A scintillating tale of intrigue, deception, art, and murder
Reading Group Questions
for The Amber Room
1. Though The Amber Room is a novel steeped in fascinating history, the Prologue is the only part of the book that is actually set in the past. What did you think of the Prologue? How does it add to the book's atmosphere? What information does it get across that is crucial to understanding what comes later?
2. As you can see from his author bio, Steve Berry is a trial lawyer. His main characters also work in law-Rachel is a judge and Paul is an attorney-and the first chapter is set in a courtroom. But The Amber Room is not a legal thriller. As Berry puts it, he likes to write about "lawyers doing unlawyerly things." Did you expect The Amber Room to be a legal thriller? Were you disappointed that the author didn't go in that direction, or were you glad to see he did something quite different? How and why does Berry play off of such expectations?
3. Most male thriller writers write about male protagonists, and most female thriller writers write about female protagonists. But in The Amber Room, Steve Berry writes both a male and female protagonist, as well as a male and female villain. In your opinion, did Berry handle the female points of view well? And did the presence of two protagonists and two villains add to the book's effect, or did it detract?
4. In most thrillers, we spend the bulk of our time with the protagonist while the villain stays largely hidden. (One popular alternative to this is when the villain turns out to be a character we've known all along, but of whom we haven't been suspicious.) In The Amber Room, however, we spend a good deal of time with the book's villains, getting to know their personalities, their motivations, and their methods. How do you feel this affected the suspense? Was it less suspenseful than the usual formula or was it more suspenseful? Why?
5. While Christian Knoll and Suzanne Danzer are about as bad as bad guys get, they are more pragmatic than they are evil. In fact, at the story's beginning, they have no personal reason to do Rachel and Paul harm; they are simply doing a job they've been hired to do. Does this make them more or less interesting than villains who have deep personal motivations for their actions? How do Christian's and Suzanne's respective motivations change and develop as the story nears its end?
6. In a way, the brash American contractor Wayland McKoy is the catalyst for all the story's action. It is, after all, his expedition that is the cause of much of the renewed interest in The Amber Room. Still, McKoy doesn't enter until halfway through the story. Did you find this jarring or did McKoy's sudden appearance make sense to you? As you spend twice as much time with the other characters, does McKoy get enough of the book to become an interesting character and to win your sympathy? What is it that makes him a likable character? What about him didn't you like?
7. Early on in the novel, in the wake of her father's mysterious death, Rachel is gung-ho about finding out just what's going on, while Paul remains, understandably, worried for her safety. On Page 271, however, Paul figures out for the first time that Doktor Alfred Grumer has an agenda beyond helping them, and Paul leaps into action. Is Paul's switch believable? What causes it? As a reader, were you surprised to see Paul finally deciding to act? Were you excited to see him working with Rachel to get to the bottom of things?
8. In the climactic fight scene, Paul attacks Christian Knoll to save Rachel. But when the tide turns and Paul is losing the fight, Rachel manages to shoot Knoll with his own gun. In a way, Berry has managed to make both protagonists heroes. Did you find this resolution satisfactory? Why does it work for you, or why doesn't it? Would it have been better, in your opinion, for one of them to be more responsible than the other?
9. The Amber Room is, first and foremost, a novel of suspense. But it is also a love story. As opposed to many love stories, however, it doesn't feature two people meeting for the first time and falling in love, but a couple that has been married and divorced-a couple bound by two young children. Did you find this more compelling than the usual formula, or less compelling? Were you glad to see Rachel and Paul get back together? Did you find their development as a couple believable?
10. The Amber Room is a novel full of explosive action set in exotic locales-or, as bestselling author Dan Brown put it, "a globe-trotting treasure hunt." Did you enjoy the story simply for the sake of escapism, or did you wonder at the reality of such an intense quest for this lost but very real treasure? Were you worried for Rachel and Paul, happy to be so far from the action, or did you find yourself wanting to hop a jet bound for Europe so you could join them on their quest?
11. As you know from the Writer's Note at the back of the book, The Amber Room was-and may still be-a very real thing. In your opinion, did Steve Berry tell you enough about the Room's history to make it intriguing? Did he tell you too much? How does the presence of such a realistic and well-researched backdrop enhance the fictional tale that is The Amber Room? Do the history and suspense blend well into a single story? Could you say that one element-the history or the suspense-was more compelling than the other, or would it be difficult for either to exist without the other?
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