Several people have asked me if my Berlin Thriller Blood Summit is suitable for reading groups or book groups.
Blood Summit is ideal for reading groups and book groups. This intelligent thriller appeals to a wide range of audiences (see reviews on Amazon) and contains a host of controversy and discussion material. Here are some questions you can use for discussion in a book group or reading group.
Some publishers rejected “Blood Summit” because they said Helen, a female action hero, was insufficiently feminine or “too much like a man”. Do you agree? Is Helen lacking in feminine qualities?
How would the plot develop differently if Helen was a man? Which elements of the story, if any, would be less compelling or make less sense?
Helen is furious that her husband refuses to leave London and come with her to Berlin. How would life with Nigel fit in with her lifestyle in Germany? Are they actually sufficiently compatible to live together? How would you feel about living with Helen? Or with Nigel?
Nigel and Helen are competitive with each other. He is a top journalist. She aspires to be a top diplomat. Are they too competitive? Is competition in a relationship positive, or negative? Helen is repulsed by the fact that Nigel is too controlling, and does not listen. Are these typical male behaviours, or exceptions?
Nigel phones Helen before the Children’s Summit starts, in the hope that she will give him confidential information he can use in a story. Is it reasonable for him to ask her in this way? Should she give her husband such information, if doing so will not threaten lives, in the public interest?
When Helen is sued by the families of people injured in the bomb outside the embassy, the newspaper her husband Nigel writes for publishes an editorial fiercely critical of her: “Blood on her hands”. Do you think Nigel wrote the article? If not, did he seek to influence its content? If so, in what way?
What does Helen get from her relationship with the deputy head of the Summit Security Unit, Dieter Kremp? Is she solely interested in him for sex? Or would she be open to a deeper relationship? What is Dieter looking for from the relationship? Are women generally interested in relationships which are primarily sexual, or is this uncommon?
Many women are conflicted, like Helen, over whether to have children or whether to have a career. Is this conflict inevitable? How far has this position changed in recent decades, if at all? Would Helen make a good mother?
The senior diplomats in the British Embassy in Berlin, as depicted in the novel, are men, including the Ambassador, Sir Leonard Lennox, and Jason Short, the Deputy Head of Mission. Does this reflect real life, in your experience? Would Helen be suitable to be an ambassador? Is this likely to happen, based on her character in the story?
Uli Wenger is a cold-blooded killer. What has made him like this? Was it his difficult, institutionalised upbringing? Or was he born evil?
Karen Daniels is a blind journalist who has won prizes for her reporting. She relies on a guide dog to move around Berlin. Is the idea of a blind journalist realistic? How might a blind journalist need to work differently from one who could see?
Similarly, Captain Elle Morgan is an SAS officer. Should women have equal rights to fight in front-line military units? Does Elle behave differently towards Helen because both are women? Would Elle face the same challenges in being a soldier which Helen faces as a diplomat?
The Georgian businessman, Sukanasvhili, is helpful to Helen on several occasions. Why does he help her? What benefits does he receive from their relationship?
When Helen attempts to put forward her ideas on resolving the crisis in the Reichstag at crisis meetings, the predominantly male attendees pay her ideas little attention. Is this because of her ideas; the way she presents them; or because she is a woman?
I would welcome your suggestions for other questions to add to this list. You will have an opportunity to hear me read from Blood Summit, and to ask your own questions, when I do my next reading, at “WriteNow” at Cafe Korb, Brandstätte 9, 1010 Vienna, on 18 October starting at 1900. I am looking forward to it already!
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