Check It Out Category: Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Nancy’s Pick: A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

Picture of NancyA Murder of Magpies is a humorous cozy mystery about book editor Samantha Clair, who finds herself in the midst of a wave-making manuscript, a missing author, and a dead courier. This series kick-off by Judith Flanders is clever and charming, great if you’re looking for a smart but light read. I enjoyed the London publishing scene, the entertaining characters, and the lively, brisk narration.

Fiction: The Switch by Elmore Leonard

Picture of Summer Reading House headerThere are 10 more days until the end of Summer Reading! Every day during our countdown we will be featuring slices of library life, books, and topics designed to help you out as you work through 2017 Summer Reading at Mount Prospect. Read more about how you can join in on this celebration of reading and enter to win prizes!

Switch book cover

Meet Ordell and Louis, two small-time crooks in search of a get-rich-quick scheme. Everything they dream seems within reach when they kidnap a millionaire’s wife and hold her for ransom. It all goes without a hitch…until the husband doesn’t want her back.

A light caper novel with a gift for flavorful dialogue and for the details of Detroit, The Switch exemplifies author Elmore Leonard’s hard-boiled leanings and dry humor. The mismatched trio of abductors and victim is great fun, and wife Mickey turns out to be the real draw. The fun can continue for book-to-movie buffs; it was adapted as the 2014 release Life of Crime.

Read this for Summer Reading!

For the DIY Designers…
This book may count as a favorite or new-to-you genre (crime fiction), a book with a big city setting, or as one that was made into a movie.

For the Master Class Designers…
This may count as a (darkly) humorous book, one with a big city setting, or as a book highlighted on the MPPL website.

Audiobook: Morgue Drawer Four by Jutta Profijt

50 Days of Summer Reading BannerThere are 40 more days until the end of Summer Reading! Every day during our countdown we will be featuring slices of library life, books, and topics designed to help you out as you work through 2017 Summer Reading at Mount Prospect. Read more about how you can join in on this celebration of reading and enter to win prizes!

Morgue Drawer Four audiobook cover

As a finalist for one of Germany’s most prestigious crime novel awards, Morgue Drawer Four could have been…stiff. Dear listeners, it isn’t. Instead we have mild-mannered Martin who likes the solitude of his work as a coroner. One day he performs his customarily precise autopsy on car thief Pascha — and then begins hearing the man’s ghost. First smart-alecky and then downright obnoxious, Pascha wants Martin to get to the bottom of the ‘accident’ that claimed his life.

Reader MacLeod Andrews effectively plays up Pascha’s wry, self-absorbed narration as well as the tension of Martin’s out-of-character escapades. Written by Jutta Profijt and translated from German by Eric J. Macki, this odd-couple pairing of reluctant detective and annoyed ghost is a promising pick for those who like action-driven mysteries with a decidedly sarcastic bent.

Read this for Summer Reading!

For the DIY Designers…
This book is a blend of thriller, mystery, and paranormal (fantasy) and might count as a favorite genre or a genre you haven’t tried before. It also qualifies as a book with a big city setting.

For the Master Class Designers…
This could count as a book translated from another language, a humorous book, a book with a big city setting, or as a book highlighted on the MPPL website.

Choose Your Mystery: Big City P.I. or Small Town Inspector?

50 Days of Summer Reading BannerThere are 46 more days until the end of Summer Reading! Every day during our countdown we will be featuring slices of library life, books, and topics designed to help you out as you work through 2017 Summer Reading at Mount Prospect. Read more about how you can join in on this celebration of reading and enter to win prizes!

We love a mystery. Setting can be crucial to a whodunit, whether it be the isolation and limited resources of a small town or the overwhelming suspect pool and crusade against the system of the big city. Here are two puzzlers in which the investigator finds that crimes of the present are linked to scandals of the past.

HardballHardball book cover by Sara Paretsky

Seasoned private investigator V.I. Warshawksi follows her cases where they lead, but she doesn’t expect a missing person’s case to take her back to an ugly time in Chicago’s past. Not only does the death of a young black woman at a peaceful march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1966 come into play but also ties to Warshawki’s own family history. In the present, V.I.’s own fresh-out-of-college cousin is kidnapped after her arrival in Chicago, but that’s a separate mystery — isn’t it?

Read this for Summer Reading!

For the DIY Designers…
This could count as a book with a big city setting or a book from your favorite genre.

For the Master Class Designers…
This could count as a book with a big city setting or as a book highlighted on the MPPL website.

Red Bones book coverRed Bones by Anne Cleeves

You can’t get much more small-town than the remote Shetland Islands, an area that is spoiled for lack of major crime. When Inspector Jimmy Perez is called to the scene of a shooting death, one of an eccentric grandmother, it first appears a tragic hunting accident. However, the bones at a nearby archaeological dig may not be nearly as old as first believed, and that may shed light on the current investigation. You may know the story from the BBC series Shetland, but don’t miss the full impact of the novel’s tight plotting and atmosphere.

Read this for Summer Reading!

For the DIY Designers…
This could count as a book with a small town setting or as a book from your favorite genre.

For the Master Class Designers…
This could count as a book highlighted on the MPPL website.

Book Discussion Questions: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Cover of Ordinary GraceTitle: Ordinary Grace
Author:  William Kent Krueger
Page Count: 307 pages
Genre:  Mystery, Psychological fiction
Tone:  Melancholy, Nostalgic, Strong sense of place

Summary:
Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his 13th year, a man explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.

 

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. In Robert Kennedy’s eulogy to John F. Kennedy he used the phrase “Awful grace of God.” This phrase was used several times in this novel. What do you think is the meaning?

2. Do you believe as Aeschylus said, “He who learns must suffer”?

3. Why do you think Jake’s stutter permanently disappeared after he gave grace?

4. What does ordinary grace mean to you?

5. Who do you consider the main character in this book?

6. Without the war, what path do you think Nathan would have ended up taking career wise?

7. What do you think drew Jake and Lise together?

8. Do you think Emil was still in love with Ruth and vice-versa?

9. When the body of the itinerant was found Frank downplayed Jake’s presence and that upset Jake. However, when Emil Brandt tried to kill himself Frank tried to turn Jake into the hero and that really upset Jake. Why?

10. Why do you think the author never actually told us what happened in the war that changed Nathan so much?

11. Ruth did not seem to care for Gus very much in the beginning of the story, yet her attitude toward him seemed to change by the end. Why do you think that was?

12. Jake said he is afraid that his mom won’t come back. I mean she might come home, but she won’t come back (pg 260).  What did he mean by that?

13. When Frankie was accusing Emil Brandt of killing Ariel, Jake asked if it really matters who killed her. What did you think about that?

14. What did you think of Warren Redstone?  Why did he keep all those trinkets in his can?

15. Why do you think he was in jail?

16. Why didn’t Frank tell anyone about Warren’s connection to the dead man?

17. Jake said “There are somethings you can’t run from. You can’t run from who you are.  You can leave everything behind except who you are” (pg 265).  Is that true?

18. What did you think about how it ended? What happened to all of the characters?

19. On the first page, as Frank is talking about the events that were to happen, he says “You might think that I remember that summer as tragic and I do, but not completely.” After having finished the novel, what do you think of that statement?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Reading group guide provided by Simon and Schuster
Lit Lovers’ discussion questions
New York Journal of Books review
Q&A with William Kent Krueger
Interview with William Kent Krueger (video)

READALIKES:

Montana 1948 bok coverMontana 1948
by Larry Watson

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Book Discussion Questions: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let you go book coverTitle: I Let You Go
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Page Count: 388 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Tone: Atmospheric, Haunting, Gritty

Summary:
Devastated by a hit-and-run accident that has ended the life of her young son, Jenna moves to the remote Welsh coast to search for healing while two dedicated policemen try to get to the bottom of the case.

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. This is Clare Mackintosh’s debut novel. In what ways did this book include autobiographical elements? How did it make her story more believable?

2. If you had to describe what kind of book this was, what would it be?

3. What other books that you have read that might seem similar to I Let You Go?

4. What did you think of the pacing of the book? Did it remain consistent throughout?

5. Let’s talk about style. How does the way this story is told differ from most novels? How does this style make the story work?

6. What ten words would you use to describe the characters Ian, Jenna, and Patrick?

7. How would you characterize Ray, Mags, and Kate and their relationships? Why are work relationships prone to romance or infidelity?

8. Which characters do you have a visual image of in your mind?

9. How did the author bring the settings alive? Describe some of the settings from what you remember.

10. This novel was released first in Britain and the author lives in North Wales. If you didn’t know that how did the story give you a hint? Did you find some of the language and police titles and procedures confusing? Was it off putting?

11. Do you think the author understood domestic violence well? How did that come across in her writing? How did this book give you a peek into how an abused woman might think and feel?

12. How do you see Ian grooming Jenna and the control and abuse starting? Give examples.

13. Who tried to warn Jenna about Ian before their marriage? Why didn’t Jenna listen? Why didn’t Eve or Jenna’s mother ever tell Jenna the truth about her father?

14. How does the abuser view his abusive actions? Where is the responsibility placed?

15. How does the victim view their being abused? Where is the responsibility placed?

16. What was the huge twist in the middle of the story? How did the author fool you?

17. The author had Jenna writing names and messages in the sand and photographing them. What were the practical reasons of why Jenna did this? What were some of the messages? How could her writing names and messages be seen as symbolic?

18. How did Ian feel about the baby and Jenna’s pregnancy at the beginning? What changed as time went on? What did Ian do? Who takes the blame? When does Jenna begin to put the blame on Ian?

19. Who was driving the car that killed Jacob? Why did it happen? Who felt responsible and why?

20. What were some of the many choices Jenna made throughout the story? What are the consequences of those choices?

21. Near the end Patrick is talking to Jenna after she is released and the trial is over. Why did Jenna confess to killing Jacob and almost go to prison?

22. Did you like the ending?  Why did the author make is ambiguous?

23. Are there any other loose ends in this novel or things that weren’t believable?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Book club kit from the publisher
Book of the Month discussion forum
Article: “The True Events That Inspired ‘I Let You Go'”
Kirkus Review for I Let You Go
BBC Breakfast video interview
Informal interview on Google Hangout

READALIKES:

The Widow book coverThe Widow
by Fiona Barton

Waking lions book coverWaking Lions
by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Redemption Road
by John Hart

Night Talk by George Noory

Night Talk book coverGreg Nowell is a late-night talk show host covering a wide range of controversial subjects from aliens to cyber security. His talks of conspiracy become closer to reality when he is accused by the government of being the recipient of top-secret files in addition to receiving a call claiming he is responsible for the caller’s impending suicide. Greg is devoted to untangling the web of conflicting information to find the truth, even as his own life is on the line.

Between the short chapters and the constant revelations, it’s hard to stop turning the pages of Night Talk. As a bonus, George Noory brings his own experience as a radio host in the formation of the 2016 thriller.

Book Discussion Questions: Guilt by Association by Susan R. Sloan

Guilt By Association book coverTitle:  Guilt by Association
Author:  Susan R. Sloan
Page Count: 496 pages
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Legal Fiction
Tone:  Plot-Driven, Suspenseful, Richly Detailed

Summary:
A provocative tale that mirrors today’s headlines, this page-turning first novel is a gripping account of one woman’s brave struggle to triumph over the pain of a vicious rape, her battle to rebuild her life and the ultimate, shocking confrontation with the man who nearly destroyed her.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Did this book shock or disturb you? Why?

2. What was the author trying to accomplish by writing this novel — provide entertainment? deliver a message? something else?

3. In the beginning of the story, after Karen was raped the first time, the detective said that her case would never make it to court. Considering the times, if you were Karen, would you have pursued it any further?

4. Detective Haller said, “If it was my granddaughter, I’d tell her to go home and forget it – and be more careful the next time.” Sergeant Tug then said that if it was one of his granddaughters, he’d castrate the guy who did it. Again, considering the time, which thoughts would be closer to what your own might have been?

5. Do you believe in the first rape that Karen prompted her own misfortune in any way?

6. Were you surprised/angered at Karen’s parents reaction when Karen tried to tell them what happened? What was your opinion of Karen’s mom? What about her dad?

7. If you were Karen, would you have told Peter (her fiancé) the truth? If you were Peter, how do you think you might have reacted regarding Karen’s situation?

8. How important were Karen’s friends Demelza, Ione, Kevin, Mitch, Jenna, and Felicity? What attracted Karen to each?

9. How different was Nancy from Karen’s other friends?

10. What effect did Karen telling her friend Natalie, the psychiatrist, about the rape have on her?

11. It seemed inevitable that Karen and Ted would end up together. Were you happy for them? What attracted Ted to Karen? How was he different from Peter – especially when Karen told him that she had been brutally raped?

12. Was Karen a good stepmom to Ted’s girls Jessica and Gwen?

13. Were you surprised when Karen decided to work at Robert’s campaign office? Do you think she had her plan in mind from the very beginning when she started working there?

14. How did you feel when Karen went out for drinks with Robert and then accepted a ride home from him? Did you have any clue, at this point, what she had planned?

15. Putting yourself in Karen’s shoes, might you have made the same choices she did? Do you think it was worth putting herself through the same nightmare again so that she would be vindicated? Was it worth the payoff?

16. Were you surprised at how supportive Ted was? Do you think if he had known what Karen was up to, he would have put a stop to it?

17. Did Robert have any redeeming qualities? Why do think his wife Elizabeth stood by him all those years, knowing that he was having affairs?

18. After the second rape, everyone was supportive of Karen except her mother. Did you expect anything different?

19. Before the trial, Karen told the ADA, “I just hope I don’t let you down.” Why did she say that?

20. Why did the author choose Guilt by Association for the title? Was it a good choice? Is it distinctive enough?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

biographical information courtesy of Bainbridge Public Library
Kirkus book review of Guilt by Association
Publishers Weekly book review of Guilt by Association

READALIKES:

Breath of Scandal book coverBreath of Scandal
by Sandra Brown

Fifth Angel book coverThe Fifth Angel
by Tim Green

Weekend Warriors book coverWeekend Warriors
by Fern Michaels

Fiction: The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Bachelor Girls Guide to Murder book coverWhen life is feeling heavy, sometimes what we crave is a bit of light, cozy fun. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder may be just the comfort read to offer diversion. In this frothy series debut, author Rachel McMillan introduces two young ladies in 1910 Toronto who finagle their way into a crime scene and turn it into an opportunity to start their own detective business. Applying Sherlock-like deduction and finding that there is a market for delicate touch in investigation, Merinda and Jem make quite an impression. Add in a dash of humor, romantic possibilities, and snappy dialogue that helps buoy hope among some of the tougher societal circumstances. Fans of The Murdoch Mysteries will find lots to love.

Book Discussion Questions: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train book coverTitle:  The Girl on the Train
Author:  Paula Hawkins
Page Count: 323 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Crime Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Tense, Disturbing

Summary:
Rachel sees the same couple breakfasting on their deck each morning as she passes by in her commuter train. She thinks their life looks perfect until, one day, she sees something shocking. The train moves on immediately, but she can’t keep it to herself and informs the police. Has she done more harm than good?

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The Girl on the Train debuted as #1 on the NYT Bestseller Fiction List and has continued to break sales and library checkout records. In your opinion, what is it about this book that captured the interest of millions of readers worldwide?

2. Many complain that Rachel is unlikable. Do you agree? How important to your enjoyment of a book depends on whether you like a main character? Does your response differ if the difficult character is male or female?

3. Others maintain that relatability is more important than likability. Is Rachel relatable to you? Do you understand her choices? Do you care what happens to her?

4. Many psychological thrillers of recent years incorporate uncertain memory as a major factor. What is it about amnesia or compromised memory that works so well in these stories?

5. Do you react differently to Rachel’s memory issues because they are her own fault?

6. Would the story have worked without Rachel’s multiple personal issues: a ‘stable’ commuter who notices out the window, for instance?

7. It has been suggested that Rachel is symbolic of our voyeuristic tendencies – both as individuals and as a society. Is this fair?

8. What does Rachel gain from her involvement in the investigation? What does it cost her?

9. Was the choice to use multiple perspectives effective? One review complained that the lack of distinction confuses the reader. How would you respond?

10. Contrast the life Rachel imagined for Jess with what we learn of Megan’s reality. What else do we gain from Megan’s perspective?

11. Anna’s voice isn’t introduced until a third of the way into the book. Did it surprise you? Throw you off? How distinct is her voice?

12. Speaking of voice, why are only female characters chosen for point of view?

13. Are there characters (main or secondary) that you trusted or knew right away not to trust?

14. Did you ever believe Rachel had something to do with Megan’s disappearance? Did she?

15. Would this story play out the same in a US setting, or are the UK elements essential?

16. Hawkins has said that “the set-up is often the fun part” with scenarios and red herrings, but it is “a really hard thing to make that final act a convincing ending.” How’d she do?

17. What becomes of the surviving characters? What kinds of lives do they lead in future?

18. Would you characterize this as a cynical book? Is there any hope or positivity? Does that matter?

19. What, if anything, is Hawkins trying to say about marriage/relationships?

20. How are children or pregnancy (or barrenness) catalysts for much of the action? Is this intended to be cultural commentary?

21. The theme of self-sabotage is well explored through several characters. Is there any examination of recovery or redemption?

22. What did you think of Hawkins’ writing? Did you respond positively to her style, her prose, and/or her pacing?

23. Early in movie talks, Hawkins commented that she had no idea who should be cast as Rachel, as she’s specifically described as unattractive. The finished adaptation stars Emily Blunt, whom Hawkins publicly endorsed as excellent in the role. Does casting a beautiful woman change the tenor of the story?

24. Having “Girl” in the title has become shorthand to identify a specific type of psychological thriller. Is it problematic that a 32-year-old, divorced, hard-drinking woman is labelled this way? For contrast, consider the parallel The Boy on the Train. Why do you think this is so?

25. How would you characterize your experience of reading The Girl on the Train? Did you approach it as a whodunit? Would you describe it as a fun read?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paula Hawkins: By the Book via New York Times Book Review
Paula Hawkins: The Woman Behind The Girl on the Train via The Guardian
Interview on NPR: All Things Considered (audio or transcript)
BookPage feature on Paula Hawkins
LitLovers discussion guide
Three perspectives on the book’s settings: The Book Trail, shmoop, and a composite map
Hawkins’ next book, Into the Water, announced

READALIKES:

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by Michael Robotham