Book Club Discussion Guide

I have received a number of requests from book clubs for personal appearances and for a discussion guides. I have gone to some of the book clubs and had a great time. It is fascinating to me how readers make the characters their own and fill in the blanks about them. One of the clubs decided they wanted to decided what actors would play what parts if Desperate Hours were ever made into a movie. Out of these appearances I have tried to distill some of the most interesting topics and questions into one guide. I hope this will be of some assistance to some group out there!


1. Part of the premise of Desperate Hours is that there are unlimited “soft targets” in the United States; and that, if they were attacked by terrorists, it would have a major effect on the country.
a) Do you accept this premise?
b) If so, what levels of security are you willing to tolerate to prevent attacks?

2. In order to have the safest society possible – are you willing to give up freedoms?
a) Should the Constitution and the Bill of Rights apply to terrorists?
b) Is your answer different if the terrorist is a U.S. citizen?

3. What do you think the chances are that the U.S. will experience a significant terrorist attack over the next year?
Five years? Ten years?

4. Malik al Biruni seemed motivated by a form of patriotism.
a) He was angry about the Predator strikes that killed innocent children, and in his testament video he announced that he was at war with America.
b) He complained America’s only interest in the Middle East was cheap oil, and that the Americans were invaders in his country.
c) It has been said that history is written from the point of view of the victorious.
i. Does Malik’s viewpoint have any merit?
ii. How would you expect Americans to respond to a foreign country that had placed troops in the United States?

5. By design, the book’s narrative cuts from place to place as it follows three basic story lines: Matt’s, the terrorists, and Senator Gleeson’s.
a) Does this format create and sustain a compelling atmosphere?
b) Does it just make the story seem disjointed?

6. Describe what you liked or disliked about the writer’s style

7. There was a brief chapter about Henry Knox, the American Revolutionary War hero, who would have been designated the eighteenth century equivalent of a terrorist had the British won. In a way it stopped the narrative.
a) Did you like this?
b) Did it add or detract from the story?

8. Henry Knox gave up a successful business and his family in Boston to go with General Washington.
a) Contrast his sacrifices to those asked of present day Americans as we work our way through three wars, and contemplate another with Iran?

9. Do the characters seem real and believable?
a) Can you relate to their predicaments?
b) To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
c) How do the characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story?
a) What events trigger such changes?

10. What about the plot?
a) Did it pull you in; or did you feel you had to force yourself to read the book?
b) Were there situations and/or characters you can identify with; if so how?

11. What was unique about the setting of the book, and how did it enhance or take away from the story?

12. What, if any, passage from the book stood out to you?

13. How realistic were the characterizations?
a) Would you want to meet any of the characters?
b) Did you like them? Hate them?
c) Did the actions of the characters seem plausible? Why? Why not?
d) If one (or more) of the characters made a choice that had moral implications, would you have made the same decision? Why? Why not?
e) Which character do you like the most and why? The least and why?

14. Heather Grant is described as manipulative on the book cover.
a) What did you think about her character?
b) Did you like her or dislike her?
c) Did she change over the course of the book?

15. Desperate Hours ends with an epilogue which tries to tie up loose ends.
a) Do you like that style?
b) Would you prefer to imagine your own after stories for the characters?
c) Were you interested enough in the characters to care what their after story may have been?
d) Did the book end the way you expected?

16. Did you learn something you didn’t know before?
a) Do you feel as if your views on a subject have changed by reading this book?

17. At what point in the book did you decide if you liked it or not?
a) What helped make this decision?

18. Name your favorite thing overall about the book. – Your least favorite?
a) If you could change something about the book what would it be and why?

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