Reading Group Guide
Detective Inspector Anna Travis learns that her lover and mentor, Detective Chief Inspector James Langton is gravely wounded during the line of duty and rushes to his side. A fixture during his arduous and miraculous recovery, Anna provides James with the hope and assurance he needs to leave rehabilitation and come back home to her. Yet, Anna’s happiness is short-lived as one of her new cases, the senseless murder of a quiet librarian, becomes linked with Langton’s, threatening their tenuous bond and putting her in harms way.
LaPlante creates a compelling and fast paced story which holds the reader captive until all dead bodies gets their due accounting. Weaving through a layered and complex investigation, LaPlante’s Anna Travis exercises due diligence and leaves no stone unturned to find justice.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
- What is at the root of Langton’s feelings towards Anna after his accident? Do you believe that Anna could have prevented the dissolution of their relationship? Why or why not?
- How would you characterize Anna? What motivates her actions? Do you believe she is effective at her job? Does it come at a cost? Explain.
- Compare and contrast Langton and Anna’s versions of the four important murders in their investigation. What do their differing perspectives allow us to understand about their respective motives and goals?
- Camorra employs voodoo as an effective method of coercion in the story. What does Dr. Salaam and others say lie at the heart of voodoo? Do you believe that the practice of voodoo was real in the story? Why or why not?
- Though Langton denies that coincidence exists in murder cases, several appear in their investigation. Identify the coincidences and how they beneficially or detrimentally impacted the progress of the investigation.
- What does LaPlante reveal about the nature of police work? How does her representation compare to your own perceptions of this process? What do you believe are the job’s most compelling aspects? Least compelling?
- At various points in their investigation, Anna and Langton are stumped and are stalled. What are some of these moments and how are they able to move their case forward? What do their actions reveal about their respective strengths and weaknesses as detectives?
- Throughout the investigation, several of the detectives rail against government policies that made their work difficult and thankless. What were some of the issues these detectives identified? How do the detectives’ assessments of the impediments to their work impact how you look at the final outcome of the investigation? Was the case solved? Why or why not?
Tips to Enhance Your Bookclub
Create your own version of a detective incident board for the crimes that were committed in Clean Cut using all members of your book club
- Use blank newsprint or white poster boards to cover an entire wall of a room.
- Provide members of the group with 3x5 cards, a pencil, and scotch tape.
- Working together, have one or two members write the names of each of the victims of a crime on a 3x5 card (crimes may include murder, sexual abuse, rape, prostitution, kidnapping, blackmail, or smuggling); there should be a single name on each 3x5 card. Tape the victim 3x5 cards on the left side of the blank wall, going down the board from top to bottom. Try to place the names of the victims in reverse chronological order, with newest victim first.
- Next, have one or two members write down the names of the crimes committed on a single 3x5 card, one crime per card. Make these your crimes committed 3x5 cards. How many crimes have you identified?
- Next, have one or two members write the names of the perpetrators on 3x5 cards to create a stack of perpetrator 3x5 cards. Tape these perpetrators on the right side of the blank wall.
- Finally, as a group draw lines that link each perpetrator to his/her victim. On the lines, attach a crimes committed 3x5 card on the lines linking the perpetrator to victim. Beside each crimes committed card, see if you can identify the motives behind each crime.
Issues to discuss as you create the board:
· Can you clearly identify the victims in the case? Were you able to reach a consensus about the names of all the victims? Were their challenges to the final list? If yes, why?
· Did victims ever become perpetrators of crimes? If yes, who were they and identify the circumstances that changed victim into perpetrator.
· What challenges emerged as you tried to do the exercise? Were you able to over these challenges? If yes, what strategies did you use? If no, why were you unsuccessful?