Suggested Book Club Discussion Questions: The Pumpkin Eater by Steven W. Horn

  1. For the person who chose this book: What made you want to read it? What made you suggest it to the group for discussion? Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?
  2. How is the book structured? Does the author use any narrative devices like flashbacks or multiple voices in telling the story? Did the story rely on major or minor coincidences? Were these effective techniques to give the reader important information? How did this affect your reading of the story and your appreciation of the book? Do you think Horn did a good job using them? Was the story plausible overall?
  3. Does Horn’s language/writing style engage the reader and encourage the reader to finish the book?
  4. How effective is Horn’s use of plot twists and red herrings? Were you able to predict certain things before they happened, or did Horn keep you guessing until the end of the story? What were the plot twists or red herrings that made it difficult to figure out the solution to the crime? Did you find that the novel held everyone’s interest throughout the story, or were there times when it failed to totally engross members of the group?
  5. How important is setting to the story?  Did Horn provide enough background information for you to understand the events in the story?  Was the genetic background enough, not enough or too much to enhance the suspense and ending of the novel?
  6. If a mystery is well-written, the reader should suspect a number of characters throughout the story. Which characters did you think committed the crime?  What was the crime – was there more than one? Did you guess the culprit(s) before the end?
  7. Is the author equally invested in both character and plot? Or did Horn put more effort into developing the story than in creating compelling and believable characters? Were the motivations of the characters (Sam, Blair, Annie, and Barbara) believable or did their actions feel like a means to further the plot?
  8. What was the author trying to say about eugenics?  Did the story make you question any of your own beliefs?  Do you believe it is still occurring?
  9. Is your group familiar with Horn’s previous work, Another Man’s Life? If so, did this book live up to or exceed your expectations of the author?
  10. The protagonist of the story, Sam Dawson, is not a perfect person (“Not exactly ten-feet-tall or bulletproof….” from Craig Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries, the basis for A&E’s hit series Longmire).  Does this make for a better protagonist or do you prefer more perfect or better skilled protagonists in your mysteries? Have you ever known anyone like Sam who feels that truths have to be determined and revealed, no matter the personal cost?
  11. What would you have done if you were in Annie’s place?
  12. Did you have a favorite character?  Did you have a character that you didn’t like?
  13. Kirkus Reviews (10/4/13) commented that the book was “Dramatic and intelligent, this is a smart start to a new detective series”.  Do you agree?  If not, why?  If so, why?
  14. Are there other writers or books that you would compare to this one?
  15. What did you like or dislike about the book that hasn’t been discussed already? Were you glad you read this book? Would you recommend it to a friend? Do you want to read more work by Horn?