By Denise Swanson
Book clubs have been around for a long time, but in the past few years, they seem to be popping up everywhere. It seems to me that book clubs became more visible and appeared cooler when Oprah started her club. Ms. Winfrey’s stated purpose was to get more people reading, or if you already were a reader, she hoped you would become more ardent about books. The novels she selected were often challenging, and I admit, I didn’t enjoy a lot of them. But she dared her club’s members to read between the lines, which I was more than willing to do.
As a writer, I’m often asked to speak to various book discussion groups. So when one such group, the Stepping Out Book Club, suggested that my next book should center around a book club meeting, I thought, yes, yes it should.
My sleuth, Devereaux Sinclair, owns Devereaux’s Dime Store, an old-fashioned variety store that she has opened up to various community groups. In Dead Between the Lines, my March book, the Shadow Bend version of the Stepping Out Book Club hold their monthly meeting in Dev’s store and someone doesn’t make it home alive.
When I decided to write about murder in a book club, I researched the popularity of these groups to try to figure out why so many people were forming and/or joining book clubs. Was it to share ideas or for the social interaction or was it just an excuse to drink wine and eat chocolate? As a reader, I knew that this type of group was every bookworm’s dream party. Or was it?
Theoretically, a book club would be a place where you could openly express your views of the book, what you liked or disliked about it, and delve into the book’s true meaning. As a psychologist, I was fascinated with the possibilities. What would happen if the group passionately disagreed? Book clubs often consist of many different kinds of individuals and they discuss some topics that could become extremely inflammatory. There frequently is an assortment of ages, social backgrounds, and educational levels. This kind of situation is fertile ground for heated debates and hurt feelings.
As I mulled over the idea that members could become fevered over a disagreement, it dawned on me that a guest author could stir up the situation even more. Especially an arrogant, supercilious jerk. Perhaps a writer who felt he was smarter or more sophisticate, or just plain superior to the book club members—not that I’ve met any authors like that <wink>. Still, once the idea started bouncing around in my imagination, I couldn’t get rid of it until I wrote the story.
Are you a member of a book club? Have you ever attended a meeting with a speaker who was so obnoxious you wondered if he or she would make it out of the gathering alive?
**GWN’s Review of “Dead Between the Lines”**
A Devereaux’s Dime Story Mystery
By Denise Swanson
An Obsidian Mystery
Mass Market Paperback, 264 pages
$7.99 US, Kindle $5.99
When Devereaux Ann Sinclair agreed to host the Stepping Out Book Club in her dime store in Missouri she had no idea it would lead to murder.
Not only was the guest poet, Mr. Quistgaard naturally rude, he was offensive. With little effort he seemed to upset every member of the book club. That made why he was murdered, and found close by the dime store, believable. Who the murderer was could easily lead to a full page list of possible suspects. Clearly, Quistgaard hated small towns, plus size women, and the attitudes of small town residents. He also hated everyone and thing between the lines.
What makes matters a little more frightening is the fact that the murder weapon was not brought into the store.
In between caring for her grandmother, her cat and a friends’s adopted cat and running the store, Devereaux is drawn into the murder investigation. Things get even more difficult with the release of her father from prison and the two men in her life competing for her attention.
Dead Between the Lines has realistic characters with difficult challenges. The characters are supportive of each other, likable, and a great personality. The setting felt like home, the story line was intriguing and kept me guessing who could have murdered Quistgaard. I was surprised that I did catch one of the clues, Swanson has a clever way of introducing them. I would be very interested in following the next book in the series. Not sure if I want to join a book club, though….
five dime store specials out of five
March 1, 2014