General issues raised in the book

  1. Relationships between mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters
  2. False confessions—what prompts them, what follows them
  3. Forgiveness and atonement
  4. How grieving affects the bereft and those around them


Questions related to the characters and plot

  1. Why does Phoenix feel compelled to investigate even though that work isn’t part of the foundation’s function? Does Connie have the same motives?
  2. Why did Phoenix and Connie hide the investigation from Annalynn? Would she have approved the application?
  3. The all-male officers suspected Jolene immediately. Why? Would a female officer or attorney have reacted the same way?
  4. What prompted Jolene’s confessions? Why didn’t Beatrix fight harder to nullify the plea bargain?
  5. Phoenix and Connie present different perspectives on the contract the college has offered Connie. How would you recommend she deal with it?
  6. Annalynn worries more about the burglaries than Phoenix does. Why doesn’t Phoenix take them more seriously?
  7. Does Phoenix bear some responsibility for the second murder?
  8. People express different opinions of Jolene. How would you describe her?
  9. How are the three major characters’ relationships with one another changing?