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Goodnight, Irene

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Jan Burke has said that when she wrote Goodnight, Irene, one of her goals in creating Irene Kelly was to portray a protagonist in a mystery who grieved the loss of the victim. In the mysteries she had read up to that time, she had not felt that the protagonists' emotional reactions to the murders of close friends rang true. At the same time, she did not want the reader to spend page after page with someone immobilized by grief. In what ways do we see Irene grieve O'Connor's death? Do you feel a balance was struck between an active protagonist and one who mourns a loss?

When the book was being written, forensic science was not the hot topic it is now — Goodnight, Irene was published long before the first episode of CSI aired.
What are some of the ways in which forensic science is used in the book?

O'Connor is murdered early in the book — by the second sentence, the reader knows he is about to die. Yet some readers have said he is one of their favorite characters. How do we come to know O'Connor? Did you become attached to him?

At the time Goodnight, Irene was written, only a few women authors were depicting violence in crime novels. How has this changed? How do you feel about the violence in the book? About the characters reactions to the violence they experience?

Jan Burke has said that when she was writing the book, she had planned for Frank and Irene to be no more than friends, and resisted the idea of any romantic involvement, but "Frank and Irene insisted on getting together." Up until then, Frank was just going to be a standard mystery "file drawer" character — providing information from the police when needed by the amateur detective and then shoved back out of the story. Does their attraction to each other work for the story?

Who are your favorite secondary characters? Why? Which ones did you most dislike? Why?

Often the heroes of mysteries are loners, but Irene's life is complicated by her connections to others. If you prefer a loner protagonist, what appeals to you about such a character? In what ways is Irene's life more (or less) like your own?

Sometimes, we form closer, more family‐like bonds with people to whom we are not related than we have with those to whom we are related to by blood. Who are some of the people in this book who serve as Irene's informal family? Do you have such connections in your own life?

Barbara is one of those people complicates Irene's life. Is Barbara more trouble than she's worth? What are some signs that these sisters may be closer than even they are aware?

Is Kenny victim or villain? Do you believe he will change?

What futures do you predict for the main characters?

Irene is investigating a cold case that involves a victim who might, by some, be seen as insignificant. In what ways does old violence have long‐reaching implications in Goodnight, Irene? Do you believe violence in real life has the same impact?