Discussion Guide: Shadows on the Ivy
One of the dangers of writing a traditional mystery series in which the protagonist is not a professional crime fighter is in repeating the plots and characters in the same town (known to mystery writers as the dreaded “Cabot Cove Syndrome,”) or in killing off every new person who moves to that town. In creating Maggie Summer I tried to avoid that by giving Maggie two lives: a home in New Jersey where she taught at a community college, and an antique business which frequently took her on the road, buying and selling prints. Her friends also live in different places – Gussie White on Cape Cod, Will Brewer in Buffalo, and Amy Douglas, who she visited in Shadows on the Coast of Maine. In Shadows on the Ivy I took Maggie home for the first time in the series. It is early November, 6 months after Shadows at the Fair; 3 months after Shadows on the Coast of Maine. Maggie is back in academia – but not far from her prints.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
Why does Maggie Summer call her antique print business “Shadows”?
What do you think of the idea of a college dormitory for single parents? Does it seem credible? What about the students in this dormitory? Do you think they deserve the scholarships and help Somerset College is giving them?
Maggie writes to Will, and thinks about him; she thinks about adopting a child. But she seldom asks for help, and she has fixed her home up comfortably for herself. Do you think she really wants a permanent relationship with a man or a child, or is she too independent?
What about Dorothy Whitcomb? Did you find her a credible character? If she really wanted to reclaim her daughter, why was she unable to work hard enough to get a job to support her? Why did she marry two men without telling them about her daughter?
Which of the single parents did you think was the strongest; the most likely to succeed?
If Maggie really wanted to be a parent, and Sarah had died, leaving her Aura’s guardian, do you think she should have kept custody, even though Dorothy was threatening to contest the custody?
What about Max, and his motivation …. Have you known people who have defined themselves by their jobs? Do you think they would go as far as Max did to protect their careers?
In what ways is Claudia a foil for Maggie? How does she help Maggie to function, and add light comic interest to the book?
Do Maggie’s classroom lectures relate to the murder investigation in the book?
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