Relationships are a central theme in all my books. How people interact with one another in any given situation is all in all. If I wrote about someone stranded on a desert island, I probably would write about his or her lack of relationships. Of course, this is after I cleared up where the fresh water came from and how they just loved coconuts. But the joy, sadness, loyalty, and frustration of characters dealing with those they love run rampant throughout the mystery in each of my books.
Below are some ideas for a discussion in your book club:
In the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, one fun conversation could be about the mother/daughter relationship of Lila and Lee, the protagonist. Their relationship is not the usual one. But could you call any mother/daughter relationship usual? How does Lee, a first generation Mexican-American, relate to her Palo Alto blueblood mother? And what does Lee’s uncle, Tío, give her that she doesn’t get from her mother? How does Lee’s brother, Richard, fit into all of this?
In the spin-off series, Love Can Be Murder, how are the two lovebirds, Lee Alvarez and Gurn Hanson, able to combine a new marriage with the stress of crime solving? Do they come across as being competitive? Does it seem right for Gurn to take a back seat now and then to Lee’s sleuthing abilities? Or is he just a modern man?
In the 1940’s Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries, ‘Percy’ Cole is one of our country’s first lady shamuses. Her father is a retired New York City cop turned PI. Both run the Cole Detective Agency. Can the ‘old and new’ respect one another and not get in each other’s way? Does her wise-off mouth impede her sleuthing or enhance it? Does being the mother of an eight-year-old deter any of Percy’s activities? Should it?
In the first book of the new Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Novels, Christmas Trifle, (Sept 2019) what mistakes are Charly and Cliff making that could be avoided? Or can they be avoided? Would talking bring them closer together? Is it too late for that? Or is it ever too late when two people love each other?
In the stand-alone mystery noir, Death of a Clown is set amidst the day-to-day life of the Big Top during the early 1940’s. Do the setting and characters seem real? Have you ever been to a real circus? Have you ever considered running away and joining the circus? At the very end of the book, does Jeri do right by her convictions? What other decision could she have made?
Below are an additional thirty-eight Book Club Discussion Questions. Consider choosing four or five for your discussion group. And have a wonderful, lively time!
- What did you like best about this book? The least about the book?
- What did you think of the family dynamics in this book?
- What other books did this remind you of?
- Good crime writers embed hidden clues, slipping them in casually, almost in passing. Did you pick them out, or were you…clueless? Once you’ve finished the book, go back to locate the clues hidden in plain sight. How skillful was the author in burying them?
- Good crime writers also tease us with red-herrings—false clues—to purposely lead us astray. Does your author try to throw you off track? If so, where were you tripped up?
- Share a favorite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out?
- What other books by this author have you read? How did they compare to this book?
- Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you’ve figured out into disarray.
- Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?
- Are they plausible or implausible?
- Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?
- Talk about the characters, both good and bad. Describe their personalities and motivations. Are they fully developed and emotionally complex? Or are they flat, one-dimensional heroes and villains?
- Which character in the book would you most like to meet?
- At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?
- Does the author ratchet up the suspense? Did you find yourself anxious—quickly turning pages to learn what happened? A what point does the suspense start to build? Where does it climax…then perhaps start rising again?
- If you were making a movie of this book, who would you cast?
- What feelings did this book evoke for you?
- What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add?
- If you got the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?
- What do you think of the book’s title? How does it relate to the book’s contents? What other title might you choose?
- What do you think of the book’s cover? How well does it convey what the book is about?
- What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was he or she trying to get across?
- How original and unique was this book?
- If you could hear this same story from another character’s point of view, who would you choose?
- How well do you think the author built the world in the book?
- Did the characters seem believable to you? Did they remind you of anyone?
- Did the book’s pace seem too fast/too slow/just right?
- A good ending is essential in any mystery or crime thriller: it should ease up on tension, answer questions, and tidy up loose ends. Does the ending accomplish those goals?
- Is the conclusion probable or believable?
- Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 4)?
- Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?
- Perhaps it’s too predictable.
- Can you envision a different or better ending?
- Point to passages in the book—ideas, descriptions, or dialogue—that you found interesting or revealing, that somehow struck you. What, if anything, made you stop and think? Or maybe even laugh.
- Overall, does the book satisfy? Does it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Or does it somehow fall short?
- Compare this book to other mystery, crime, or suspense thrillers that you’ve read. Consider other authors or other books in a series by the same author.
- If you were to write fanfic about this book, what kind of story would you want to tell?
- Would you read another book by this author? Why or why not?