Members of the bookclub at the Mystery Au Lait Cafe in Winnipeg begin to get nervous as events from their favourite murder-mysteries start to come true - right in their own quiet neighbourhood of Wolseley.
For Sarah, the mystery novels are an escape. For Morgan, they're a cheap thrill. And for Alfred, the author, they're a goldmine. As he continues to release the books to greater and greater acclaim, the popularity of the reclusive author of The Midnight Mysteries soars - and so does the body count.
"You will get wrapped up in this book."
- Kenora Daily Miner
Suggested Book Club Questions for Dead of Midnight
- The epigraph quoted at the beginning of the book is from “Adam’s Curse,” a poem that can be found in The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (available at any good library). What are the lines in the epigraph about? How are they related to the novel?
- At Betty’s dinner party, and in other places in the novel, the characters discuss whether or not it’s important for the reader to know about the life or personality of the author of a book. Is that kind of information about the author important to you when you read a book? Do you want to know about the author’s life? Why or why not? How does that kind of information affect the way you read?
- The characters also talk about different genres of books (mysteries, biographies, romance, poetry). Do you have a favourite genre? What is it you like about that genre? Is there any genre you never read? Or any you claim you never read? Why?
- Many reader of mystery novels like to guess “whodunit” as they go along. Others don’t try to figure it out. Which kind of reader are you? Did you try to solve this mystery? Who did you suspect, and why?
- Early in the book, Morgan says that Sarah isn’t much fun. Why would Morgan have this opinion? Do you agree with Morgan? What are some of the differences between Sarah and Morgan?
- What are some of the similarities between The Dead of Midnight and the Midnight mysteries the characters read?
- Many members of Zina’s book club are scared by the books they read, even before the murders begin to occur. Yet they keep reading. Why do you think people like to be scared by books or movies?
- Sarah’s grandfather was inspired by the myth of Demeter and Persephone when he’s carved his statue. Do you think this myth has any significance to the themes in The Dead of Midnight?
- At the beginning of the novel, when the telephone line is dead, Sarah immediately believes that a pair of pinking shears has cut the line, just like in the book she was reading. When she later questions the telephone repairman, this fact is neither confirmed, nor denied. Is Sarah easily influenced? If yes, how does Sarah’s ability to be easily influenced affect her as she moves through the story? Are the pinking shears a real clue or a red herring?
- How does the setting of Woseley, a close-knit community in Winnipeg figure as a character in the story? Does it figure at all? Could the same story be told perhaps set in a small, rural town, rather than a neighbourhood of a larger center?
- In a movie version of The Dead of Midnight, who would play what roles? Why?
- Although Carolyn was apparently a talented poetry, she lived a life of poverty and obscurity. Even her own daughter seems to know very little about her poems. What do you think the author is saying about the state of poetry and its appreciation in Canada? How does the author being a poet change your understanding of The Dead of Midnight? Does it change?
- Did you enjoy The Dead of Midnight? If you have read Where Shadows Burn, Catherine Hunter’s first thriller, how does this book compare? If you haven’t read Where Shadows Burn, would you be inclined to want to? Why or why not?
- There is a hint of the supernatural in both The Dead of Midnight and Where Shadows Burn. How do supernatural elements, even small ones, add to the story? Do they enrich your reading? How do you interpret supernatural occurrences in the novel?
- What moral or ethical choices did the characters make in The Dead of Midnight? What did you think of those choices? How would you have chosen? (e.g. Morgan’s relationship with Alfred, Betty’s secrets, Dr. Allard’s dishonesty, etc.)
- Carolyn Yeats hands her personal papers over to her lawyer for safekeeping. Many writers donate their papers to library and university archives, which are then accessible by the general public. Would you be interested to see the personal papers of an author? Whose papers would you be interested in and why?
- Even though Sarah is only twenty-five, she often appears to be much older. How does Sarah’s upbringing affect who she becomes as an adult?
- Notions of family are explored in The Dead of Midnight. How do familial ties affect the characters and the decision they make? Are the characters in the novel largely bound by familial ties, or do they discard ties carelessly?
- Was Carolyn’s decision to stay on the island alone with Sarah a wise one?
- What is the significance of Betty’s Shepherdess figurine?
- The media is represented as being ruthless and tactless. Why do you think the characters in the novel confide in Cady? Do you think she got what she deserved?
- That makes a good mystery? Does The Dead of Midnight fulfill these requirements? For you, what is the most important part of a mystery? (i.e. Overall plot, subplots, clues, red herrings).
- Do you think Sarah grows and changes significantly as a character throughout the novel?
- Do you think The Dead of Midnight accurately reflects writing and publishing in Canada? In Winnipeg?
- During the book club discussions at Zina’s café, the characters often differ in their opinions of the books they read. For example, Linda looks for symbolism, Cady reads for the plot, Mark tries to spot the suthor’s mistakes, Morgan wants action, and Zina is disturbed by too much violence. Have you noticed differences like this among members in your own book club discussions? What causes these differences in the ways people read?
- What is your opinion of Detectives Kayla Petrovitch and Vishnu Maharaj? Are they typical murder-mystery sleuths? Do they make any mistakes?
- Many of the characters spread gossip (both true and false) in this novel. Some characters are very concerned that this kind of talk might ruin their reputations. What role does gossip play in the murders and in the unraveling of the mystery?
- What do you think of the marriages and other romantic relationships in this novel? Does Sarah make good choices in her partners? What about Carolyn, Betty, Peter, Larry, and Morgan? What role does romance play in this novel?
Catherine Hunter is a Canadian poet, novelist, editor and professor. She received a B.A. (Hons) from the University of Winnipeg and an M.A. and PhD from the University of Victoria. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Necessary Crimes and Latent Heat, which received the McNally Robinson Manitoba Book of the Year in 1997. She is also the author of three literary mysteries: Queen of Diamonds, The Dead of Midnight and Where Shadows Burn. She is a professor of English at the University of Winnipeg.