Death by Disputation Discussion Questions

Discussion questions for Death by Disputation, by Anna Castle

(Note: some of these questions are the same as the ones for Murder by Misrule, book 1 in the Francis Bacon series, since the basic questions apply to all of them.)

1. Mystery novels are supposed to be puzzles that the reader can solve along with the detective — or ahead of him! Did you figure out who the villain was before the end?

2. Who did you suspect along the way? Were there any red herrings that particularly led you astray?

3. Do you think the author “played fair” in giving you enough clues and letting you in on the protagonists’ investigation?

4. All of Anna Castle’s characters have big dreams, even the bad guys. What do the characters in this book want? What do you think about their goals? Are they attainable, laudable, despicable, absurd?

5. This book is the second in the Francis Bacon mystery series, yet Bacon rarely appears “live” on the page. He makes his main contribution through letters advising his intelligencer, Thomas Clarady. What do you think about this technique?

6. This book centers on religious controversy, this time from the Protestant end of the spectrum. Were you aware that Protestant extremists were almost as troublesome in this period as Catholics? What do you think attracted people to the radical edges of belief and practice back then? Do you find any parallels in the modern world?

7. Characters with different religious views are portrayed in this book, ranging from Christopher Marlowe’s general skepticism to Parson Wingfield’s passionate faith. Who do you sympathize with? Who do you find distasteful or worse?

8. What roles did women play in this book? Did they help or hinder the main actions of the story? Another way to put that: were they actors, reactors, victims, or bystanders?

9. This story is set in a college in Cambridge University. Did you get a sense of what life in a college was like in those days? Are there any aspects of university life and work that have remained the same?

10. Many people read historical fiction as a form of time travel, a way of learning about a different time and place. Did you learn anything from this book that surprised (intrigued / dismayed / amused) you?