For I Have Sinned (Houghton)

Discussion Questions
1. What were your initial feelings when reading the book; how did the story affect you?

  • Did the flashback scene engage you? Did the short dialogues at the end of specific chapters add to the story as a whole?
  • How did you feel about the subject matter and how it was handled?

2. Describe the main character—personality, her feelings about being a private detective, her ideas on life. What do you think of  her wry sense of humor and showing of some vulnerability? Does this make her a relatable character? Describe the other characters in the story. How do they help the storyline move along?

  • What are the dynamics between Cate, Will, and Giles?
  • Cate believes in the law but says that she sometimes does things in a "slightly illegal" way? Do you approve of this?
  • Describe Cate's conflicted feelings about taking on a cold case. Why does she decide to help her client locate her brother?
  • How does the prim and proper Myrtle Goldberg Tuttle, Cate's part-time secretary balance Cate add to the story?
  • Cate's best friend, Melissa, Cate's "source of much-needed girl power," lives well and has some very wealthy male clients. Do you approve or disapprove of Melissa's somewhat shady profession?
  • How does Cate's kindness to a homeless man living near her office and the "weekly twenty" plus food she gives him define her character?  

3. What do you learn about Cate Harlow by the end of  the book? How does the cold case and its resolution affect Cate?

4. Is the plot engaging—does the story interest you? Is this a plot-driven book: a fast-paced page-turner? Or does the story unfold slowly with a focus on character development? Were you surprised by the plot's twists and turns?

5. Talk about the book's structure. Is it a continuous story...or interlocking short stories? Does the time-line move forward chronologically...or back and forth between past and present? Does the author use a single viewpoint ? Why do you think the author chose to tell the story the way she did—and did it make a difference in the way you read or understood it?

6. What main ideas—themes—does the author explore? (Consider the title, often a clue to a theme.) How does the use of three Latin phrases Cate translates add to the story?

7. Cate's comment, "When you get to Hell, I'll be sitting in the hot tub waiting," is a strong comment on her attitude towards religion and states the book's thematic concern. She also tell her clients, "Trust me, I'm very good at what I do." What do the two comments tell you about Cate Harlow? What passages strike you as insightful?

8. Is the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not...and how would you change it?

9. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? Have you read other books by the same author? If so how does this book compare. If not, does this book inspire you to read others?

10. Has this novel changed you—broadened your perspective? Have you learned something new or been exposed to different ideas about people and how their religious beliefs and fears affect their lives?
(Questions courtesy of the author.)

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