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In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner Discussion Questions

In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner
By Elizabeth George
Published 1999

  1. Barbara Havers's great desire is to be trusted by Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley. How does she work against herself in this regard? She has the support of other characters when she is demoted -- why is Lynley's approval so important to her? Should she seek his approval? Or do you think she has something to teach Lynley in terms of solving crimes? How?

  2. "Do we ever know anyone?," wonders Julian Britton shortly after the murder. Double lives and secrets are a staple of literature -- especially murder mysteries. Which characters in this mystery have secrets? Jealousies? Professional or personal? What are they hiding? Why? Is the habit of maintaining secrets, as these characters do, universal? Why or why not?

  3. Compare Detective Inspector Lynley to Detective Inspector Peter Hanken. What are their strengths? Their flaws? What do you think drives Peter Hanken's suspicions of Lynley? Discuss the issue of class in British society. How much is it a factor in the Hanken-Lynley relationship? How do you interpret the relationship between the two men? Between the women? What other relationships are driven by class?

  4. What do you think about Nan Maiden's efforts to protect her daughter after Nicola's death? How does her husband feel about this? Return to the MYSTERY! film scene in which Nan finds Nicola's pager. Why does she keep the pager -- and the information on it -- from her husband? Would you have done the same?

  5. The MYSTERY! film opens with a scene different from the novel. What impact does this scene have on you? Why? What tone is set by this scene? What themes are highlighted? Compare this to the novel's opening scene. Which do you prefer? The film also leaves out several episodes from the novel. What impact does this have on your experience of the story? Why?

  6. What do you think about the filmmaker's decision to remove David King-Ryder and his wife's death from the MYSTERY! film? Does this choice add to or detract from the film? Why?

  7. In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner reveals the thoughts of many of the main characters; the film does not. In what ways do the filmmakers convey the characters' internal thoughts and conflicts? Are the characters in the novel more sympathetic or complex because you are privy to their private thoughts? Or are the film's characters more alive to you? Do you prefer one genre to the other in this regard? Why?

Questions by Rosie Sultan, © 2005 WGBH Educational Foundation

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