Welcome to the page dedicated to Book Clubs reading the WISE Enquiries Agency 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!
Here are some general questions and discussion topics relating to all four books in the series, THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER, THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER, THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS COOK and THE CASE OF THE UNSUITABLE SUITOR, followed by a few which relate to each specific title. I hope you find them useful and fun!
1) In these books you meet the four women who staff the WISE Enquiries Agency. With whom did you most readily identify, and why? Do you think the women have a good group skill-set for their chosen occupation? What about their “additional member”, the dowager duchess Althea Twyst?
2) These women are at different stages in their lives and come from very different backgrounds. They also have differing family responsibilities and relationships. Do you think that women have to juggle family, life and a career in a way that differs from men?
3) The four women are one Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English (plus Althea, who has grandparents from each of these “home nations” as the Brits call them) Do any members of your group have any ancestry from those areas? Each woman also has a different sense of her own “national” identity. Do you? What influences that for you? Do you think that differs for men and women, or does age and background play a more vital role? (How about a meeting with distinctly Welsh, Irish, Scottish or English food and drink?)
4) There’s an interplay in these books between old traditions and new technology. By their very nature, traditions tend to remain the same whereas technology brings new challenges. How do you find that new technology has changed your own life? What about altering traditions?
5) The class structure in Britain is quite unique to that world. If you’re a British group, how do you think that affects your lives, if at all? If you’re not a British group, what takes its place?
6) These women all display some measure of strength, and some measure of vulnerability or weakness in the books. What were the most noticeable to you?
7) If you were to cast actors (dead or alive – have fun!) to play these roles, who would you choose, and why?
ABOUT THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER
1) So…how did you all feel about the antique dentures? The Waterloo Teeth are a REAL THING. Clever, disgusting, or a bit of both?
2) Do you collect something others might find strange, or unsettling? If you don’t collect anything, why not? If you do, why do you?
3) Hay-on-Wye is real, and has dozens of book shops. It’s twinned with Timbuktu, which is known for its libraries. If you were able to visit a town stuffed with specialist book shops, which ones would you put at the top of your list, and which would you avoid?
ABOUT THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER
1) Have any of you seen, or maybe even taken part in, Morris dancing? What did you think of it? There’s a lot of information about it on the Internet and many video clips of dances.
2) Where you live, is there something similar in terms of folk dancing? Does folk dancing play a part in your family background or heritage at all?
3) Weddings around the world have different traditions associated with them. If you’re married, what traditions did you observe at your wedding, and which did you avoid? If you’re not married, which wedding traditions appeal to you, and which do you think you’d give a miss? Why?
ABOUT THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS COOK
1) In this book, the role of women in society is front and center – and not just because it’s women doing the investigating. Do you think – as Althea does – that elderly women are “invisible”? Is that a good, or bad, thing?
2) Do you think the creations of women are valued less than the creations of men in the society with which you are familiar? Differently? The same? Why do you think that is?
3) What makes art, “Art”? Does it have to be grand, or does it just have to be what the creator calls “Art”? How do you feel about public funds and taxes being spent on public art? Do you have any near where you live? What do you think is the value to society of public art?
4) Is there something you wouldn’t be able to give up, even if you were in deep hiding and trying to “stay under the radar”? Would doing it/indulging in it/having it force you to break cover and possibly be discovered? How would you react to having to give up something that means a great deal to you in order to “disappear”? Can a hobby, skill or creative urge be an “addiction”?
ABOUT THE CASE OF THE UNSUITABLE SUITOR
1) Part of this book is set in Wales, where the WISE Enquiries Agency is based, and part of it takes place in Ireland. Christine Wilson-Smythe’s family (her father being a viscount) is a member of the “landed gentry” in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The differences between the British north, and the independent south (Eire), of the island of Ireland, as well as those between Protestants and Catholics, have lingered, causing bloodshed, for hundreds of years. Has this book made you think about those differences, and how they might impact the coziest/most idyllic of lifestyles, in a different light?
2) Because the WISE women are all at different points in their lives, their relationships with men are at “different stages”: Althea and Mavis are both widows, Carol is happily married and starting a family, Christine is in her twenties and seemingly devoted to Alexander, despite his dark background (or maybe because of it?), but Annie is “happily still single” in her fifties. In this book, we see how a person who tells someone they are attractive becomes attractive to that person. Why do you think Huw Hughes’s attention-giving managed to make him so desperately attractive to so many women over the years? Is it normal to enjoy being with someone who makes you feel “special”, and do you think there’s a possible built-in danger…when that stops?
3) Two very different styles of policing are highlighted in this book: in the Welsh thread of the book we see traditionally “cozy” interactions with a community policing service, but in the Irish thread we see the differences that arise when dealing with something more akin to a police “force”. Both operate in rural areas, but each has a different set of circumstances, and history, to deal with. Do you see differences like that where you live? Are you used to having an armed police presence in your community, or an unarmed one? Can you imagine how it would be if the alternative were the case?
If you’d like me to join your book club to talk about this book, or my writing in more general terms, please email me at: email@example.com If you’re in the Mission/Lower Mainland area of BC I might be able to join you in person, if you’re further afield I am happy to “appear” at your book club via Skype – that goes for clubs run in members’ homes, or at libraries etc.