has started a Trilogy. My Father’s House is the first. The other two will be two other perspectives in the same period in Rome. 

It is 1943 in the eternal city. The Nazi’s control Rome under SS Officer Paul Hauptmann. O’Connor paints a brutal picture of Hauptmann’s rule of terror. 

It almost gets down to a head to head between this violent Nazi and an Irish priest who is using the neutrality of the Vatican as his refuge. This book in the Trilogy is without doubt about their almost personal relationship amidst the bloody violence.

As O’Flaherty measures his inches of safety and Hauptmann gets impatient to cross it, our heroic priest is conducting a choir, a menagerie of folk, not all of the Catholic faith or any faith at. They are a group using the choir as a front for an audacious escape plan That hopes to lead thousands of vulnerable souls from underneath Nazi hate. Escape!

Indeed, the book is written like a choir, with different voices harmonising O’Flaherty’s across the narrative. 

O’Connor who you sense loves Rome ,like any of us who have been wooed by that cities streets and buildings and basilicas and fountains and coffee shops then takes us on a thrilling night run, twisting and turning in its pages and at times in the reader’s nerve ravaged stomachs! 

Since finishing the book, in my time spent in Catholic Churches and monasteries, I have asked questions about the real Hugh O’Flaherty and met some who knew him or others in the choir. Out of these conversations I have got a sense that he had some of the same maverick, stubborn, courage of Fr Alec Reid who in his time in Clonard Monastery in Belfast threw himself into dangerous situations to save lives and bring peace in Northern Ireland.

The end? Well the end for us clergy might be the best of all. No spoilers BUT forgiveness becomes more difficult when you experience brutality. Forgiveness might be the most important word, the most vital key, to what gives us resolution, healing and peace in our personal souls and across societies. O’Connor throws in a profound tuppence worth!

Let us hear the rest of the choir. Soon. Please!


Faith  Hope...

Faith, Hope and Carnage is a book full of all three of those but if they had asked me I’d have probably gone with faith, art and grief. 

Hanging over this 300 page conversation with journalist Sean O’Hagan is the death of Nick Cave’s fifteen year old son Arthur, who accidentally died after he fell from a cliff near their Brighton home. It is a grief that Cave rightly declares defines him.

As a pastor I felt that I was in a grief seminar as Cave wears his heart on his sleeve and strips his soul bare. 

“Grief was pounding through my body with an audible roar, and despair was bursting through the tips of my fingers… We tend to see grief as an emotional state, but it is also an atrocious destabilising assault upon the body.”

Cave and his wife Susie seem to be dealing with this grief through art and religion. I use that last word intentionally as it is the word Cave uses. 

Since his son’s death Cave has released three records. Skeleton Tree, that was actually written before the accident but released after; Ghosteen that was very much about Arthur and his loss; and Carnage that was recorded during these conversations. We get some wonderful insights to the writing and recording of all three.

Music for Cave has religious powers of transformation. 

“On a personal level, certainly, I think art goes some way to reconciling the artist with the world. I guess that’s really what I’m talking about. Music can be a form of active atonement. It can be a way of redressing the balance somehow by explicitly putting good into the world, the best of ourselves.”

Cave’s wife Sue used her fashion designs under The Vampire’s Wife brand name for her own artistic catharsis. 

For Cave his music and his faith are very closely related. That faith that has sneaked more and more into his songwriting over these last years is very clearly of a Christian variety. 

“I’m not really that interested in the more esoteric ideas of spirituality. I’m drawn to what many people would see as traditional Christian ideas. I’m particularly fascinated by the Bible and in particular the life of Christ.”

Through this talk about art we find how much Jimmy Webb has influenced Cave’s songwriting, where Coldplay’s Chris Martin actually changed a song and how the Bad Seeds and more recently Warren Ellis have influenced his work. You will go back to many songs listening a little more carefully. 

We also hear in an in-depth manner about Cave’s The Red Hand Files where he has invited his fans to ask him anything. This has become a pastoral centre for many who want to share about their own grief and life struggles. Cave talks about it as mutual help. It almost has a church-like outworking.

As O’Hagan moves us simply yet carefully to some conclusion he draws out perhaps the over riding idea in Cave’s recent life and work - forgiveness. Forgiveness fascinates me. Forgiveness in a Northern Ireland is a societal dilemma. There is, of course, the personal coming to terms with forgiveness too. Bono’s memoir suggests Cave is not the only rock star dealing with the idea. 

Self forgiveness. Cave almost turns sermonic. "I think anyone who says they don't have any regrets is simply living an unconsidered life. Not only that, but by doing so they are denying themselves the obvious benefits of self forgiveness. Though of course the hardest thing of all is to forgive oneself."

Sin as the regrets of commission or/and omission would be a fascinating Sunday morning theme in any church. Forgiveness is central to the Bible narrative and to Cave's life as well it seems. 

“There is not a song or a word or a stitch of thread that is not asking for forgiveness, that is not saying we are just so sorry,” he says of himself and Susie, still haunted by the guilt that, as Arthur’s father, “he was my responsibility and I looked away at the wrong time, that I wasn’t sufficiently vigilant”.

Shallow chit chat this conversation is not. Faith, Hope and Carnage is at times a difficult read, sometimes a beautiful read and always an astonishing read.  


Ghost Limb

“I’m always holding my tongue and trying not to offend anyone. The self-censorship makes you have to think within a set of intellectual limitations. When you can’t say what’s in front of your nose, you end up bending yourself out of all intellectual and political shape in an attempt to work around this thing. And I just can’t do it anymore.”

These are the words of Stephen Baker in Claire Mitchell’s most fascinating new book Ghost Limb.

I cannot tell you how much Stephen’s words resonated with me, particularly at the end of 2022. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that my biggest regret in 2022, what I need to confess the most, is how I allowed judgemental ecclesiastical bullies to force me back into self-censorship. 

I had been to see Pope Francis in April. It was a private audience in his private library. It was an honour for 10 years of the 4 Corners Festival and I guess I was a little naive. I never once thought that it would cause people to write to the press in an attempt to get me sacked or that someone would suggest that, “He shook hands with the devil”. No. Honestly!

Much as I thought I had let those voices sweep over my head for many years I found myself self-censoring again. In some ways it is a desire for a quiet life. Don’t poke the beast and get him angry. Do not respond. Whatever you say, say nothing.

I even had myself believing that I was doing the right thing. The gracious thing. Anything for a quiet life.

It was reading this paragraph in Ghost Limb that shook me out of my pathetic stupor and woke me up to the insidious silencing of my voice. Preach it Stephen Baker. I will not bend myself out of my intellectual and political shape to keep this sectarian binary world I find myself immersed in. I need to get back to being myself and adding some breadth to the narrow confined discussions going on in my space and time. 

The most powerful thing about Claire’s book is that it tells me that I am not a loner freak. Actually I knew I wasn’t alone. I just didn’t realise how much company I had. Even more than that Claire suggests why we might be the alternative thinkers we are. 

The title Ghost Limb comes from a feeling that Claire has about an absence in her own identity; like a ghost limb. After years living in Dublin, Claire found that moving back north caused her very self to contract back to that captive binary default position we all feel the pressure of.

Claire has not only freed herself from the sectarian prison of the north but has a hunch that her alternative thinking might have something to do with 1798 and the United Irishmen. Two centuries ago life was not so binary. Protestants were not all loyal to a Crown that was oppressing Presbyterians as much as Catholics. Sectarianism was not so plentiful.

You might be thinking that I am now a freak twice over, imagining how events 200 years ago can be influencing me now. Well, as seeming chance would have it, I was reading another book alongside Claire’s. 

James K A Smith is a Professor of Philosophy at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan. His latest book How To Inhabit Time knows little about Irish history but he has things to say into Mitchell’s theory. One of Smith’s many ponderings on time is about how much the past impacts the now.

Smith writes, “For everything created, to be is to be temporal, and to be temporal is to be indebted to a past and orientated toward a future.” He goes on, “To be temporal is to be the sort of creature who absorbs time and its effects. A rolling stone might carry no moss, but a temporal human being picks up and carries an entire history as they roll through a lifetime.”  

The serendipity is uncanny, both books published just weeks apart.

Ghost Limb is Claire Mitchell’s personal dissertation into how indebted a growing number of us are to 1798 and all of that. She goes on walks to places where that history lingers. She talks to quite a range of Protestants who think outside the binary. She’s piecing something together. It is almost the Irish evidence for James K A Smith’s own dissertation.

Like Stephen Baker’s quote, at the top of the blog, I am finding traction in my head, heart and soul in so much of the book.       

For forty years I have wondered why I think as I do. Why am I not hard binary? Why do I think Ireland as much as the United Kingdom? Why, in 1979, did the music of Horslips open that Irish soul in me that I have loved immersing myself in ever since? How has the needless bloody murder and mayhem of the IRA’s military campaign made me feel that my Irishness needed to be kept quiet in case it linked to those atrocities? How did the pressure of Unionist, loyalist and, for me, church bullying cause me to self-censor? 

As a Presbyterian I discovered against the run of current play, that we were the dissenters. I feel that in the core of me. A ghost limb, if you will. Yet, dissenter is hardly what we would call Presbyterians in Ireland today. Even, within the denomination I am pushed towards self-censorship. Maybe particularly so. The light from all quarters and reading the Scriptures for yourself and being led by the Holy Spirit into radical obedience seems long gone from our Reformation DNA.  

Claire Mitchell seems to me to be onto something. I could see a swathe of her generation who would find communal benefits in her thinking and listening. 

Is this where the new surge in votes outside of Sinn Fein and the DUP are coming from? Now that someone has started to write these ideas down will they make a stronger mark? If there is a border poll up ahead then all sides in that debate need a read at Ghost Limb.

As for me, it has encouraged me to explore a past that I might need to recognise in my now if the future is to be shaped in a better way. My main quote from James K A Smith’s How To Inhabit Time will be much quoted as future Surmises unfolds:

“Our past is not what we have left behind; it’s what we carry. It’s like we have been handed a massive ring of  jangling keys. Some of them unlock possible futures. Some of them have enchained our neighbours. We are thrown into the situation of trying to discern which is which.”


Sue Divin

Sue Divin’s debut Guard You Heart was a bit of a sensation, garnering all kinds of Book Prize Nominations. I loved it so much that it shared my Favourite Novel of 2022 with Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s astonishing Thin Places. 

Truth Be Told was a tricky follow up. Could she do it again so quickly? Well, yes she can… and then some! The debut novel takes a lifetime and then you have to write the second in a short time. Few can manage that shift in time resource.

Divin doesn’t only deal with it, she exceeds the time limitation. Truth Be Told is better than Guard Your Heart in almost every way. It is even better written. The plot is even more fascinating. I found myself feverishly page turning to see whether it could be true and was then even more surprised by what the true ended up being. 

Like Sue’s debut the whole thing is held together by a freak meeting. In Guard Your Heart it was a moment in Derry where Protestants beat up a Catholic boy. In Truth Be Told it is two girls at a Peace Camp looking absolutely identical and all the intrigue that follows from such a mad coincidence.

Of course Divin has placed the girls perfectly that this might unravel in as an unlikely a zillion to one chance as their coming together. Tara’s from a nationalist family in Derry and Faith was brought up in rural Armagh in an evangelical church family. 

My criticism of Divin’s work is that it is branded Young Adult when I think it should be read by every adult on the island. The advantage of the Young Adult placement does mean that Sue is inhabiting youth culture to such an extent that she can pry inside for us.

Tara and Faith reveal the issues that all our teens have to face - image, sense of belonging, purpose of existing, social media, television and of course the legacy that their parents have left them in Northern Ireland. That Faith is gay and working out how to tell a family so involved in Church adds to the depth of the study.

No spoilers but plot unfolds in the difficulties that Tara and Faith have to deal with in their own souls, their weird relationship and in their families and communities. There are revelations within that we all need to take stock of. 


Bono Book 1


This one took me back to days when I absolutely loved Paul Brady’s work and even further still, informing me about an Irish trad scene that I know less about.



Not a memoir, a conversation Seán O’Hagan draws the deep and personal out of Nick Cave. How to deal with grief, through heroin, music and ultimately faith makes it raw. As a pastor I found it very insightful.



Much as of course we find out lots about Ricky and Deacon Blue’s music this is more a memoir of family, place and vocation. Yet again faith weaves its way.



This memoir blew my head. Mary had the life even before she started writing songs. Put them both together and then write it as a memoir. God makes some lovely cameos. Powerful.



Bono came up with the goods. A life in music and justice making with faith running all the way through. Superbly written too.


Truth Be Told


Former pop star and vicar, Richard Coles shifts into the slipstream of Richard Osman to start a series of characters we might grow to love. Setting it in a parish throws out echoes of Fr Brown and Grantchester. Not quite at that level yet but give the man time.



An epic road story that never actually does the trip it promises but I enjoyed it more than his previous book that was cooped up in a Moscow Hotel although the former might be the better book.



The third in Osman's series of elderly crime busters based in a Residential village. By this stage he has the patter, the characters and plots finely honed. 



A harrowing read from Strabane's thriller genius, McGilloway takes us through the harrowing experience of losing a child and the search for justice or peace or whatever it is we need. 



A debut novel from my favourite character in Would I Lie To You. It seems that that series where he is merely a guest has made him a better actor and a storyteller. This plot was the craft of a writer who seems to have been at it for longer. A surprise success in a book full of surprising twists and somehow humorous too.



Park is a favourite novelist. Maybe the best novel here were it just about craft. Maybe setting it in Vietnam and the Mexico/American border didn't help me to love it but still Park at his provocative best.



Kennedy was a chef until recently. A late bloomer in writing she really has found a fresh way to cook a story. Sectarianism and how to out pace it in the Belfast of the mid 70s. Less romantic than Brannagh's Belfast film even though romance is at its heart. 



Gallen hits a few nails in the head,  - class, politics, religion... She does it through the eyes of a few girls that could be the older sisters of the Derry Girls but gives it all a more serious thrust. She finds a laugh in the darkest spaces and hope in the bleakest places.



Jan creates Ballylack, a village that reminds me of my upbringing where people are scared of what others think of them and what they think of themselves. Jan's magic realism has children dying and visiting friends still alive while church leaders and journalists seek some answers to the children dying. Crammed full of surmises



You can tell I love Sue Divin. She's my Novel of the Year two years in a row. Don't be fooled by her Young Adults stamp. This second novel is even better paced and plotted than Sue's debut Guard Your Heart. Two late teen girls from both sides of our Northern Irish divide discover that they look identical at a Youth Peace Camp. Could they be? Nah. Could our Troubles be more complicated than we think? Nah. The plot just thickens and thickens. Page turner of my year! 

BONO - SURRENDER; 40 Songs, One Story

Bono Book 1

Bono’s memoir came up in Church. “The problem with Bono,” I suggested, “is that having written a book about him I know more about him than he knows. When I met him I kind of finished his sentences”. “Ah”, replied Alison, “you know the facts but do you know the feelings.”

I laughed and the next day opened Surrender; 40 Songs. One Story where under the chapter headings of 40 U2 songs Bono takes us through his entire life, in a beautifully written poetic prose. It realise magnificently written. Bono might have an even better flair for prose than song lyrics. 

The title had me concerned. I feared a cheap explanation of a clatter of songs. I am delighted to confess how wrong I was. This is broad and deep and high in the memories of a life. In the end the songs give chapter headings, little hangers for Bono to set up his journey, pilgrimage he calls it. Though a general chronological trajectory he does shift back and forward, subject rather than dateline dominated.

Paul Hewson, as Bono was born, has lived quite the life. He is born into an ordinary family in a very ordinary street in Dublin. He loses his mother as a teenager at his grandfather’s funeral. Then, at a cross denominational school in Dublin he meets his future wife. The same week, in the same place, he joins a band. He later becomes friends with super models, American and Russian Presidents, tackles cancelling the debts of African countries, the AIDS pandemic and stands between national and unionist politicians in winning a Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland. He also finds himself pushing his family under a restaurant table during a terrorist attack in Nice just weeks after U2 were rehearsing in another part of Paris during the 2015 Paris attacks.

That is all happening around the fact that that band that he joined as teenager became the biggest rock band on earth making iconic records for four decades and changing the face of what is expected from a live rock show.

Of course I knew all of these facts but my friend Alison was right. I didn’t know the feelings and from the opening pages I was surprised by how Bono wears his heart on his sleeve. Surrender begins with Bono on an operating table in Mount Sinai Hospital in 2016 as a surgeon pulls his chest apart to fix an eccentric heart. It’s raw. 

On it goes. Of course I knew the facts of his mother’s death and his struggles living in 10 Cedarwood Road with his father and brother Norman but the depth of his heartache. I also knew about his dependence of Ali his wife but their early kisses at bus stops; his emotional lack of parental loss getting balanced by the woman who has been his rock.

As well as his heart, Bono lets us into his soul.  That might be what has most kept my interest in U2 down all these years. The book is peppered with testimony, Bible stories and quotations. He ends a chapter with a verse from St. Paul. In the middle of a discussion about capitalism he quotes Jesus. He cannot not! 

Two stories gave me the feeling of Bono’s depth of faith. In the first he tells us of having voice problems and anxiety is likely the cause. He does something he has never done. He goes to a hypnotist who asks him to imagine a room of happy and safe memories. When asked to open a drawer and pick out the best memory Bono finds himself walking by a river with his best friend. “Who?” asks the hypnotist. “Jesus”, Bono answers.

In the other Bono entire family are by the River Jordan and go for a swim. Bono writes - “The symbol of baptism is about submerging into your death in order to emerge into new life, a powerful poetry, and I’m a fortunate man to have a family of foolish pilgrims who will follow me into this symbolism.” 

Bono’s early faith was nurtured in the Shalom fellowship, one of so many house groups that popped up at the time of a charismatic movement that swept the world in the late 70s. It was full of spiritual energy but lacked in wise leadership.

There was no shortage of naivety. I smiled at the story where Bono takes Ali to London and has no money, expecting God to supply. The same naivety though almost costs us U2, all those records and all Bono’s phenomenal justice campaigning. 

Initially seeing U2 as a missional arm to the youth Shalom turned on the band and suggested rock music wasn’t a healthy place for young believers.

Under such influence, Edge left the band. Telling their manager Paul McGinness of their decision he played along to their piety and asked if God would be happy for his followers to not fulfil contracts. The break up was off. A vocation survived and a vocation is what Bono believes he has. 

It is frightening to surmise the amount of things that the world would have missed had they listened to their pastor in Shalom and given up music. Pastors… be careful.

It might be as a result of the Shalom experience that has Bono questioning institutional Christianity. He seems to prefer sitting alone in Churches than being part of communities with Creeds and leaders who might lead badly.

He doesn’t hold back. He writes about how, “at times religion can be the biggest obstacle in your path” and how Christianity seems to have become “the enemy of the radical Jesus”. He also mentions “The Bible belt and its unchristian undertow leaving welts on the bare bottoms of unbelievers.” I did say poetic!

I read someone suggesting that this is the best ever rock memoir. I half agree. It is a fascinating diving deep into the feelings of being in a rock band’s rise to the top. There might not be a book that better expresses how bands begin and develop. It gives great insight into the democracy of U2. Bono shares lessons learned in the music business and how import their manager Paul McGinness was. As to how music comes together in a. Studio or on a stage it is very good. 

However, if the reader is looking for what the cliché states as Sex and Drugs and Rock ’n Roll then they will be very disappointed. This is a book about one man’s relationships with A Girl, God and a Rock N Roll Band… and how through those relationships that have each lasted almost 50 years he has found romantic companionship, musical comradeship and spiritual meaning; salvation in every corner of his brokenness. This is a testimony of the feelings of all of these. 




I love Bob Mortimer. That love is weighed entirely upon his appearances on Would I Lie To You. I have seen nothing else he has ever done. No, my love is all based on those crazy stories he tells in his own inimitable way. His innocent laugh in stories that show the worldly wisdom of an adventurous childhood and youth.

I felt bad at my limited exposure to Bob’s work until I read in his brilliant autobiography And Away... that he felt that he only learned to act during Would I Love To You. Now he is saying that it was in the story telling part of Would I Lie To You that he learned to spin a yarn… hence The Satsuma Complex. 

Now I’ll be honest, I was still a little suspicious. Richard Osman is one thing. Rev Richard Coles another… but Bob Mortimer? Writing thrillers? 

Well, it appears that Bob Mortimer can write thrillers. Having read Bob’s autobiography it didn’t take me long to recognise the main character in the Satsuma Complex is the dull 20 something Bob Mortimer, that gap between the adventurous youth and meeting Vic Reeves who brought comedic colour to his greyness! 

The ordinariness of Gary is very ordinary. Then out having a drink with Brendan Jones, an acquaintance more than a friend, he becomes the last person to see Brendan alive and becomes infatuated by a woman. Suddenly ordinary Gary is thrown into crime, murder and intrigue… and, as a crucial side story, romance.

The Satsuma Complex is laugh out loud funny as Mortimer weaves that tall tales style he uses in Would I Lie To You, dropping names and descriptive words only Bob can conjure. We even have a squirrel who appears regularly to chat Gary through some of the things he needs to think around. 

Mortimer doing the tall tale well and making it very funny is no surprise. What is more impressive is how he weaves the plot, mysteriously building, ever intriguing and, by the end, page turning gripping. 

Bob Mortimer. What a guy. The older he gets the more genius he discovers within himself. Excellent debut novel just at the age everyone else is thinking of retiring! 


Dreams 1


I remember in the early 90s seeing Paul Brady live quite frequently. Every time he sang Nobody knows what Ruby had to hide” my mate Tim and I would shout in unison “Who’s Ruby!”


We eventually concluded that it was Jack Ruby who shot Lee Harvey-Oswald who shot JFK. However, Paul Brady’s new autobiography gives a page to the song that the line comes from - Nobody Knows


Confirming that Ruby was Jack Ruby tells us that at the beginning it was Reuben Carter, the boxer convicted of murder whose innocence Bob Dylan pleaded in song Hurricane. The biggest revelation for me was that the song starts on a rooftop, imagining a band doing the Beatles Get Back concert with nobody watching. How had a I missed that!


The book took me through a lot of what I had missed in Brady’s ludicrously blessed career. I use blessed rather than successful as in the musical statistical terms Brady was never as big a star as those he hang out with - Dire Straits or Eric Clapton for example.


Yet, for a boy coming out of Strabane, what a life. My favourite stories have to be when he’s sitting face to face with Carole King writing songs, when he appeared on stage to Tina Turner’s surprise to sing Paradise Is Here, when he is standing with Elton John in Elton’s bedroom admiring the art and most of all when he is putting the fingers of Bob Dylan on the guitar strings as he teaches him his version of Lakes Of Pontchartrain! Bob Dylan for goodness sake. Wow!


In Crazy Dreams, Brady takes us through every concert, tv appearance, management change, song written and album recorded of his illustrious career. Never the top of the charts outside Ireland he could still sell albums and tours across the world.


The book is almost broken in two. About 170 pages on his early folk career and then another 170 on his song writing career. 


I learned so much about his years with The Johnstons. I had no idea that they made seven records! Then his shifting the sonics in Irish Traditional music with Andy Irvine and finally as a solo artist before writing Crazy Dreams, Dancer In The Fire and Night Hunting Time sent him a whole different direction.


We do hear about the down times, especially at the end of The Johnstons time and mention of wife, daughter and son are threaded through. If I was being critical I would have loved a little more depth about some of the more personal. His marriage is a resounding success in rock music terms but it seems that it wasn’t always easy and he might have had insights on how he and Mary survived that would have been worth sharing. However, as Ricky Ross taught us in his memoir Mary’s story is hers to tell, not Paul’s. We will put it down to wise discretion. 


There are also insights into Ireland, the traditional music scene and The Troubles and our divisions. Brady is for sure a nationalist but always seeks respect across the traditions and beliefs. He is the peacemaker of The Island for sure. He also suggests that even the Irish hid the wee sessions of folk as the music of the peasants. I’d love to do a PhD on that!


I found Crazy Dreams as riveting music memoir read. I couldn’t get enough. I learned a lot and probably discovered, as Brady did as he went, where his own rhythmic guitar sound style emerged from and how unique it was. 


I am back listening to songs across his career - ones I loved and ones I missed. That’s what a good music biog does!



It is hard to get enough of Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series of novels. This is the third and the boy has really hit his stride. The writing gets better and better. I cannot wait for the next one!

For those who don’t know the back story - catch up NOW! - our former Pointless anchor taken the idea of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and set it in a Retirement Village, Cooper’s Chase, in the south of England.

There, in a village much like the one his real life mum lives, Osman has brought to life four endearing characters Elizabeth and ex spy, Joyce an ex nurse, Ron an ex Union man and Ibrahim an ex psychiatrist. 

Never under estimate retired folk with energy and a great deal of life and vocational experience. Instead of a Bridge Club or Book Club our gang of four start a Murder Club where they see if they can solve cold cases!

In this the third book they seek to uncover the mystery of the murder of local Television celebrity Bethany Waites. It gives them a chance to get into their favourite television shows and meet their own favourites celebrities as well as sending them off on a complex whodunnit with the cleverest twists and turns.

Osman’s most ginormous genius, maybe even as huge as himself, is the way he weaves underground crimes, kidnappings, guns and death threats into a foundation of comfort, humour and warmth. Nobody wrote does the weave of tense drama and laugh out loud better. It's a gentler form of killing and comedy than Tarantino for sure!

As someone who doesn’t laugh out loud when it comes to books, I laughed a lot during this one. Elizabeth and Joyce interviewing another TV celebrity Fiona Clemence is pure stand up.

There are so many great scenes but my favourite is when the Joyce comes back to her little apartment and finds herself face to face with a man with a gun. He has come to kill her as he promised Elizabeth that he would if she didn’t kill Victor, a former KGB agent. 

Joyce takes it all in her seeming naivety, carrying on as if her potential killer is an old friend, eventually getting him to have a cup of tea by which he ends up on the floor. Drugged by the seeming gullible one! This isn’t even part of the main investigation in the novel.

As if this wasn’t enough to make Osman the best seller that he is there are other issues running through. In this third episode takes on dementia, again gently but beautifully, as Elizabeth’s beloved husband begins to realise that things are going a little strange. Poignant and helpful.

As I said book Number 4 NOW!