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The Thursday Murder Club is back, and that should make everyone happy — except, of course, murderers. Richard Osman's engaging series about a group of crime-solving retirees has delighted readers since the first book. "The Thursday Murder Club," an international bestseller, was funny, original, baffling, poignant and thoroughly engaging. That's a high bar to set from the get-go, but Osman has easily achieved it in subsequent books.

His newest, "The Bullet That Missed," picks up where "The Man Who Died Twice" ends, and if you haven't read the other books you might be a bit lost at first. But ultimately it won't matter; the characters are so sharp, the writing so clever you'll be swept along even if you don't yet know all the players.

Several threads wind through the novel. Murder Club founder Elizabeth (an unflappable retired spy) is kidnapped and threatened, warned that she must kill her old friend Viktor Illyich (a former KGB agent) or something terrible will happen — not to Elizabeth, but to someone close to her.

Meanwhile, Murder Club member Ibrahim trots off to prison to meet with Connie Johnson, the criminal mastermind the club nabbed in the last book. (Her prison cell has an espresso machine; Connie has connections.) And, finally, the cold case that gets everything rolling: A TV journalist has been missing for decades and the Murder Club thinks they can get to the bottom of it. Solving cold cases is what they do. Every Thursday.

It's great fun to see elderly people portrayed in ways that elderly people usually are not — with full lives, complicated backgrounds, tons of experience and minds sharp as tacks. They all have strengths, they all have flaws (Joyce is vain, Elizabeth is proud, Ibrahim is battling various fears), and together they have wonderful chemistry.

Yes, there are deaths. And yes, there is strife. But yes, this book is as delightful as the others. A remarkable achievement, Osman up there effortlessly balancing on that very high bar.

Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune.

The Bullet That Missed

By: Richard Osman.

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books, 356 pages, $27.