Can you come up with other questions for a book club's discussion of a mystery?
1. Readers who enjoy mysteries appreciate plot twists. Which plot points or characters surprised you most? Which twists in the plot could you see coming?
2. Traditional murder mysteries include a number of characters who are suspects. In this mystery, which character did you think committed the crime? Did you figure out the culprit before the end?
3. The most important characters in a mystery are the sleuth, the victim, and the culprit. What impression did those characters make on you? Did their motivations and actions make sense?
4. The setting or the main character’s job / hobby is often a key element in the plot of a mystery. How does location or vocation play a role in this mystery?
5. Mysteries often contain subplots that relate to (or even converge with) the primary murder plot. Subplots may also illuminate characters, present red herrings, and provide comic relief. What subplots appear in this mystery and what is their function?
Questions specific to the Five-Ingredient Mysteries (can be modified to suit other mysteries)
6. In any mystery featuring an amateur sleuth, the question arises what would induce an ordinary person (not a law enforcement professional) to pursue a murderer. What prompts Val to do that initially? How does her motivation for solving the crime change in the course of the book? Can you imagine yourself trying to solve a murder and, if so, under what circumstances?
7. What traits or skills does a good detective have? Does Val possess any of them? Does she have any characteristics that make it hard for her to uncover the truth about other people and about the crime she tries to solve?
8. Discuss the relationship between Val and her grandfather. They both face the challenge of living with someone from a generation far removed from their own. What conflicts arise between them? Are they strictly generational in nature or do those conflicts have other sources? Would you find it difficult to live with a grandparent or grandchild?
9. Some critics and mystery writers, including Agatha Christie, dislike romantic subplots in mysteries. Do you agree or disagree with that view? Do you feel Val’s love interests enhanced or detracted from the story?
10. The characters in By Cook or by Crook display a variety of attitudes towards food and cooking. Bethany is a serial dieter. Monique prepares “comfort food with a twist that takes it out of the comfort zone.” What do their food quirks tell you about those characters? What conclusions can you draw from Val’s recipe preferences, from Gunnar’s response to the daunting task of eating hard-shell crabs, and from Granddad’s cooking adventures? Do you know people whose approach to cooking and eating gives you insights into their obsessions, values, or fears?