When we sit down to write a new book, we always start with the idea that we want to entertain our readers. So we've prepared some questions that might be good jumping off points for your readers group. If you would like to arrange for an online chat with P.J. Parrish, please e-mail us!
South of Hell
- As an underlying theme, Parrish tackled the sensitive subject of domestic violence. How do you feel the author handled the violent scenes and the character arc of the abused woman and her ultimate discovery of her own courage?
- Another controversial and possibly risky aspect was the historical subplot of slavery and the underground railroad. Do you feel this added depth and information to the story or did the lengthy and frequent journeys into history detract from the fast-paced plot that readers have come to expect in Parrish's books?
- South of Hell was the first book since A Killing Rain where the author teamed up Louis Kincaid and Joe Frye on the same case, essentially creating dual protagonists. Do you feel this combination helped or hindered the character arc/emphasis for Louis that has become such a standard element of Parrish's series?
- The author also ventured into controversial territory by examining the possibility of reincarnation through the eyes of a traumatized and abused young girl. Did the author make Amy's regressions believable and what feeling were you left with when Lois discovered John's journal at the end?
A Thousand Bones
- Small towns figure prominently in all of P.J. Parrish's books. How well did the author capture the village atmosphere of Echo Bay and the affect of the brutal murders on the people who live there? Discuss how crime may or may not affect small town communities differently than those in large cities.
- Joe Frye is a rookie cop when the story opens in Echo Bay and the story takes place in 1975 when women were first making their presence known on police forces. Discuss how the author handled the issues facing Joe and compare them to books set in current times about females in law enforcement.
- When the Native American Thomas Ahanu tells Joe about the windigo "worthy warrior" myth, Joe asks him if he believes in good and evil. He says he believes both are up to the individual. But Joe thinks that for the first time, she believes there may in fact, be something "that could only be called pure evil." What are you own views on this? If you read a lot of crime fiction, has this affected your beliefs?
- The events that happen to Joe and her fellow police officers in Echo Bay are quite violent. Do you think the scenes went too far? How do you feel about graphic violence in crime novels in general? When does the violence in novels become gratuitous?
An Unquiet Grave
- An Unquiet Grave offers a fairly detailed look into the treatment of mental health in past decades. Do you feel Parrish did an accurate job in researching the history and was if effective?
- Character growth and plot are a difficult combination to balance successfully and still maintain a thrillerpaced book. How successful do you feel Parrish was in accomplishing this balance?
- Internal dialogue scenes (those scenes that contain one a single character dealing with introspection or a prolonged one-sided thought process) are difficult to write because the author often feels types of scenes are boring to the reader. Parrish had several of these in An Unquiet Grave. Was she able to successfully maintain action and suspense during them?
- This is the third book in which we talk about Louis's difficulty in ever returning to law enforcement. How do you feel about his career track (he lost his badge in Michigan in Dead of Winter) and became a private eye.
A Killing Rain
- Creating a credible villain is one of a writer's hardest tasks. Readers often want to know the "why" behind the villain's deeds. How successful is Parrish at explaining the "why" behind the actions of Adam Vargas and Byron Ellis? Do you believe killers can ever really be "sympathetic" characters?
- Joe Fry is a pioneer on the Miami police force and Parrish constructs her as an example of what women had to endure in the 1980s in law enforcement. How does Joe compare with other women characters in more recent books by others? Or, if you've read Paint It Black, how does she compare with FBI agent Emily Farrantino?
- Readers opinions vary on whether on whether the protagonist should have girlfriends, spouses or kids. We attempted in this book to inject an element of romance in this book for the first time. Do you feel the romance interferred with the mystery plot?
- There has been a lot of controversy about books that feature children in peril. How do you feel about this and discuss how Parrish handles this as compared to other books you have read dealing with this subject.
Island of Bones
- The island geography of Southwest Florida figures prominently in Island of Bones. How does Parrish use the imagery to enhance the book's atmosphere and its theme of man's primitive nature?
- Readers say they love Mel Landeta as a sidekick for Louis. Discuss how Mel illuminates Louis's character and helps propel the plot. Contrast their relationship with that of others (maybe Spenser and Hawk in Robert Parker's books or Alex McKnight and Vinnie in Steve Hamilton's series)
- In this book, we created a very strange extended family living in isolation just off a commercialized coast of Florida. Some readers have said this stretched reality too far. How much leeway are you willing to give an author in creating odd worlds and characters like this? Do things like this interfer with your ability to enjoy a book that is not fantasy, paranormal or sci-fi?
Thicker than Water
- Louis decides to take justice into his own hands to avenge Kitty Jagger's death. We thought long and hard about whether this was "true" to his nature, especially since the principles of the law are so important to him. One of our readers even told us that his act "made him no better than the scum he pursues." Do you think Louis made the right decision? Is taking the law into your own hands ever justified?
- One reviewer said "the underlying sadness" of this book "got to him." In fact, the theme of the book is how one moment can change your lifeand the lives of othersforever. Discuss how Kitty's decision to accept a ride home from work changed the lives of other characters, like her friend Joyce, detective Ahnert, the lawyer Spencer Duvall and even Jack and Ronnie Cade.
- Our publishers have consistently built us as "thriller" writers, which leaves the reader expecting high stakes, multiple murders, etc. We considered this our "quiet mystery." Given their reputation, were you disappointed? Talk about the differences between thrillers and mystery. How do you feel when an author leaves their usual type of book for something different? Talk about other authors you have read who have done this and how you reacted.
Paint it Black
- The serial killer Tyrone Heller is black, but has a mental illness that makes him believe he is white. He is a "racist" killing black men. How does this pathology relate to Louis's own biracial identity and how does this case personally affect Louis?
- FBI agent Emily Farrantino introduces Louis to profiling. Although it is now an accepted tool, why do you think policeand the characters in this bookwere so suspicious of it?
- This book had an element of racism in it. How do you feel when authors tackle social issues within the classic mystery or thriller genre? When does the line between effectively dealing with a social issue (like race or domestic violence) and preaching about the subject get crossed?
Dead of Winter
- Tracking the cop killer, Louis finds himself up against the "blue wall" as the local police chief stonewalls Louis's efforts. What did you think of the character Chief Gibralter and his motto of "we are a family"? Cops have a difficult job but are they ever justified in closing ranks around one of their own? Discuss how hard it was for Louis to turn against his fellow cops.
- Jesse has been called a simplistic complex character. But as the book enfolds and you find out his background, he emerges as the main plot catalyst. Is he one of the villains or is he a victim?
- This is the first book in which Louis is forced to take someone's life. He also had a fellow cop die in his arms. Discuss his reaction to these events and how this might shape his view of his job in the future. Joseph Wambaugh once said, "It's not how the cop works the case, it's how the case works on the cop." Did you sense that this story changed Louis in some ways? Do you like it when the case has a direct emotional effect on the hero? Talk about other authors who do this.
Dark of the Moon
- Louis's journey back to Mississippi makes him acutely aware of his biraciality. As a man, he walks in two worldsblack and white. What are the special challenges facing biracial people today? How does Louis epitomize this?
- One of the points of the book is the contrast between the "old" south and the modern south trying to come to grips with its racist legacy. Do you think the book paints an accurate picture of Mississippi or is it exaggerated?
- Louis wants to work in a big city police department but he seems doomed to live in small towns. The small town sensibility of Black Pool is central to the plot's development. Contrast how Parrish uses this insular atmosphere with the small-town setting of the Michigan resort of Loon Lake in Dead of Winter and Fort Myers in Thicker Than Water.