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Mystery Book Club - Past Titles: Dec. 2023

Titles from the Mystery Book Club at the Islington Branch *No longer an active club*

"A Simple Favor" by Darcey Bell

  1. The book starts with a blog post from Stephanie on her “mom blog.” What do you think about her blog? What is the purpose? Do you think she has an active audience?
  2. Miles and Nicky are friends so Stephanie and Emily become friends. Was their friendship normal or contrived?
  3. Emily asks Stephanie for a “simple favor” which ends up being anything but simple. Discuss this favor and why the author chose to name the book after it. Do you think it was a good idea/book title?
  4. Sean and Emily have an interesting marriage. He is British (and in the movie a crazy rich Asian!) She is from Bloomfield Hills, MI. Is this who you would expect to be Emily’s husband? Explain why they go together or don’t.
  5. Emily works in PR for Dennis Nylon. Discuss his role in the book and how her position led her to do what she did. After Emily goes missing, Dennis goes on the news with a signature tie to help find Emily and give more press to her case. He also made flyers and sent interns to look for her. Was this helpful or just a way for his brand to get more attention?
  6. Stephanie has an unfortunate past. She had an incestuous relationship with her half brother, which led to a child, while she was (with/married?) to Davis. Somebody call Jerry Springer. Let’s discuss.
  7. Emily steals Sean’s mom’s ring while in London. This ring plays an important role throughout the book. Discuss why she did this and why the ring is so important to her.
  8. Emily and Stephanie become fast friends. Was their friendship ever real? How did Emily know that Stephanie would play the role she played? Emily refers to Stephanie as “the fish.” Was she just a pawn all along?
  9. Sean and Stephanie become involved. Is anyone surprised?
  10. All of this happened for $2mil of insurance money. Emily and Sean seem to both have had great jobs. Why did they do all of this for insurance fraud?
  11. Emily has a secret twin. Why did she hide her from her family? And in the end when she kills her to aid in her plan, were you surprised?
  12. Discuss the ending of the book. So much happened. Does Emily really get away with all of this in the end?

Darcey Bell was born in 1981 and raised on a dairy farm in western Iowa. She is a preschool teacher in Chicago.

  • How do you time the ideas in a story? When to let something slip?
    • Timing is so important for creating suspense. You can’t give away the big secret in the first five pages, but you also can’t leave the reader totally in the dark until the final revealing moment. You have to drop crumbs along that way that smell a little fishy…I’m obsessed with Patricia Highsmith (as you know, she makes some appearances in my novel!), and I learned a lot from reading her work. I think it’s in The Talented Mr. Ripley where she writes, “Anticipation was more pleasant...than the experiencing.” The thrill in anticipation is a big part of writing suspense for me. (Washington Independent Review of Books)
  • Is there anything about this story that exists in your reality?
    • Sort of! As a preschool teacher, I spend a lot of time talking with moms with young children who are often lonely, fiercely protective, and loving parents. To be honest, a lot of the mothers I meet are at least a little like Stephanie. Maybe every mother is, but some know how to hide it better than others! But no sapphire rings or cabins for me… (Washington Independent Review of Books)
  • A Simple Favor (2018)

  • So here’s something you’ll rarely hear a novelist say: The first time I saw the film of my first novel, A Simple Favor, I felt like someone had turned on all the lights in the house and uncorked a bottle of something fizzy and delicious. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, two suburban moms celebrate the pleasures of the afterschool martini. But to me the effect of watching it seemed more like French champagne:  sparkling and bubbly in a way that makes everything seem funnier and more interesting. (Crime Reads)


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