This reading group guide forDeed to Death includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author D.B. Henson. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
1. There are a series of plot twists and shocking discoveries throughout Deed to Death. Which of these developments surprised you the most?
2. After Scott’s funeral, everyone moves quickly to secure his financial assets. Brian, his estranged brother, wants his estate, while Clint wants his business. Did these actions arouse your suspicions? Who did you suspect might have an ulterior motive, and why? Were your suspicions correct?
3. Scott designed their custom-made dream house. What does the house symbolize throughout the novel? What does it mean to Toni?
4. Almost all of the characters in Deed to Death have secrets. How do these secrets influence each character and their actions? Are any of the characters able to overcome their past demons?
5. Why don’t the police believe Scott’s death could be a homicide? Did you ever believe Toni was in denial, or did you think she was on the right track all along? In real life, do you think it’s important to question the police’s conclusions?
6. After his death, Toni finds out about a number of secrets Scott had been keeping from her. Do you think her reaction would have been the same if he were alive? Or do you think it’s easier to forgive someone who is dead?
7. Gloria Keith claims to have been Scott’s lover. What kind of reaction does this spark in Toni? When does Toni realize that Gloria might not be telling the truth? How does Gloria’s true identity impact the narrative?
8. Toni breaks the law on more than one occasion while investigating Scott’s murder, including breaking into Josh’s house, taking his license plate, and stealing information from Chadwick & Shore human resources. Do you think her actions were justified? Why or why not?
9. Do you think Mark’s feelings for Toni were genuine?
10. Throughout Deed to Death, Toni’s trust in others is consistently broken. Whom can she actually trust? Why? What does she learn about herself through this ordeal? And does it change her?
11. Toni calls her mom at the end of Deed to Death in an attempt to mend their relationship. Discuss how family is a recurring theme throughout Deed to Death and what role it plays in the characters’ motivations, conflicts, and resolutions.
12. Do you think we can ever truly know the people we love?
A Conversation with D.B. Henson
Where did you get the idea for Deed to Death?
One day I was touring a high-rise building under construction, and as I looked down from the top-floor balcony, I thought about how terrifying it would be to fall. It was late in the day and all the workmen had gone home. With the site deserted, I realized it was the perfect place to stage a fictional murder.
How does your experience as a former real estate agent and director of marketingfor a construction company inform Deed to Death? Does Toni’s professionalexperience reflect your own?
The only thing I really have in common with Toni is her occupation. I worked in the real estate industry for many years and know it so intimately that it was a natural backdrop for my first novel. The day-to-day activities Toni engages in are true to life and do indeed mirror my own experiences.
You originally self-published Deed to Death as an eBook. Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route initially?
When I was writing the final draft of Deed to Death, I came across a blog postby another author detailing his success self-publishing on Amazon. Beforereading the post, I had never even considered self-publishing. In fact, I hadalready made a list of agents to query. However, I knew that going through thelist of agents would take months and I might only end up with a pile of rejectionletters. I wasn’t even sure my novel was saleable. Since it was my first book,I decided to take a chance and publish it on Amazon. I was shocked whenDeed to Death landed on the bestsellers list.
The characters in Deed to Death are complex and three-dimensional individuals with distinct personality traits and flaws. Who was your favorite character to create, and which character do you like the most?
I think Mark was probably the most fun to create. Despite his many sins, heactually sees himself as a good man. Deep down, there is a sliver of good inhim. This is evidenced by the fact that he sacrificed his own life for Toni.
My favorite character is Toni. She’s strong, loyal, and determined, but she’sdefinitely not perfect. She doesn’t mind breaking the rules for what she feelsis a just cause. She also has a few lessons to learn about trust and forgiveness.
Why did you choose to set the novel in Nashville?
Nashville is a dynamic and diverse city with a small-town atmosphere. The residents are friendly and welcoming. Strangers on the sidewalk will smile and say hello as they pass. It’s exactly the kind of city Toni would seek.
When did you first start writing? What is your creative process like and who are your favorite authors?
I started writing short stories when I was around six years old, but never considered having any of them published. I began writing Deed to Death in 2009.
Before I begin writing a novel, I create a complete biography for each major character that will appear in the story. I know everything that has happened in their lives—when they were born, where they went to school, and even their favorite color. Then I begin working on the plot. I like to have the entire storyline mapped out before I write a single word.
My favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Greg Iles, and Tess Gerritsen.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I would advise them to read everything they can in the genre in which they wish to write. Study the characters, the pacing, and the sentence structure. Dissect the plot. Get a feeling for what makes a story work and what doesn’t. I would also recommend keeping a journal. Writing about daily experiences can often lead to a story idea.
Deed to Death is full of lies, deceit, and betrayal. How did you keep track of who was double-crossing whom? Were any of these characters based upon people in your life?
Before I began writing, I made an event log for each character, which helped me stay on track. None of the characters in the novel are based on actual people.
If Deed to Death were made into a film, whom would you like to be casted to play Toni, Jill, and Mark?
I was a fan of the television show Lost, and I think Evangeline Lilly would be great in the role of Toni. Kate Hudson would be perfect for Jill, and I can see Ashton Kutcher as Mark. Enhance Your Book Club
1. Toni lives in a beautiful house built by her fiancé, Scott. Have you ever thought of what your dream house would be like? Write down some notes and share with your book club.
2. Deed to Death takes place in and around Nashville, Tennessee, which is known as “Music City.” Research this iconic city and bring one unique fact about Nashville to share with your book club.
3. Check out www.moonpie.com and www.googoo.com to order some tasty Nashville MoonPies and GooGoo Clusters for your group!