This reading group guide for Above Suspicion includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Anna Travis is a rookie detective handpicked by well-respected Chief Inspector James Langton to join her first murder case investigation. Though she shows the usual jitters at her first postmortem, Anna quickly recovers to attack the case with a zeal and thoroughness reminiscent of her famed chief inspector father. When the key murder suspect decides to pursue Anna, she struggles to keep her head and her heart as she engages him in a delicate game of cat and mouse. Lynda La Plante succeeds in creating another compelling heroine whose dedication and single-minded pursuit of justice makes her a worthy adversary for doubting colleagues and the criminals who cross her path. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What are your first impressions of rookie Anna Travis? How are these impressions challenged or altered throughout the course of the story? What final conclusions do you hold about Anna and her capacity to be an effective detective?
2. How effectively does La Plante situate you in the world of police work? What are the ways she allows you to understand the nature of the work that Anna, Langton, and their colleagues do? What are some of the roadblocks that inhibit the efficacy of the detectives’ work?
3. What personal conflicts arise for both Anna and Langton as they investigate the murder case? How does each try to manage or overcome his/her conflicts? Is each successful? Why or why not?
4. What is the trail of evidence that emerges to incriminate Alan Daniels? How are the detectives able to shift the evidence from circumstantial to prosecutable? What role does Anna play in this shift?
5. What role do parental influences play in the life outcomes of both the villain and heroes in Above Suspicion
? What does La Plante suggests about the most compelling influences in crafting a person’s character? What do you believe?
6. What key insights does the profiler, Michael Parks, provide to the detectives? How do these insights impact the direction of the investigation? Do you believe in the value of a profiler? Why or why not? Enhance Your Book Club
Explore the role of a profiler. The work of profiler Michael Parks proved essential in crafting a portrait of the killer in Above Suspicion
. At the outset of the investigation, Michael reveals that the behaviors of a sociopath and a psychopath can often be indistinguishable from each other; only a trained eye can detect the difference. While Michael comes to his own conclusion about the killer, your book club members will go through their own exploratory process to make a case for why the killer is either a sociopath or a psychopath.
Prior to the book club meeting, divide your members into two groups. Group one members will explore the characteristics and behaviors of a psychopath and arrive at a single definitive list of these characteristics and behaviors. Group two members will create their own definitive list of characteristics and behaviors for the sociopath designation. Each group will chose a primary speaker to present their case for why the killer in Above Suspicion
is either a psychopath or sociopath. Each group should use the specific behaviors and actions of the killer in the novel as part of their evidence.
Questions to consider:
a) What is your definitive list of characteristics for a psychopath and sociopath?
b) What are the key similarities and differences in these designations?
c) Did you agree with Michael Park’s designation? If no, why not?
d) Identify the single most surprising finding from each group.