How To

How to Set Up A Mystery Book Club

Nicole Froio

Staff Writer

Nicole Froio is a Brazilian journalist currently based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She writes about feminism, human rights, politics, mental health issues, pop culture, books and the media. She was born in São Paulo but moved a lot as a kid, which hinders her ability to root down in only one place in adulthood. Her favorite genres of book are fantasy, YA fiction, romance and any book that requires the main character to find themselves. An avid intersectional feminist, her tolerance for bigotry is extremely low. Blog: Words by Nicole Froio Twitter: @NicoleFroio

Are you the kind of person who loves mystery books? Are you the kind of person who needs to gush about and discuss a mystery book as soon as you’re done reading it? Do you wish you could discuss the details of the mysteries you read with a group of like-minded people? Have no fear, I got you covered. This post will go through the basics of setting up a book club that is specific for mystery book readers. I will go through how to prepare the basics for a mystery book club and some ideas for discussion points and themed evenings!

The Basics

Setting up a book club doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds—and a mystery book club is no different. The first step is to decide if it’s going to be a physical, in real life club that meets periodically, or an online book club, that could meet through Skype or Google Hangouts (or not). Rioters before me have written awesome guides on how to do this, so I definitely recommend you check the next two links out: How to Start a Book Club that Doesn’t Suck by Rebecca Renner, and A Book Riot Guide to Setting Up Your Own Online Book Club by CP Hoffman. Just apply what these wise people have written to your own mystery book club.

Either way, you need to figure out how things will be decided: will there be one leader or will you vote on the book the group wants to read democratically? You could also have a key group of four to five people that decides on things. It’s up to you and your group to figure out what works best for you.

The second step is to start making decisions. Ask everyone the following questions:

  • How often will the group meet?
  • How long does the group need to read a book?
  • Where/how will the group meet? Make sure this is accessible and accommodating of everyone planning to join.
  • Will the group work with themes or is “mystery book club” a loose enough theme to work with?
  • Will there be a maximum amount of people who can join or is the group always open?
  • How will you communicate? Even if you’re doing a physical mystery book club, it’s helpful to have a Facebook group or a Goodreads group, or even a Slack channel or Messenger group chat where you can share insights before the physical meet-ups.
  • How will we decide on what to read? Will there be quotas to fulfill, like 25% of books written by women, 25% of books written by people of color?

These are just the logistics of setting up the foundation of your mystery book club. Now, let’s get into the specifics of mystery book clubs and how you can tailor your group in fun, crafty ways.

Themes and Lists You Can Use as Guides

Are you stumped as to how begin a good discussion or how to pick the best books? This could be a hard thing to do, but I can help you. Firstly, these book lists will give you a ton of ideas of what you could read first:

It’s always nice to have themes to guide you every time your mystery book club meets though. Here are some ideas to kick-start your book-choosing process:

  • Mystery book written by women
  • Mystery books where the killer is a woman
  • Mystery books that engage critically with race and ethnicity
  • Mystery books written by people of color
  • Best sellers
  • Inclusive mystery books
  • Mystery books set in a different country
  • Queer ladies solving crime
  • Mysteries that take place over several countries
  •  How to Get Away With Murder themed books
  • True Crime
  • Serial killers
  • Mysteries set in modern times
  • Mysteries set in the 1800s (insert any century of interest here!)

These are just a few themes to get you started—please don’t feel attached to these in any way. Depending on what your group wants to do, it could be that you want to branch out (maybe into the supernatural genre? Or focus more on thrillers rather than strictly mystery?) or not have themes at all and just read what you want to read. That’s also fine—I just know that for me, sometimes themes can help me have a structure so I’m not overwhelmed about coming up with ideas all the time.

Discussion Questions to Get You Started

The secret to a good mystery book club is the quality of the discussion about the book you read that month (or week, depending on how often you meet). If the discussion isn’t good, then you might as well just read your cozy mystery novel alone.

So how do you get the ball rolling? I think the secret is in the discussion questions, they can make or break a conversation. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • How did your expectations of this book compare to what you actually thought of it?
  • Did you predict the ending or were you surprised? Why? How did the author achieve this or fail to achieve it?
  • Who was your favorite character and why?
  • Who had the best character development and why?
  • How did this book portray women?
  • How did this book portray the concept of evil? Does it argue that some people are inherently evil or is evil a social construct?
  • Did this book make you think about good and bad people? What conclusion did you make?
  • How was the element of mystery constructed? Were you persuaded by the mystery aspect? How well did the author achieve this?

Again, these are just a few points to get you started. When you read a mystery book, think about what questions it raises and what you would like to discuss more thoroughly—and write them down. This will be so helpful when coming up with a structure for a discussion.

That’s all I’ve got for you today—if you have experience setting up a mystery book club and have any other advice I might have missed, please comment below.