Thursday, 18 February 2016 10:44We get lots of mail asking for Discussion Questions for mysteries, and there've been a lot of them lately—emails AND new crime novels (all claiming to be the "new" Gone Girl).
♦ Specific questions tend to give away the plot, ruining the element of surprise. Remember, mysteries depend on withholding information.
♦ Bestselling crime novels aren't considered "book club" material. They're all about plot and don't necessarily open themselves up to discussions about character dynamics or weighty social issues. Major serial authors like James Patterson, Michael Connelly, J.D. Robb, David Baldacci write for different reasons and audiences.
So we've got our own questions below. Feel free to use them or access them here.
Questions for Mystery - Crime - Suspense - Thrillers
1. 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?
2. What do you know...and when do you know it? At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?
3. 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?
4. 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, were you tripped up?
5. Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you've figured out into disarray.
a. Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?
b. Are they plausible or implausible?
c. Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?
6. 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?
7. 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?
a. Is the conclusion probable or believable?
b. Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 3)?
c. Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?
d. Perhaps it's too predictable.
e. Can you envision a different or better ending?
8. 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.
9. 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?
10. Compare this book to other mystery, crime, or suspense thrillers that you've read. Consider other authors or other books in a the series by the same author.
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
Thursday, 15 October 2015 08:48This just in: A Facebook friend wrote asking about the use of Kindles and other e-book devices in her book club.
A good friend and I are starting a book club, and someone has asked if she can use her Kindle. Although I don't see a problem, my co-founder says, "Definitely not." What are your thoughts? Any advice would help.
Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:31
Book Club Calendar
"First things first,"
the ladies tell us—
NO cigars. :-(
Who knew? :-)
A nice Merlot...?
What the hell's
YES! The Masters!!
But can we
We go "as a club"
to see The Help.
It feels, eh...girly.
A picnic. We wear
We are MEN!!!
Not one work of
Q: What's the difference
between history and
women call Romance,
we call Soft Porn.
Our 4th book
on Tudor England.
Shoulda seen it
$35 gift. That's it,
we're outta here.
Who's got beer?
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 09:11
Book Club Calendar
Happy New Year!
Our husbands join
our club for the
The guys get
along really well.
No more brie and
want beer & pizza.
No Nicholas Sparks.
EVER. Or they walk.
Quite a year so far
...what with books
on football, golf,
Two couples couldn't
find sitters—had to
bring the kids.
Sonia watches the kids.
The rest of us discuss
the swimsuit issue.
Everyone shows up
with kids. There
Runny noses and
strep. The whole
Back together again!
Need volunteers to
watch the kids.
Men don't budge.
One kid screams,
they all scream.
Men don't hear a
thing. Not. 1. Thing.
Women & kids at home.
Men get together for
beer & pizza.
Happy New Year!
We'll be devoting
the entire year to
Thursday, 10 January 2013 11:19
Dullsville. Has your club run out of gas? Stuck in a rut—doing the same-old, same-old? Take a look at a letter from our mailbag.
I have been a member of a book club for 12 years. Several of us have been talking and feel the group has become "stale." We've been doing the same thing year after year—and no one has any new ideas. Any suggestions on how we could shake things up?
For any group that's gone a little flat, my advice is to take a break from reading every now and then. Do something completely different.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 11:19
You're unhappy with your book club...and another one beckons. What do you do?
I'm not enjoying my book club anymore. Let's just say we have different styles. I like the women; in fact, some have become friends. But there's another group that's asked me to join them, and I think I would be a lot happier in that group. How do I get out of the first club—without hurting feelings?Wanting out of a book club isn't uncommon—there are plenty of legitimate reasons. But leaving one club for another...? It's like a divorce.
Thursday, 26 July 2012 10:37
It's your turn to lead the book discussion. Does any of this sound familiar? Well, it might...
When we lead a book discussion in our group, we're supposed to do a full-blown presentation—author bio, book reviews, cultural objects relating to the book, and then coming up with good questions. When it's my turn, I get so anxious I lose sleep. I'm wondering if it's really worth all the trouble and anxiety.
So there's no need to fall into the Leader Trap—there are lots of ways to avoid anxiety and misery when it comes to holding a discussion. Explore a few, see how they work for you...and adapt them to fit your group.
Friday, 13 January 2012 11:55A cry for help—this one from a reader on our Facebook page. Its a fairly common book club problem. Recognize it?
I'm leading the discussion at my next book club—for a book I chose. But I found out most of the members didn't care for it. In fact, the organizer of my group hated it so much she wouldn't read or finish it. Kind of difficult to have discussion. Any advice would help.
Oops. It's your turn to lead the discussion...and no one likes the book. Even worse...YOU chose the book. What to do?
Start with the obvious—why don't members like the book? It can be as rewarding to explore the reasons you don't like a book as the reasons you do. And don't let people get away with "I just couldn't get into it" or "it was boring." The point is to be expansive, to engage in a give-and-take of ideas.
You disliked the book because of its...
Too wordy or difficult? Too clunky or awkward? Too overwrought? Too pompous?
Too slow getting off the ground? Too contrived? Too predictable? Too little plot (a character- or idea-driven novel).
Too undeveloped or one-dimensional? (No emotional or psychological depth) Too perfect? (Irritating or lack believability.) Too unlikeable? (Stubborn or immature...arrogant, selfish, or petty...even villainous, like Humboldt Humboldt in Lolita)
Too unfocused. Too much back and forth between time frames? Too much shifting between characters and points-of-view? Too many unrelated subplots? If not handled well, shifts can be confusing or interrupt the narrative flow.
Do the ideas, philosophy, worldview of the author or characters disturb you, go up against your own values? Maybe there are no ideas—the book is shallow, unchallenging, and offers no ideas worth thinking about.
A good discussion, whether it's a book you love or hate, helps clarify what types of works you prefer. Most important, though, good discussions often change minds. Who knows...you might decide you like the book after all.
Be sure to see our READ-THINK-TALK chart. It's a handy guide for helping you think about a book while you read.
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