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Mystery Book Club - Past Titles: Oct. 2022

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

"Wish You Were Here" by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown

Basic Mystery Novel Questions:

  1. What did you like most about the book? What did you like least about the book? 
  2. What cozy trope(s) were in the book (baking, tea, pets, travel, crafts, etc.)? Did this add to or subtract from your enjoyment of the novel? 
  3. How well did the author integrate the mystery into the story? Was it an integral part, or did it seem like an afterthought? What could the author have done better? 
  4. Every murder mystery begins with an act of murder. How was the murder in this book? Was it credible or creative? How about shocking or memorable? 

Murder Mystery Questions:

  1. Discuss the mystery aspect of the plotline. How effective is the author's use of plot twists and red herrings? Were you able to predict certain things before they happened, or did the author keep you guessing until the end of the story? Were you able to figure out who the killer or culprit was before the ending? Why or why not? 
  2. The mystery-suspense genre expects to be a “page-turner.” Was this book suspenseful? Did you find yourself becoming anxious as you read it - quickly turning pages to find out what happens next? At what point could you not put the book down? Or did you find yourself often putting it down to take breaks? 
  3. Mysteries are famous for their red herrings—false clues or characters the reader suspects of committing the murder but didn’t. Did any of the red herrings in this book throw you off track? Which character did you think murdered at the beginning of the novel? 

Character Questions:

  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. The most important characters in a mystery are the sleuth, the victim, and the culprit. What impression did those characters make on you? Did their motivations and actions make sense? 
  3. Who was your favorite character? 
  4. Is Harry a reliable narrator? Is she above reproach or is she a flawed, human narrator? Why or why not? 
  5. The sleuth (whether a PI, a police detective, or an amateur) drives the investigation and carries the story. Was the sleuth in this book competent and worthy of solving the crime? Would you read further crime-solving adventures with this sleuth in a series?  
  6. Were there too many characters to keep straight? Did having the character list at the beginning impact your reading of the story? 

Location Questions:

  1. The setting or the main character’s job/hobby is often a key element in the plot of a mystery. How does location or vocation play a role in this mystery? 
  2. Could Harry have solved the mystery without her job in the post office? Would she even have cared to try? 

Reveal Questions:

  1. A good mystery is a challenge to the reader to solve the crime before the sleuth. Did you solve the mystery and identify the murderer before the big reveal in the end? 
  2. Mystery-suspense novels build to the big reveal and final confrontation. Is the motive probable or believable? Is the ending organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author? Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked on? Perhaps it's too predictable? Can you envision a different or better ending? 

Satisfaction Questions:

  1. Overall, is the book satisfying? Does it live up to the standards of a good mystery novel? Or does it somehow fall short? 
  2. Good books leave an impression on the reader. Were there any passages - ideas, descriptions, dialogue - that you found interesting or revealing? Did anything make you smile or, better yet, make you laugh out loud? 
  3. The goal of every mystery-suspense novel is to provide you with a few hours of enjoyment. Overall, did you enjoy this book? Did it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Would you recommend it to others? 
  4. Were you concerned by any of the opinions portrayed by Harry (political, religious, cursing, etc.)? Why do you believe Brown put these into the storyline?
  • Born: Hanover, Pennsylvania, 1944 (Bio)
    • November 28, 1944, in Hanover, Pennsylvania, to an unwed, teenage mother and her married boyfriend. Brown was left at an orphanage by her mother before she was rescued and adopted by a cousin of her mother’s and her husband. (Author Biographies)

    • The bestselling author of 37 books is nothing if not versatile: feminist activist, mystery writer, lesbian pioneer, fox hunter, screenwriter, novelist, and animal rescuer. 

    • She even became a tabloid star during her three-year relationship with tennis superstar Martina Navratilova. (Time Magazine)

  • Education: 

    • University of Florida, Gainesville 

    • New York University, B.A. 1968 

    • New York School of Visual Arts - cinematography certificate 1968

    • Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, D.C., Ph.D. 1976 (Bio)

  • Awards:

    • Best Variety Show award (TV Writers Guild), 1982

    • New York Public Library Literary Lion award, 1986

    • Outstanding Alumni, American Association of Community Colleges, 1999

    • Outstanding Alumna, Broward Community College, 1999 (Bio)

  • Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of: 

  • An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet 

    • Outstanding Writing In A Variety Or Music Program - 1982

    • Love Liberty on ABC (Emmys)

  • Television and film scripts: I Love Liberty, with others, 1982; The Long Hot Summer, 1985; My Two Loves, 1986; The Alice Marble Story, 1986; Sweet Surrender, 1986; The Mists of Avalone, 1987; Table Dancing, 1987; The Girls of Summer, 1989; Selma, Lord, Selma, 1989; Rich Men, Single Women, 1989; The Thirty Nine Year Itch, 1989

  • Poetry: The Hand That Cradles the Rock. New York, New York UniversityPress, 1971, Songs to a Handsome Woman. Baltimore, Diana Press, 1973, Poems. Freedom, California, Crossing Press, 1987

  • Other: A Plain Brown Rapper (essays). Baltimore, Diana Press, 1976, Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers Manual. New York, Bantam, 1988, Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. New York, Bantam Books, 1997. (Bio)

  • Her works have been gathered into a special collection at the University of Virginia Library.

    • This includes manuscript drafts, screenplays, correspondence, and personal collection items.

  • Brown lives in Afton, Virginia

  • She is a Master of Foxhounds and the Huntsman at Oakridge Fox Hunt Club

National Writers Series: Rita Mae Brown 

An Interview with author Rita Mae Brown 

2011 Gaithersburg Book Festival Featured Author - Rita Mae Brown 

  • "The first Mrs. Murphy mystery came out in 1991 – that would make Sneaky Pie 25 years old. I’m assuming that the original Sneaky Pie is no longer with you. What was it like for you to have to train a new cat to take over the important job of co-author? Was there ever a moment when you thought you would end the series after the original Sneaky Pie passed away?” (King)

    • "The original Sneaky Pie lived to twenty. The original Pewter made it to twenty-four. Training replacements was easy. Cats are smart. I suspect they trained me. All my rescues: horses, cats, dogs and foxhounds live long, useful lives. When the original Sneaky Pie died it didn’t occur to me to stop the series. Too many people enjoy the characters, plus, in my small way, I hope they move people to go to shelters or donate.” (King)

  • "You love being outdoors, and yet, you are an incredibly prolific writer. How do you make yourself come inside to write?” (King)

    • "Coming inside depends on the season. I write in the morning in the winter as it is cold here at the very feet of The Blue Ridge Mountains. Summer it’s the reverse. Work happens in the cool of the morning, come inside in the afternoon. As I now have air conditioning—resisted it for years—it’s pleasant and I don’t sweat on the pages. No running ink!” (King)

  • "How much longer do you plan on keeping the Mrs. Murphy series going?” (King)

    • "So long as people wish to read it.” (King)

  • "Every one of you can read. So, can you go back and remember the first book you read a book that opened the door to the world, and opened the door inside … a book you realized [that you’re no longer alone],” she said. “If you go back and you look at these books that you’ve read, it is your inner roadmap. It is a roadmap of your emotions, it’s a roadmap of your life, and probably you never thought of it, and … you’re still on this journey.” (Lafayette Student News)

  • "And how do cats figure into this mystery series?”

    • "Well, their senses are so much smarter than ours. I mean, they're much sharper. Also, they're physically more adept. If we had the jumping ability of a cat from a standing position, we'd be able to jump on top of a two-story house. It's pretty amazing. The other thing is, animals are not hagridden by ideologies. There are no screens between them and reality, so they see things much more clearly than people.” (Time Magazine)

  • "Structure is the basic element Brown considers when writing fiction, carefully planning the framework of each story and how characters, plot, and other literary elements will be placed…Brown appropriated autobiographical elements for those books, in which character Nickel Smith, depicted at various ages, shares many of Brown’s own characteristics. Interested in ancient literature, Brown acknowledges being inspired by the intricate Greek plays of Aristophanes and other early dramatists. She frequently incorporates tall tales, lies, legends, and historical and literary references in her novels to develop characterizations and settings. Humor and absurdity often lighten the intense tone of Brown’s fiction, helping to expose facts and enabling broader awareness of nuances and secrets that would otherwise remain obscured.” (Analysis)

"Brown’s agrarian interests shape her mystery fiction, which emphasizes protecting natural resources and educating people to respect the environment. Sensory details, such as noting weather conditions and seasonal changes, enhance the landscape descriptions. Brown has noted that each mystery she writes occurs in a particular season, and she cycles consecutively through the seasons of the year in four novels. Emphasizing pastoral aspects of her settings, Brown devotes passages to the praise of nature and animals, inserting Bible verses occasionally. Her portrayals of settings as sanctuaries from modern stresses often convey a spiritual tone.” (Analysis)


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