Welcome to the page dedicated to Book Clubs reading the Cait Morgan Mysteries
If you’re already involved with a Book Club you know the joy of sharing the experience of reading, and then discussing, books as a member of a group. What you’ll also know is that, sometimes, the social aspect of the group meeting can completely overwhelm the planned chat about the book and, fun though that is, some folks leave feeling they didn’t get a chance to say what they wanted, or maybe learn what they wanted! Yes – I’ve been at those meetings too!
Sometimes it helps to get everyone to think about the same discussion points as they read. You might find that the meeting develops a rhythm!
I’ve popped some ideas for discussion topics related to “The Corpse with the Silver Tongue”, “The Corpse with the Golden Nose”, “The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb”, “The Corpse with the Platinum Hair”, “The Corpse with the Sapphire Eyes”, “The Corpse with the Diamond Hand”, “The Corpse with the Garnet Face” and “The Corpse with the Ruby Lips” below. Some are general, and could relate to any of the seven books, but some refer to one particular title. Because I know you might not have read all my books, I’ve tried to avoid there being any “spoilers” in the questions/suggestions. I’ve also tried to be pretty wide-ranging, because I also know the mix within a group is a big part of the fun . . . you know, someone loves history, another politics, another will enjoy the personal relationships, another just wants to follow the clues etc.
So have at it, Book Clubs! I hope you enjoy the book, and I hope you have just as much fun talking about it.
By the way – if you’d like me to visit your Book Club to discuss my book, I’d welcome the chance to do it! Drop me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we could set up a date and time when I can either be there in person, on the telephone, or via Skype.
1. Which character would you most like to invite to join your Book Club for this meeting? Why?
2. Which character would you cross the street to avoid? Why?
3. If you were casting a movie of this book, who would you cast in which parts?
4. Cait’s pretty sure of herself, until she isn’t. She’s pretty bossy, until she’s scared. She’s got a photographic memory, but forgets things. She likes to take charge, but turns to Bud for support. She’s comfortable with her weight, but tries to joke about it before others can mention it. She loves to smoke, but knows it’s bad for her. Why are we humans so contradictory? Are you? How? Why? List some other fictional characters who are defined by contradiction.
5. The world famous “Detection Club”, whose members included Agatha Christie, drew up “rules” for mystery novels. One of them was that a clue that could help solve the case must not be concealed from the reader. What were the clues that helped Cait solve the case? How many of them did you spot as you were reading? When did you solve the case?
Relating to “The Corpse with the Silver Tongue”
1. Cathy Ace says that one of the themes of this book is ‘possession’ – of things, of people, of power. Which characters seek to possess what? What are the repercussions?
2. While the specifics of history and location have been changed, the Roman Museum at Cimiez, the apartment building initially built as an hotel and used by the occupying forces during World War Two and, of course, the bars and restaurants of the Cours Saleya in Nice are all real. Have you ever been to Nice? France? What did you think? Did you feel the layers of history all around you when you were there? Would you like to go? Why?
3. Madelaine Schiafino made certain decisions about how to cope with the German occupation, and how to live her life thereafter. Cait made a decision about how to deal with her attacker. Is it wrong to do whatever it takes to survive?
4. Is Tamsin strong, or weak? Is Cait strong, or weak?
5. The book mentions some ‘controversial’ foods. Cultural norms differ: what one culture sees as a delicacy, another sees as disgusting, unappealing, or cruel. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? What would you never eat? What do you eat that you know some folks wouldn’t touch?
6. Cait believes that Bud and Jan are soul-mates. Do you believe that there’s such a thing as a soul-mate?
Relating to “The Corpse with the Golden Nose”
1. Has anyone in the group been to Okanagan Lake wine country in British Columbia? What about other wine regions of the world? What was special about the wine region you visited?
2. What’s your favourite wine? What’s your least favourite wine? (How about arranging a tasting?)
3. There’s a “retro” luncheon party in this book. If you were attending a “retro” luncheon, or dinner, what food and drink would you like to see being served? What would you run a mile to avoid?
4. Cait muses on the relationship between interests, hobbies, passions, obsessions and compulsions. Is this always a slippery slope? Are you on it?
5. Cait enjoys her food, no question about it. Do you live to eat, or eat to live? Why?
6. Cait happily admits she still follows a TV character from her childhood: Doctor Who. Which characters who inhabited your childhood, from TV, books or maybe the radio, are still your friends today? Why is that? Who do you miss from those years? Have you passed your passion for your childhood favorites to another generation in your family or friends?
Relating to “The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb”
1. The book is set on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Has anyone in the group visited that region? If so, what types of horticulture did they see, and what surprised them? Margarita tends a lush rose garden not far from an arid blue agave plantation. What micro-climates exist in your area? How do local gardeners make use of them?
2. Has any member of your group ever taken part in a tequila tasting? What did they think of the different types and grades of tequila? Is it something you might like to do as a group?
3. What’s your favorite Mexican food? Least favorite? What about a Mexican-themed evening for your group discussion?
4. Cait clearly has the Edward Lear “Alice” books on her mind, and parallels can be found throughout the book. Have you read the “Alice” books as an adult? As a child? What do you recall of them? Which parallels did you spot?
5. Cait’s determination to save Bud is immediate, and relentless. How far would you go to save someone you love?
6. Cait realizes that Bud has kept facts about his professional life from her. Is secrecy within a relationship always a bad thing? Is Bud’s secrecy understandable? Given Cait and Bud’s personalities, do you think it’s sustainable?
7. Al claims that there’s a lack of awareness and understanding of Mexican artistic achievement. Do you think he makes a valid point? Why do you think that is?
Relating to “The Corpse with the Platinum Hair”
1. Even for those who are not great fans of opera, there are some pieces that have wound their way through our lives; arias in elevators, duets in diners, a chorus or two in the parking lot of a supermarket are all commonplace. What’s your favorite piece? Why? Your cue for a sing-along!?
2. Russian history is complex. Do you know anyone of Russian heritage? Maybe someone in your own family? What is it about Tsarist Russia that draws us to the design and culture of that time, or do you find it ugly? Has anyone in the group ever visited Russia? Does anyone in the group own anything of Russian heritage…maybe you’ve got a Fabergé egg hidden in a cupboard? How about some show and tell?
3. In this book only one person was born and raised in the local area. That’s not unusual in Las Vegas, which attracts new residents, as well as tourists, from around the USA, and the world. What about where you live – are most people “from” there, or did they arrive from somewhere else? What difference does that make to a village, a town, or a city?
4. Who in the group has been to Vegas? What story about Vegas sums it up for those who have been? For those who haven’t been, would you like to go, or not, and why?
5. Miss Shirley can have whatever food and drink she wants served at her private restaurant. If money, and practicality, were no object, what would you have on the menu at your private restaurant?
6. Probably the most famous “closed room” mystery is AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie. THE CORPSE WITH THE PLATINUM HAIR is also a “closed room” mystery. Do you prefer this type of tale, where the victim/s, suspect/s, sleuth/s and the killer/s are all confined within one “closed” space (in this book it’s a restaurant, in Christie’s famous tale it was an island) or do you prefer the “locked room” mystery—where the victim is locked inside a room/locale, to which no one could possibly have gained entry to kill them (or so we are led to believe!)? Why?
Relating to “The Corpse with the Sapphire Eyes”
1. Sometimes family members give the best of themselves to outsiders and treat their family members less than well. This is presented in several forms in this book. Why do you think that happens? Is it what we all do, and expect, or is it an oddity?
2. The book is set in Wales, close to the city of Swansea where Cait was born and raised. She expects to feel “at home”, but doesn’t. When a person’s been away for years, is it possible to “go home” and have it feel the way it once felt? Why do you think that is?
3. Cathy describes this book as her homage to “Agatha Christie meets Nancy Drew in a setting provided by Edgar Allen Poe”. What do you think?
4. The practice of layer upon layer of construction taking place in sites thought of as “special” can be observed the world over. In this instance lay lines, a prehistoric stone circle, a Roman temple, medieval stronghold and Victorian industrialist’s fanciful castle are all located in the same place. Are you familiar with other places like this? Why do you think this happens?
5. Just for fun – have a session where you use the pronunciation tips at the back of the book and speak all the Welsh words aloud. Pack an umbrella, because Welsh language can produce a fair amount of spray!
6. Has anyone in the group been to Wales? Do you wish you could go? If you want to see the castles which inspired this book here are two websites, one is for Cardiff Castle, the other for Castell Coch – both mentioned in the book.The interiors are magical, the exteriors breathtaking. I’ve also added a web address for you to be able to see the natural beauty of the Gower Peninsular, the setting for Castell Llwyd. I hope you enjoy visiting Cait’s (and my!) “neck of the woods”.
Relating to “The Corpse with the Diamond Hand”
1. The book is set on a cruise ship that has cruised the Hawaiian Islands and is returning to Vancouver, BC. Has anyone in the group cruised? Anyone been to any of the Hawaiian Islands? (How about a Hawaiian-themed evening?) How did your experience compare with what’s described in the book (probably not the murder, hopefully!)?
2. Certainly this is a closed-circle mystery – one where only a small number of people could have “dunnit” – and Cait and Bud are, once again, determined to unmask the culprit to ensure justice is served. However, this book also raises another key issue – the effect that being suspected of a crime of which one is innocent can have upon a person. Cait has experienced this herself, and doesn’t want others to have their lives blighted in the same way. Do you believe suspects can ever truly expect to be viewed by the world as “innocent until proven guilty” or is that not possible in today’s digital world? How do you think your opinion impacts the idea of jury trials being “fair”?
3. One of the characters in this book reveals to Bud they have a life-threatening condition. This is a difficult topic, and it might be one your group would prefer to avoid…but, if you are up to it, how do end-of-life decisions impact loved ones? Cait and Bud discuss how receiving such news about themselves might be more difficult to handle than they had thought.
4. Though there are a few dark strands in this book, there is light too! Life on a luxury ship can be a little over-the-top….what’s the most outrageous you have ever been? What’s “living life large” for you? How do the dreams of “the perfect vacation” differ within the group? Do any of you have “A Bucket List”? Do you want to share what’s on it?
5. Poi – it’s a food that’s quite specific to Hawai’i. Have any of you ever eaten it? What did you think? What about other foods you have tasted once, and never want to taste again?
Relating to “The Corpse with the Garnet Face”
1. The book contains references to lots of works of art, as befitting a book set in a city (Amsterdam) where so much art is present. There are lots of places on the Internet where you can see the art referred to. Why not have a wander around in the online world and check out the pieces referred to by Cait, Bud and the other characters? Which pieces did you like? Which weren’t to your taste? Why/why not? Who are your favourite artists? Have you just discovered some you’d like to investigate further? Never heard of “The Group of Seven”? Again, there are a lot of ways you can find out more about them online. Here’s one link: http://www.groupofseven.ca/
2. Is anyone in your group from The Netherlands? Descended from Dutch stock? Anyone ever visited? How about Dutch-themed food for your gathering?
3. This book features a group of people who have a “common interest” – art. Your book club shares a common interest – books! What do you feel you gain from sharing your love of something like art, books, quilting etc? How do you cope with the benefits vs the challenges of belonging to a group?
4. Bud and Cait follow the wishes of a dead relative. Would you have done what they did? Why/why not?
5. The history of The Netherlands tells us many artists traveled there for the unique light. This is something artists say about other places too (southern Spain, the south of France etc). Van Gogh spent a great deal of time outside the Netherlands “chasing the light”. What’s unique about where you live that might attract artists? Does it? How does their art show off your locale? Ever been tempted to “join in and make art”?
6. There are stories about “lost” works of art popping up in the strangest places – barns, attics, outhouses etc. Has anything like this happened to you, someone you know, someone in your area?
7. Real vs reproduction? Would you rather have a reproduction of a great work of art on your wall, or a real piece created by someone you know/love/is local/are supporting by buying their work? Why?
Relating to “The Corpse with the Ruby Lips”
1. Do any of your group come from Hungary, or do they have a Hungarian heritage? Anyone been to Budapest? What personal stories about Hungary or Budapest can your group share?
2. Of all the Cait Morgan Mysteries, this – although it’s still a closed-circle “whodunit” – is the most akin to a thriller. Do you, as a reader, draw a sharp line between traditional “whodunits” and classic “thrillers” in the same way the publishing business does…or do you just enjoy what you read without trying to categorize it? If you’re a Christie fan, are you also a Hitchcock fan….if not, why not…if so, why?
3. Have you ever watched “The Third Man“? “The Thirty Nine Steps“? What about all those Hitchcock movies where the hapless lead character is caught up in a series of events over which they have no control, and which they don’t understand, their sense of security disintegrating about them? In what ways is this book similar to them? How does it differ?
4. Do you think that if a woman wears ruby-red lipstick it “says something about the sort of woman she is”? If so, what, and why?
5. In this book Cait is on her own in Budapest, without Bud’s steadying influence. Having been single until her late-forties, and having now been married to her beloved for almost a year, she falls back into her “old ways”, and finds they don’t comfort or satisfy her as they used to. Have you been separated from a significant other for a period of time, and felt loneliness impacting you? How did you cope? What might have shown an observer you weren’t coping as well as you hoped?
6. Cait’s usually highly judgemental, and posses good judgement which allows her to “read” people. In this book, those characteristics seem to have deserted her. For much of her life she’s “kept people out” as a way to cope with the scars that haven’t healed since her relationship with Angus. In this book she’s letting people “in”. In Cait’s case it’s largely because she’s so horribly lonely, and grappling with the person she’s become since her love for Bud has flourished. Not used to self-reflection – or with the idea she should judge herself in the same way she judges others – Cait’s having to admit she’s a human being! Do you find your level of self-reflection has changed with the years, or with life-events? What’s a “healthy” amount of self-judgement….and what’s unhealthy?
7. In this book the past has long arms, and reaches out to touch lives in the present day. This is the case not just for the family Cait gets to know, but for the families of those who were informants during the Communist years in Hungary. Of course, this being a murder mystery, the past affects present-day lives in a less than pleasant way…would you like to share some examples of that?
8. Why not have a Hungarian food meeting? What about some zither music, or Roma violins? Or what about Bartok? PLEASE at least all sing the Blue Danube Waltz?! 🙂
I hope you enjoy my books, and your Book Club! Cathy