James Montgomery Jackson

Writing about when "Honesty Isn't Everything"

Especially for Book Clubs

I have enjoyed book clubs, both as a member and as an author. I'd love to join you in a discussion of one of my books. If I am within a hour or two drive of your group, I'd be happy come join you for the conversation; if I'm too far away, I could join by Skype or Facetime.

The information below contains spoilers. Discussion guides assume you have read the books, and therefore can include spoilers. You've been warned.

Below you can read Discussion Guides for Ant Farm, Bad Policy, Cabin Fever, and Doubtful Relations. If you prefer PDF, here are the ones for Ant Farm, Bad Policy, Cabin Fever, and Doubtful Relations

Book Club Discussion Guide for Ant Farm

If you had a mystery that needed clearing up, would you call on Seamus?

Did you find helpful Seamus's analogy comparing what he does to looking at an ant farm?

What would you think if your college-aged daughter came home and introduced Paddy as her new boyfriend?

The Collier sisters initially got in trouble because of massive medical expenses. Be honest with yourself: if the only way you could keep a loved one alive was through stealing, would you?

How are Seamus and the Happy Reaper the same? How do they differ?

What do you predict will happen if Seamus and the Happy Reaper meet again?

The author does not define exactly how deeply James Nadler was involved in the various crimes. Do you think he was a full partner with Solonini, didn’t realize the scope of the crimes, but was okay with them when he knew, or unaware and sucked in by Solonini?

If you could invite three of the characters out to dinner which ones would you choose and why? (Ghosts and temporary get-out-of-jail-free cards would be available, if needed.)

What did you think of everyone's choice of costume for the Halloween party? Would you have picked something different for any of the characters?

What's your prediction for Abigail's relationship with Seamus?

Book Club Discussion Guide for Bad Policy

Are there situations or characters you can identify with? If so, how?

How did the characters evolve throughout the story? What triggered the changes? How do you think you would have reacted to those triggers?

If you could spend a day with any one character, whom would you choose and why?

In what ways did Bad Policy reveal the author's worldview?

What theme(s) did the author emphasize?

Do you think the relationship between Seamus and his son is healthy? Why or why not?

Many of the crimes in Bad Policy are financial in nature. Have you reconsidered your family's financial security based on the shenanigans described in the book?

Did any part of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?

Many of the characters broke the law for what they perceived to be the greater good? Is it always justified? Never justified? Or sometimes justified? And if justified, which of the law breaches do you think were justified and why?

If you could change one thing about the book, what would it be?

Book Club Discussion Guide for Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever opens during a mid-winter blizzard and ends in mud season. How effective is weather as a metaphor for Seamus McCree's emotional state?

What do you think of the ethical decisions made by Seamus, Niki, Sgt. Bartelle and Boss? When do ends justify means?

What responsibility should Seamus bear for delaying his retreat from the woods? Is his reaction appropriate?

Other than Seamus, who is your favorite character and why?

Is Seamus a lone wolf? Why or why not?

The author keeps a lot of the actual violence off the page, but a large number of people die in this story. To what extent do you think murder mysteries, thrillers and similar books cheapen the value of life?

Boss justifies actions based on a selected understanding of U.S. history. To what extent should words of the "Founding Fathers" affect decisions made today?

In what ways did Cabin Fever reveal the author's worldview?

What theme(s) did the author emphasize?

What is your prediction for Abigail's relationship with Seamus?

Book Club Discussion Guide for Doubtful Relations

The author implies that we can't really know people, even our closest relatives, because we all keep secrets. To what extent do you agree?

Families with dark secrets walk a fine line between protecting the family and protecting society. What decisions made by characters in Doubtful Relations do you think were on the wrong side of that judgement line and why?

The author portrays a U.S. society in which no electronic communication is secure from prying eyes. Do you agree? Has fear of hacking changed your use of electronic communication?

Paddy shares main-character duties with Seamus in Doubtful Relations. Does this work when the book claims to be a "Seamus McCree novel"?

Mysteries are usually "whodunits" with a body or major crime occurring early in the book. This story is more a "who-done-what," with it initially unclear if any crime has been committed. Does that matter? What subspecies of crime novel would you use to best describe Doubtful Relations to someone who has not read the book?

The author makes substantial use of real locations. Does that enhance or detract from your reading enjoyment? Why?

Several characters in Doubtful Relations change significantly by the end of the story. Were any of these changes surprising? If so, why?

In what ways did Doubtful Relations reveal the author's worldview?

What theme(s) did the author emphasize?

What is your prediction for Seamus's relationship with Abigail?

Last Updated 2/16/2017

 

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