Suspense fiction

An Anonymous Girl

Author: 
Hendricks, Greer

Looking to earn some easy cash, Jessica Farris agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs.

Dr. Shields seems to know what Jess is thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Jessica’s behavior will not only be monitored, but manipulated.

Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, An Anonymous Girl will keep you riveted through the last shocking twist (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. If you were in Jess’s shoes, would you have snuck into Dr. Shields’s morality and ethics survey? Why or why not? After the questions started to become more invasive, do you think you would have continued answering them, or looked for a way out?

2. What did you think of the authors’ decision to use the second person "you" in Dr. Shields’s chapters? How did it affect your experience of reading the novel? Did it change your perception of any of the characters, especially Dr. Shields?

3. Early in the novel, Jess thinks, "Sometimes an impulsive decision can change the course of your life. "Do you agree? Have you ever made any impulsive decisions that dramatically affected your life? What were they?

4. On page 202, Jess asks, "How do you know if you can really trust someone?" What do you think—how do you know? Can you ever know? What about someone makes them seem "trustworthy" to you?

5. Do you think Dr. Shields truly had a good marriage, or was it doomed from the beginning? Why do you believe this, and what about Dr. Shields informs your thoughts?

6. Did you have an idea of what had happened to Subject 5, or were you surprised? If you did suspect what occurred, can you point out what kind of foreshadowing or clues led you to this conclusion?

7. What did you think of Dr. Shields’s morality and ethics questions? Did you find yourself answering them? Which question did you find the most challenging?

8. An Anonymous Girl explores the lies that link people together and the damage these deceptions can cause. Is it ever okay to tell a lie? When does a secret become a deception?

9. How much of a motivating factor was money for Jess? In your opinion, was the money Jess earned worth what she endured? Can trust ever really be bought?

10. At the start of the novel, one of Dr. Shields’s questions to Jess was, "Do victims have a right to take retribution into their own hands?" How would Jess and Dr. Shields answer this question at the end of the book? How would you answer it?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

The Silent Patient

Author: 
Michaelides, Alex

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect.

A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas.

One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety.

The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. How would you describe Alicia Berenson and the life she has lead up to the time she kills her husband? What was your initial sense of why Alicia refused to speak?

2. Alicia's self-portrait is entitled Alcestis, based an ancient Greek Eurpidean tragedy, which in turn is based upon Greek mythology. Do a bit of research into the myth to find out what Alicia might have been saying about herself in her portrait. What, in other words, does the painting reveal about the painter?

3. Follow-up to Question 2: The author once took a post-grad course in psychotherapy and subsequently spent a couple of years working part-time in a psychiatric unit like the Grove. What does Michaelides mean when, in 2018, he said in an interview with the Bookseller

I saw how the world of psychotherapy might be the perfect modern setting to reimagine [Alcestis'] story and explore its themes of death, guilt and silence.

4. Follow-up to Questions 2 and 3: Do you begin to see Alicia as a mythic character, a parallel to Alcestis? If so, in what way?

5. The author has created his own challenge: he must gradually reveal Alice to readers (and to Theo) without allowing her to tell her own story. How does Michaelides use Alicia's physical appearance and artwork to reveal her character?

6. What do think of Theo, initially, as he begins to work with Alice? What do you come to understand about him, and his motivation, as the book unfolds? In what way does your view of Theo change?

7. Were you shocked by the big reveal at the end? Or did you see it coming?

8. The Silent Patient is called a psychological thriller, but the reviewer of Crime by the Book blog considers it an in depth character study in which both characters' identities take precedence over the actual crime. In what genre would you place the book—character study or plot-based thriller? (It's presumably "both," but let's say you have to choose one or the other.)

(Questions by LitLovers)

The Other Mrs.

Author: 
Kubica, Mary

Hypnotic and addictive, The Other Mrs. is the twisty new psychological thriller from Mary Kubica, the blockbuster bestselling author of The Good Girl.

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbour, Morgan Baines, is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie, who is terrified by the thought of a killer in her very own backyard.

But it's not just Morgan's death that has Sadie on edge. It's their eerie old home, with its decrepit decor and creepy attic, which they inherited from Will's sister after she died unexpectedly. It's Will's disturbed teenage niece Imogen, with her dark and threatening presence. And it's the troubling past that continues to wear at the seams of their family.

As the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of Morgan's death. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs Baines, the more she begins to realise just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

Discussion Guide: 

1. Discuss Sadie’s role as a victim in the novel. Do you think she should be held accountable for her actions in the story? In what ways is she the hero of her own story?

2. Trauma and recovery are important themes in the book. Talk about how each of the characters experience trauma and how it informs their actions and behaviors. Do you think it’s possible to ever fully recover from trauma?

3. What do you think of Sadie’s relationships with Otto and Tate? How do you think her experiences from the past shaped her approach to motherhood?

4. Discuss the characters of Sadie, Camille, and Mouse. How does each perspective enhance the story?

5. Did you think Will was a good husband throughout the novel? Do you think he ever truly loved Sadie?

6. How does the isolated setting play into the novel? In what ways does it compound the circumstances in the story and Sadie’s state of mind?

7. What is the significance of the title, The Other Mrs.? Who did you think it referred to at different parts of the story?
(Questions from the author's website.)

Into the Water

Author: 
Hawkins, Paula

Paula Hawkin's addictive new novel of psychological suspense.

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate.

They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.
 
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
 
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. Family relationships, particularly the bond between sisters, feature heavily in Into the Water. How do you think Lena is affected by Nel and Jules’s estrangement? How does it influence her friendship with Katie?

2. Jules and Nel’s estrangement hinges on a misremembering of an event in their past. Are there any childhood or teenage memories you have that are no longer as clear when you look back now? How has this novel made you view your past, and the way it reflects upon your present?

3. Within the novel there are several inappropriate relationships — for example, Katie and Mark; Sean and Nel; Helen and Patrick. How does the depiction of the relationships between these characters affect your interpretation of their behavior and actions?

4. "Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women." Discuss the gender dynamic in Into the Water. How much power does each of the women in the novel hold? What are the different types of power they hold?

5. Into the Water contains several different voices and perspectives. How did this structure affect your reading of the novel?

6. How do the epigraphs relate to the novel? Does one speak to you more than another? If so, why?

7. The structure of the novel means that we get tremendous insight into our suspects throughout. Who did you originally think was responsible for Nel’s death? Did your opinion change as the plot developed?

8. Was there a particular character you identified with? Was there a particular moment you found moving, surprising, or terrifying?

9. Many of the characters in the novel are grieving — some from more recent, raw losses and others from historic ones. How sympathetic were you to these characters? Was there a character you felt more sympathy for than another? Does their grief excuse their behavior?

10. Nickie Sage represents the legacy of witches that haunts the novel. Do you believe she sees things others cannot? Do you agree with the way she behaves?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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