This past week Suspicious Minds, Northbrook's crime fiction book club, met to discuss Blue Heaven, by C.J. Box.
Blue Heaven was the first stand-alone novel written by Box, author of the popular Joe Pickett series. All of his books take place in the American West...which make sense once you see his author photo...
See what I mean? Total cowboy. His heroes tend to be the Clint Eastwood type - misunderstood, independent, and know how to take care of cattle. (is there a name for that?? I'm such a city girl...)
Anyways, I picked this book for several reasons but mainly because it won the Edgar Award in 2009, and generally the Edgar Award is reliably awesome. For any others running a similar type of book club, check out the Edgar lists. There a great resource.
But I also picked Blue Heaven because it isn't a traditional mystery novel. It is the story of two children who witness a murder, and the men who try to silence them before the children can tell someone what they saw. And since this murder takes place right in the very beginning of the novel, you know who the killers are from the get go.
Blue Heaven reads extremely fast, very much like a thriller, which worried me at first - will this book be discussable? It turned out we had plenty to talk about at Suspicious Minds.
Of the 12 attendees at the discussion, all 12 really enjoyed the book, which again worried me. Sometimes when everybody loves a book, the discussion just dies, but thankfully that was not the case with this group. Some of the words and phrases used to describe the book were: different levels of evil, well-written, good sense of place, city slickers vs country folk, special, and morality tale.
When I asked the group if they still considered the book a mystery, they emphatically said yes. I asked what makes a mystery if it isn't finding out "whodunit" and they answered it's the secrets and knowing what happened that matters most. The discussion then turned towards understanding people's motivations, and what selfishness makes people do. The "levels of evil" in the story are fascinating, and really what takes this book from commercial crime fiction to something more.
Overall, it was a great book. Fun to read. Fun to talk about. I would suggest it to other book clubs that focus on crime fiction.
In the spirit of the amazing and extremely talented Readers Advisor Becky Spratford, who writes the blog RA for All (if you're not reading it yet, GO NOW), I will be briefly recapping the various book discussions that I lead.
Suspicious Minds is an evening book discussion that meets inside the library, in the evening, and reads only crime fiction.
Last night we met to discuss The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, a much more divisive book that I had anticipated. Of the 12 people who attended, two flat-out hated the book, another three were somewhere in the middle, while the remaining adored the book.
I always begin my book discussions with a go-around where everyone gives their general impression: did they love it, did they hate it, etc. Words used to describe the book were: goofy, fun, charming, no character development, and boring.
We spent the most time discussing Flavia de Luce, the precocious child narrator of the book. The big question is whether an 11 year old could actually be as smart and witty as Alan Bradley writes her. Some people insisted that they knew 11 year olds just as smart as Flavia, while others insisted it could never be. I asked the group if they think that characters need to be realistic in order to enjoy the story, and of course, they were divided.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to other discussion leaders, even for groups that read more than just mysteries. We could have debated and discussed for another hour, at least. There are publisher discussion questions available, but I tend to write my own. You can access those on my Google Doc.
Happy Friday, and happy reading!