A honeymoon trip with Randy Craig. What could go wrong?
Randy and Steve have finally tied the knot and head south to Puerto Vallarta to celebrate. Unfortunately, Randy’s romantic beach walks and candlelit dinners are put on hold when a fellow traveller is found dead. Instead, Randy and Steve have to find meaning in the murder to catch the culprit. If they don’t, the honeymoon just might be over.
A smart, sophisticated, and engrossing murder mystery told with lavish details and an appealing dry wit. Randy Craig is the character you want to invite to your next dinner party. Her amateur sleuthing is peppered with smart cultural references and her humour keeps the narration flowing. She’ll bring Steve, of course.
The honeymooning couple’s banter is both warm and mature, providing a sharp contrast to the murders and the dangerously clever climax.
—Carmen Amato, author of the Detective Emilia Cruz series
MacDonald is clever in creating a murder acene with symbols, clues, that are obscure but not too obscure for an intelligent sleuth using her skills to unravel them. I thought it brilliant how MacDonald uses Randy’s talents as an academic researcher in literature to study and research and reflect in the investigation.
The book opens with a modification to the famous opening line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Did this set a particular tone for the book when you read it?
Randy’s descriptions of Puerto Vallarta paint it as a vacation paradise. Have you ever had a similar experience while vacationing? What was the occasion, and how do you think it affected your experience?
Randy and Steve had a small, unconventional wedding ceremony and reception. Do you think this is a growing trend in today’s culture, or are traditional weddings still the norm? What do you think leads couples to choose one form over the other?
Randy’s parents gift her and Steve a significant sum of money to buy art for their home (Randy moves into Steve’s condo), as a joint experience meant to help them understand themselves as a new ‘unified entity’ (17-8). What are some other strategies that you think achieve a similar end?
Randy explains that she had always been fascinated by Frida Kahlo after her high school social studies teacher had introduced her during an expanded unit on Animal Farm (52). Is there an artist that draws you in in a similar way? What is it about their work that has this effect on you?
On three separate occasions in the book, Randy thinks about or discusses not having children with Steve, often citing their age (49-50, 91, 105). How believable do you find her reasoning and rationalization? Do you think there is more to her feelings than she is willing to admit?
Frida’s biography plays a significant role in decoding the meaning behind the murderer’s motivation. How important do you think it is to be familiar with the life of the artist when viewing their work? Explain.
On multiple occasions, Randy reflects on Steve’s ability to almost flawlessly compartmentalize his home and work life. In what ways is this easier said than done? Does anyone in the group have this experience, and how do they manage?
Randy remarks “Art is supposed to be what you like, not what you think people will judge you on” (123). To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? To what extent is home décor performative?
While shopping for art, Randy explains that the prairies frighten her: “There was too much openness, and I had the sense I could be blown away or plucked out of my tentative existence there. I was always much more grounded and secure in mountain scenery, where there was something on the horizon to link me to my surroundings and something to grab on to should the winds pick up” (126-7). What do you think this says about Randy’s psyche? Do you think it manifests in her relationship with Steve in any way?
On his website, Diego Rivers comments: “To understand a community, one must live within its gates. One must read its history, drink in the atmosphere that shapes its people, and listen for the notes that set it apart from others— the chords that sound its individuality” (168). Randy feels that this sentiment is overblown and melodramatic. Do you agree or disagree? What do you think it takes to understand your community?
Randy goes on a self-guided tour of Edmonton’s public art. What do you think installations like this add to a community? Is there a lot of public art in your community? Are there pieces that you love/hate?
As we learn more about Kristen Perry and her relationships, does it affect how you sympathize with her fate? If it does, is this problematic for you?
What are some of the red herrings that tripped you up while reading the book?
What are some choices that Randy made throughout the novel that you disagreed with? What would you have done differently?
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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada