Check It Out Category: Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Book Discussion Questions: Defending Jacob by William Landay

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

Title: Defending Jacob
Author: William Landay
Page Count: 421
Genre: Legal Thriller
Tone: Suspenseful, Disturbing

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    Did you like Andy Barber as a character? What words would you use to describe him?

2.    Do you think he looked at Jacob in a realistic light?

3.    Do you think Laurie, Jacob’s mother, saw her son more clearly than her husband did?

4.    What words would you use to describe Laurie?

5.    What happened to Andy and Laurie’s relationship once Jacob was accused of murder?

6.    The title of the book is Defending Jacob…was Jacob the main character? If not, who was?

7.    Were there points of view that you wanted to hear more of? Is there any part of the story you wanted more of?

8.    Do you think Jacob murdered Ben Rifkin?

9.    Is Jacob a likeable boy?

10.    What was Dr. Vogel’s opinion of Jacob?

11.    What was Andy’s reaction to seeing Dr. Vogel vs. Laurie’s reaction?

12.    Do you think that Andy and Laurie were good parents?

13.    Do you think that Andy Barber should have been on the case since it involved the same school his son went to? Do you think there was a conflict of interest?

14.    Why did it take so long to interview the kids at Ben’s school? Were the kids helpful to the authorities?

15.    Jacob has two friends, Matt and Derek. How did each of them affect Jacob’s case? Did they both continue to be Jacob’s friend after the trial started?

16.    Why does Andy search Jacob’s room for the knife instead of asking Jacob if he had one? What did Andy do with the knife? Do you think he was obstructing justice? Would you have done the same?

17.    Later, Laurie does something with a different knife? What does she do and why? Would you have done the same?

18.    How far should a parent go to protect their child? Did Jacob need their protecting?

19.    It is learned that Jacob enjoys violent erotica. He wrote and posted an account very similar to Ben Rifkin’s murder on a violent erotic website. After learning this, could you still see Jacob in a neutral light? Why do you think he posted his story online?

20.    What dark facts about Jacob does Derek reveal to Andy when Andy visits the boy’s home? Why doesn’t Andy know or have noticed any of these facts before? Do you think Laurie knew?

21.    What was your opinion of Neal Logiudice (pronounced la-JOO-dis)?

22.    Do you think Andy’s view of Loguidice changed?

23.    What was your opinion of Jonathan Klein?

24.    Who do you think had the better opening statement in Jacob’s trial, Klein or Loguidice?

25.    Andy thinks Leonard Patz, a registered sex offender, killed Ben Rifkin. Why? Do you think Patz had anything to do with the murder?

26.    What ends up happening to Leonard Patz?

27.    What did you think of Bloody Bill Barber, Andy’s dad? Was he likable?

28.    What was outcome of Jacob’s trial? How did the Barbers celebrate? What went wrong while they were there? Does this prove anything about Jacob?

29.    If you believed that Jacob was a murderer…why do you think he was?

30.    Andy never told Laurie about his family’s violent history. Why? Would you have told if you were him? How did Laurie react to hearing about Andy’s past? What would your response have been?

31.    There is science examining a possible “warrior gene”. Do you think that nature could outweigh nurture in the development of a human being?

32.    What do you think of the structure of the book? Was it hard to follow?

33.    What did you think of the pace?

34.    Did you like the ending? Were you shocked by it? If you were the writer, what ending would you have chosen?

35.    Did Defending Jacob remind you of any other books? What books would you recommend to someone who liked this book? Why?

Other Resources:

William Landay’s website
Lit Lover’s book discussion questions
Authors at Google: William Landay
SeattlePI interview with William Landay
SeaCoastOnline review of Defending Jacob
The Washington Post review of Defending Jacob
Explaining “nature vs. nurture

If you liked Defending Jacob, try…

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
The Confession by John Grisham
The Good Father by Noah Hawley

Midwives book cover     the Confession book coverthe Good Father book cover

Book Discussion Questions: The Hard Bounce

The Hard Bounce book coverSPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

Title: The Hard Bounce
Author: Todd Robinson
Page Count: 301
Genre: Mystery
Tone: Gritty, Darkly Humorous, Violent

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    What did you think of “the Boy” as a character? Who was “the Boy” a part of? When did he appear in the story?

2.    Did this feel different than other mysteries you’ve read? Why or why not?

3.    What books does The Hard Bounce remind you of? Are there any writers that Todd Robinson reminds you of?

4.    Who would you recommend this book to? Why?

5.    What words would you use to describe this book when talking about it to friends?

6.    Would you consider this book too graphic? If yes, why? If not, are there any books you consider too graphic?

7.    Boo is the main character. Did you like him? Why or why not?

8.    What did it say about Boo that he owned only 1 plate and 1 set of cutlery?

9.    What can you tell about Boo as a person that he still has a beeper and doesn’t own a cell phone until Kelly Reese buys him one?

10.    How do Boo and Junior know each other?

11.    Do you think the author is making a statement about juvenile detention facilities?

12.    What is 4DC? Who owns it? Who wants to hire 4DC? Why?

13.    Boo and Junior have a common man’s approach to detective work – given the same task, how would you have accomplished solving this crime? Would you have done anything differently?

14.    Why did Cassie run away from home? Who did she run to?

15.    Did you believe that Cassie was capable of all the things she did at 14-years old? Did she want to be saved?

16.    A main plot point of The Hard Bounce involves a snuff film. How did this make you feel? How do you think the author wanted you to feel?

17.    Boo wants to immediately kill Snake/Derek. Who talks him out of it and why?

18.    Do you believe Snake/Derek when he later tells Boo that he truly loved Cassie and wanted to run away with her?

19.    Why didn’t Boo go to see his sister Emily? Would you have gone to see her?

20.    Why don’t Boo and Junior trust cops?

21.    Do you think multiple points of view about law enforcement (both positive and negative) are given? Do you think it is the author’s responsibility to give multiple points of view on this issue?

22.    Who is Underdog? What went wrong with Underdog’s career? Does he fix it by the end of the book?

23.    Did all of the musical references add to the setting or distract you?

24.    What did you think of the dynamic between Kelly and Boo? Did you think they would fall into a relationship? Why do you think they like each other? Do you think it will last?

25.    When does the break in the case about Cassie come?

26.    Who was Sid and what did you think of her occupation?

27.    How was the mafia involved in the case?

28.    What ultimately happens to Cassie? Who kills her? Why?

29.    Boo goes into a depression by the end of The Hard Bounce. Why? Does he shake out of it?

30.    Does The Hard Bounce have a happy ending? Did it end where and how you wanted it to?

Other Resources:

Lit Reactor interview with Todd Robinson
Todd Robinson reading from The Hard Bounce
Crimespree Magazine review of The Hard Bounce
Mystery Scene Magazine review of The Hard Bounce

If you liked The Hard Bounce, try…

Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald

Crimes in Southern Indiana book cover     Killer Inside Me book coverthe Deep Blue Good-by book cover

Book Discussion Questions: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep book cover

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

Title: The Big Sleep
Author: Raymond Chandler
Page Count: 249
Genre: Mystery, Pulp Fiction
Tone: Witty, Gritty, Fast-paced

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    What did you think of Chandler’s constant barrage of setting details?

2.    Do you think General Sternwood had given up on being a parent? What would you have done differently?

3.    Vivian visits Marlowe’s office to try and figure out if he is looking for her husband. Why doesn’t she just go to her father?

4.    Vivian tells Marlowe, “People don’t talk to me that way.” (p. 19) What does this tell us about Vivian? What does this tell us about Marlowe?

5.    Marlow comes in contact with thugs, lowlifes, cops and the rich. Does he speak to everybody the same?

6.    Marlowe seems almost unmovable. Almost. What are some examples of Marlowe being human?

-p. 61, Marlowe blushes after Vivian leaves
-p. 190, interaction with Eddie Mars’ wife

7.    Do you count The Big Sleep as a classic of American literature? Why or why not?

8.    What makes a character classic?

9.    What are the charms of Marlowe?

10.    Do you think Phillip Marlowe has an equal in crime fiction?

11.    Did you see Marlowe as Humphrey Bogart?

12.    Who could play Marlowe in this day and age?

13.    What did you think of Carmen?

14.    Is Carmen not very smart or does she have health issues that can account for her behavior?

15.    Rusty Regan, the missing, bootlegging husband, always carried 15 grand on his person. What does that say about him?

16.    Why do you think Chandler never lets us see Rusty Regan, alive or dead?

17.    What does it say about Phillip Marlowe that he carries a gun and a bottle of rye in his glove compartment?

18.    When you read the book, did you see it in black and white in your mind? Color?

19.    Why would Vivian “loath masterful men?” (p. 20)

20.    Did Carmen getting the drop on Marlowe  surprise you? (p. 210)

21.    Eddie Mars’ wife says she still loves her husband, even knowing what a criminal he is. (p. 196) Were you bothered by her stance? Why?

22.    If you could go back to 1939, would you want Marlowe’s job? What job would you want?

23.    What does it say about Marlowe that he is a private investigator instead of a police officer?

24.    Did the slang ever bother you?

25.    Is everybody (men and women) a smooth talker in The Big Sleep?

26.    Any favorite quotes from the book?

27.    On page 48, the doctor can’t easily tell Owen Taylor’s time of death. How would this bit of information help establish the novel’s era?

28.    There ended up being a good number of characters and quite a few of them dead. Did you ever have trouble following along?

29.    One of Chandler’s most famous quotes is, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” (The quote originates from “The Simple Art of Murder,” found as an introduction essay to his novel of the same name.) Did you see examples of that in The Big Sleep? Is this a good writing practice?

30.    Think of characters and their status levels. Is there any social critique within The Big Sleep?

31.    Do women have power in this story? If so, what kind?

32.    How does Marlowe see women?

33.    Does Marlowe have a code of honor?

34.    Some of Raymond Chandler’s biggest literary influences were Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway and Henry James. Do you see any connections in his work to these authors?

-Ex: Dickens wrote convoluted plots, Hemingway wrote in short, to the point sentences, and James wrote in very dark tones

35.    What influence do you think Chandler has had on crime novels?

Other Resources:

Raymond Chandler’s website
Extra discussion questions on Spark Notes
Wikipedia page on pulp fiction
Ian Fleming interviews Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler’s 1945 essay for The Atlantic about writing in Hollywood
Original 1939 New York Times book review of The Big Sleep
Extra books on Chandler: Raymond Chandler: A Biography  and The Raymond Chandler Papers

If you liked The Big Sleep, try…

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane

L.A. Confidential book cover     the Thin Man book coverI the Jury book cover

Book Discussion Questions: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book coverSPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Author: Stieg Larsson
Page Count: 590
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Tone: Dark, Gritty

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2012 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    Did you like Mikael Blomkvist?

2.    What did you view him as? A writer? A hero? A failure? Other?

3.    Do you think Blomkvist has intimacy issues? If so, are they a stumbling block for him?

4.    Does Lisbeth Salander have intimacy issues? Is so, are they a stumbling block for her?

5.    What did you think of Blomkvist and Berger’s relationship?

6.    What did you think of Lisbeth Salander as a character? Was Lisbeth a believable character? If not, did she need to be?

7.    Does Lisbeth have a mental illness? If so, was the illness ever named?

8.    Lisbeth is described as being 4’11”, 90 lbs, and – though she looks anorexic – she isn’t. She eats an intense amount of food. What does this description say about Lisbeth? What does it say about the author’s view of women?

9.    Do you think that Lisbeth’s image was meant to attract people or to shove them away?

10.    Here are the movie posters for the Swedish and American movies. Do you think one movie captured the tone and truth of the book better? What is the difference in the depictions of Lisbeth on the posters?

11.    In the book, why do you think so many people were attracted to Lisbeth?

12.    Why do you think so many women were attracted to Blomkvist?

13.    What do you think of the original, Swedish title? (Men Who Hate Women)

14.    Why do you think the title was changed for the American edition?

15.    Which title do you think is more effective? Why?

16.    What do you think of the pace of this book?

17.    Is Lisbeth the main character or a side character?

18.    There are very graphic rape scenes that occur in this novel. How did you respond to these?

19.    What was the author’s point in depicting rape? Did he have (or need) a point?

20.    Do you think that the author wrote these scenes well or that he could have done better?

21.    What did you think of Lisbeth’s revenge against her counselor?

22.    Do Lisbeth’s experiences make her stronger?

23.    Why do you think authors use sexual assault (mainly against women) as an “experience” to make their characters stronger? Do you think this can be done in other ways?

24.    It is said that Stieg Larrson wanted to emphasize misogyny in Swedish culture and that is why this book is so graphic. Do you think he accomplished his goal?

25.    Do you think Larsson titillated with his violence, bluntly highlighted misogyny, or both?

26.    At 15, Stieg Larrson witnessed a rape committed by three of his friends. What impact do you think this made on him?

27.    Can you think of any books that highlight violence against women and accomplish it better?

28.    Do you think the author had a point to make when he had Lisbeth save Blomkvist at the end of the book from Martin Vanger?

29.    What was your reaction to Martin Vanger’s torture den?

30.    What do you think of the way Martin Vanger died?

31.    Did you ever suspect Martin Vanger of being the villain?

32.    Why do you think Lisbeth destroyed evidence of the murdered women in Martin’s torture den?

33.    What did you think of Harriet Vanger still being alive? Did you know it was coming or did you think she was dead?

34.    Some reviewers label Lisbeth as a “feminist icon.” What does that mean? Do you agree with the statement?

35.    What did you think of the setting? Did the setting become a main feature of the story?

36.    What did you think of the Nazi element of the story? Was it important?

37.    Was any of this book shocking to you?  Discuss.

38.    Do you think this book had a good ending? If not, where would you have wanted it to end?

39.    What questions would you want to ask Stieg Larrson if he was still alive?

40.    Did you like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Are you going to read other books in the Millennium Trilogy?

Other Resources:

Stieg Larsson’s website
Lit Lovers’ book discussion guide
Book Browse book discussion guide
The New York Review of Books’ review
The Telegraph’s interview with Stieg Larsson
Stieg Larsson: Behind The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by CBS

If you liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, try…

In the Woods by Tana French
Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

In the Woods book cover 1Smilla's Sense of Snow book coverThe Redbreast book cover