Bert felt jealous, cheated on, and blue. Then he discovered he could morph into a giant nightmarish slug...
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Life in the Clouds #6: Take a Slug ® James Field.
Penelope rested her palm on the door handle but waited until she had counted to three before opening it. Again, she must have left it unlocked. Rather than plunge straight into the lounge, she took root on the doorstep and gaped inside.
She blinked, and then rubbed her eyes, and blinked again. Three men occupied her lounge. Chief Inspector Dobbs, in his brilliant yellow pullover, sat in one of the two armchairs. Mr Styles, walking cane across his bony knees, sat in the other. Bert stood by the fireplace, poker and firewood in hand.
They had been drinking tea and nibbling biscuits, the teapot in its cosy on a small side table.
“Come in and close the door behind you,” said Chief Inspector Dobbs.
“Cup of tea?” said Mr Styles.
When Penelope remained frozen to the spot, Bert trundled across the worn carpet, took both her hands in one of his, and tugged her gently inside the threshold. “It’s over, Olive,” he said. “Time to stop fooling around.” He sat her on the sofa along the back wall and dropped beside her, making her bounce.
“What…” Olive gasped for air like a dying fish. “What is this?”
Chief Inspector Dobbs cleared his throat and spoke with authority. “If I had my way I’d toss you in the grimiest dungeon I could find and throw away the—“
Mr Styles broke him off. “I haven’t pressed charges, inspector, and I haven’t lost any money, so cool it.”
“Chief Inspector, if you please. I should lock the lot of you behind bars.”
Olive clasped her hands under her chin, as if in prayer, and she licked her lips with cautious hope. No money lost? No criminal charges?
“We spotted what you was doing right from the start,” said Bert. He slid an arm around Olive’s shoulder and stroked her forearm gently. “It was me who broke in and stole the money. We knew where it was all along. I gave it back to Mr Styles.”
“That’s right,” said Mr Styles. He slapped his knees, drummed his feet on the floor, and burst into cackling laughter. “That’s the best turn of affairs I’ve ever experienced.” His laughter broke into a fit of coughing. When he had it under control, he said: “I want you back at work tomorrow. Think you’re up to it?”
“You mean…” Olive glanced at Bert, and he nodded with a huge grin on his face. Chief Inspector Dobbs, however, had folded his arms and sulked. “You mean I’m forgiven and can come back to work? You aren’t angry with me?”
“I'm fuming,” said Chief Inspector Dobbs. “One day I’ll have you locked up. All of you.”
“I reckon you’ve learned your lesson,” said Mr Styles. “I'm angry, yes, but gosh what a show you put on. I’ll write a press statement saying it’s all been a silly mix-up. Tell the insurance company that somebody stole your car. They’ll never find it and you’ll soon have a new one.”
“That’s another crime,” said Chief Inspector Dobbs. “You’re all a bunch of criminals.”
“Takes one to know one,” said Mr Styles. “That’s why Olive couldn’t pull the wool over our eyes. Now go home, Olive, and clean yourself up. Bert, take her home.”
Olive felt faint, and foolish, as if her body had collapsed in on itself. “Hold me, Bert.” His enormous arms engulfed her, and for the first time in months, she felt safe and desired. She wallowed there, breathing in his musk and letting the relief sink in. “I love you, Bert. I love all of you. And yes, please, I’d love a cup of tea.”
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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike in this story. I like that it’s cosy, funny, and heart-warming. The plot, however, is a tragedy. There are two murders, and every character in the book, of which there are many, has a motif. With so many twists, turns, and red herrings throughout the narrative, it lost me in a virtual maze.
But the author commits the gravest crime: he introduces a new, guilty character right at the end of the story. Tut, tut, naughty.
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