Waterloo Sunset - Readers' Group Information
After three Lake District mysteries, I’ve returned to my first series, set in Liverpool, for my latest novel. Waterloo Sunset features the return of lawyer Harry Devlin, who appeared in seven books in the 1990s. In 2008, Liverpool is European Capital of Culture – a fitting celebration of a place that is as charismatic and exciting as any I know. And the atmosphere of a changing city pervades Waterloo Sunset. All the novels, like this one, take their titles from 1960s pop songs - and in case you’re wondering, Waterloo happens to be a waterfront suburb of Liverpool, which currently features the eerie and unforgettable Antony Gormley statues known as ‘Another Place’. I’ve always had a lot of affection for the character of Harry Devlin, although his life (I too work by day as a lawyer in Liverpool) is very different from mine – thank goodness. His doggedness, integrity and passion for justice seem to me to be admirable qualities. They are certainly much needed in this latest book, which opens with his receipt of a mock-obituary recording his death on Midsummer’s Eve – which happens to be in seven days’ time. The story charts his attempt to discover the truth about his unknown enemy, as well as his unwitting involvement in a series of murders of women in the city. Because several years have passed since the last Devlin book, I was keen to use the gap in time positively, to show how his life had moved on in the interim – and also how the city had developed. Liverpool was once the second city of the British Empire, but over the last fifty years (despite the Beatles and the great pop music era of the Mersey Sound in the 60s) its glories have faded. Now, however, it is enjoying a renaissance; the creation of a mini-Manhattan type skyline along the famous waterfront is only a part of the change that is taking place. I’m aiming to give people who don’t know the city an idea of its amazing character by including not only photos but possibly also some interesting video, on this website and my blog during the course of the year.
I wanted this latest story to play a key part in the series as a whole, charting the city’s fall and rise. This seems to me to be one of the great attractions of a series – over the years, the main characters change and grow, and so does the society in which they live and work. This is the first Devlin mystery to be published around the same time in the US as in the UK. I’m hoping that the new book will interest more readers in the character of Harry, and the city where, in Waterloo Sunset, he faces a fight for his very survival.
Suggested discussion points for readers’ groups
- All the action in the book is seen from Harry Devlin’s point of view. What effect does this have on the story?
- Does the author create a credible picture of Liverpool, and does that picture differ from your impression of the city (whether or not you have visited it)?
- The last Harry Devlin book appeared in 1999. Does it make any difference to your appreciation of the story if you have not read any earlier books in the series?
- The book includes many references to films and pop music. How does this influence your view of Harry Devlin’s character and world?
- What part does the picture created of Harry’s working life and environment play in the story, and how important is it?
- Does your perception of Harry, and his relationships with women, change during the course of the book?
- How does the author seek to inject pace into the telling of the story?
- There are a large number of characters in the book. How does the author set about differentiating them?
- What is the significance of the scene when Harry visits the Gormley statues on the beach? Is the scene effective or does it slow down the action unnecessarily?
- How does the author portray Harry’s relationships with colleagues, clients and the police, and do you find those relationships credible?
- There are two mysteries in the book – who is menacing Harry, and who is killing the young women? How does the author seek to maintain interest in both of them?
- How does the author plant clues to the solution of the two mysteries, and do you think that there are enough clues?
- Does the book persuade you that Liverpool is changing significantly or does it reinforce stereotypes of criminal behaviour?
- After reading the book, would you want to read a different series of books from the same author, with a rural setting in the Lake District?
Waterloo SunsetAllison & Busby, UK
ISBN (paperback) 978-07490-7927-7
Poisoned Pen Press, US