‘Absolutely amazing read’
Above Suspicion (2004)
Young Anna Travis has been assigned to her first murder case – a series of killings that has shocked even the most hardened of detectives. They started eight years ago, and now the body count is up to six.
The method of killing is the same, the backgrounds of the girls identical – all drug-users and prostitutes.
Then a seventh body is found. The modus operandi is the same – but the victim is a young student with the ‘face of an angel’. The profile of the murderer has changed dramatically…
Determined to earn the respect of her male colleagues, Anna stumbles on a vital piece of information that links one man to the killings, a much-loved actor on the brink of international stardom.
His arrest would create a media frenzy. But if he were found innocent, his wouldn’t be the only career over – Anna’s hard-fought reputation would be destroyed once and for all…
Reading Group Info
This reading group guide for Above Suspicion includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Anna Travis is a rookie detective handpicked by well-respected Chief Inspector James Langton to partake in her first murder investigation. Though she shows expected jitters at her first postmortem, Anna quickly recovers to attack the case with a zeal and thoroughness reminiscent of her famed chief inspector father. When the key murder suspect decides to pursue Anna, she struggles to keep her head and her heart as she engages him in a delicate game of cat and mouse. Lynda La Plante succeeds in creating another compelling heroine whose dedication and single-minded pursuit of justice makes her a worthy adversary for doubting colleagues and the criminals who cross her path.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What are your first impressions of rookie Anna Travis? How are these impressions challenged or altered throughout the course of the story? What final conclusions do you hold about Anna and her capacity to be an effective detective?
2. How effectively does La Plante situate you in the world of police work? What are the ways in which she allows you to understand the nature of the work that Anna, Langton, and their colleagues do? What are some of the roadblocks that inhibit the efficacy of the detectives’ work?
3. What personal conflicts arise for both Anna and Langton as they investigate the murder case? How does each try to manage or overcome his/her conflicts? Is each successful? If so, why?
4. What is the trail of evidence that emerges to incriminate Alan Daniels? How are the detectives able to shift the evidence from circumstantial to prosecutable? What role does Anna play in this shift?
5. What role do parental influences play in the life outcomes of both the villain and heroes in Above Suspicion? What does La Plante suggest is the most compelling influence in crafting a person’s character? What do you believe?
6. What key insights does the profiler, Michael Parks, provide to the detectives? How do these insights impact the direction of the investigation? Do you believe in the value of a profiler? Why or why not?
Enhance Your Book Club
Explore the role of a profiler. The work of profiler Michael Parks proved essential in crafting a portrait of the killer in Above Suspicion. At the outset of the investigation, Michael reveals that the behaviour of a sociopath and a psychopath can often be indistinguishable from each other; only a trained eye can detect the difference. While Michael comes to his own conclusion about the killer, your book club members will go through their own exploratory process to make a case for why the killer is either a sociopath or a psychopath.
Prior to the book club meeting, divide your members into two groups. Group one members will explore the characteristics and behaviors of a psychopath and arrive at a single definitive list of these characteristics and behaviors. Group two members will create their own definitive list of characteristics and behaviors for the sociopath designation. Each group will choose a primary speaker to present their case as for why the killer in Above Suspicion is either a psychopath or a sociopath. Each group should use the specific behaviors and actions of the killer in the novel as part of their evidence.
Questions to consider:
a) What is your definitive list of characteristics for a psychopath and sociopath?
b) What are the key similarities and differences in these designations?
c) Did you agree with Michael Park’s conclusion? If no, why not?
d) Identify the single most surprising finding from each group