Dear Mr Osman,
Why have you betrayed Elizabeth?
Your ‘Thursday Murder Club’ books are everything the jacket commendations say – smart, compassionate, full of humour and heart, wise and witty and more. The charity I work for has retirement villages but not as luxurious as Coopers Chase! And we don’t have anyone like the Trades’ Union rabble rouser Ron, or the erudite Egyptian psychiatrist Ibrahim, or Bogdan, the superhero in charge of Security and Construction. We do have the sort of every-day little ladies like Joyce, but we definitely don’t have an Elizabeth, who made her living working as an operative and spy for MI5, with a mind that puts James Bond’s in the shade. She’s a protagonist, a mover and a shaker, someone who gets to the root of the issue and does something about it.
So I’m amazed that you’ve written her behaving completely out of character and passively accepting her husband Stephen’s dementia. She would look for ways of holding it back and would have ferreted information from the top dementia experts. My friend Dr Jennifer Bute, has been living with dementia for 16 years now, and still takes part in committees and gives lectures.
There’s no mention of the medications that can help mitigate symptoms, especially in the early to mid stages, or the benefits of socialising and being with people. The Thursday Murder Club people would have welcomed him. He spends a lot of time watching TV on his own. He uses an old typewriter, but Elizabeth could have introduced him to some lively brain training programmes on the internet. She’s seems not to know that sleep medication is not recommended for a person with dementia, or that physical exercise, like walking, boosts circulation and blood flow to the brain.
‘Stephen had no interesting in fading out, in spinning away into space. He wanted to be in control…’ (p 313), and through one of her contacts, Elizabeth arranged for an assisted suicide for him, with a substance that is undetectable. She is not one for showing emotion, but their conversation as he is dying after the injection (Chapter 60), is unbearably tender.
It’s also an endorsement for the ‘Dying with Dignity’ lobby. With his days of striking lucidity, and even in the shadow days, Stephen is far from the end stage. Elizabeth’s friend Joyce keeps a diary, and she questions the decision. ‘To end it before the finish?’ she asks, ‘That’s not a decision I could take. While love is alive, I could never choose to kill it.’
You may say that Stephen did nothing to harm anyone else. That everyone should be free to choose their own time of dying.
But the harm is that others, who believe they are a burden to someone in one way or another, would feel that they are duty bound to choose assisted suicide. For example, in Canada, where it is legal, thousands of people are requesting euthanasia precisely because they feel they are a burden to others. Euthanasia Houses are being set up in the country.
It makes me so sad. I loved your first three books and read each one two times. But I won’t buy any others you write.