Enthralling and suspenseful, like a Michael Connelly or Lee Child crime novel, but more elegantly written…
— Esquire Magazine

A Reader’s Guide for Deep Winter 

In order to provide book clubs/reading groups with thought-provoking questions, it is necessary, at times, to reveal crucial aspects of the plot of this novel. If you have not finished reading Deep Winter, you may want to consider not reading this guide until you’ve finished the novel.

Introduction 

In this compelling thriller-suspense novel, a devastating murder in an isolated small town sets off an unstoppable chain of events made more complicated—and more dangerous—by the town’s dark secrets.

In the small town of Wyalusing in eastern Pennsylvania, a woman is found brutally murdered one winter night. Next to the body is Danny Bedford, a misunderstood man who suffered a tragic brain injury that left him with limited mental capabilities. Despite his simple life, his intimidating size has caused his neighbors to ostracize him out of fear. So when the local bully-turned-deputy discovers Danny with the body it’s obvious that Danny’s physical strength has finally turned deadly. But in the long, freezing night that follows, the murder is only the first in a series of crimes that viciously upset the town order—an unstoppable chain of violence that appears to make Danny’s guilt increasingly undeniable. 

With the threat of an approaching blizzard, the local sheriff and a state trooper work through the pre-dawn hours to establish some semblance of peace. As they investigate one incident after another, they discover an intricate web of lies that reveals that not everything in Wyalusing is quite what it seems. 

 

Questions & Topics For Discussion:

1. Did you like Danny? Did you empathize with him? Why or why not? Do you think the author intended you to like or empathize with him?

2. How did having a mentally-impaired main character affect the story?

3. Discuss the author’s narrative strategy of alternating points of view amongst several characters throughout the book. How does the author use this device with positive effect?

4. How would the book be different if it were told from only Danny’s point of view? 

5. Discuss Danny’s arc in the story.  Were you satisfied with where he ended up in the end?  Do you feel the character went through some degree of change or self-awareness?

6. Did you like the author’s use of Danny’s childhood flashbacks to create the backstory of how the character ended up the way he did as an adult?

7. Sokowski is clearly an antagonist in the story, but was the author able to create any sympathy towards the character?  Did you feel that Sokowski evolved into a damaged man as the result of his mother’s abandonment of the family and father’s suicide, or that he was merely born sadistic?

8. Did you like the author’s symbolic device of using the wood robin figurine and how it was carried out from the beginning to the end of the story?

9. What did the three-legged deer represent to Danny? What did it represent to the reader?

10. How did the harsh environment of the region influence the story?

11. The author created numerous characters struggling with alcoholism and addiction at different levels of the disease.  Did you feel that it added to their complexity or humanized some of them to a degree?

12. How would the story be affected if it were set in current day instead of the past?

13.  The character Scottie Knolls grapples with guilt over abandoning his daughter who is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome.  How do you think Danny’s condition affected Scottie?

14.  Discuss the author’s use of both mental and physical weaknesses or limitations in different characters (Danny, Scottie’s daughter, Lester, the three-legged deer).

15. Do you feel that the level of violence and the numerous character deaths in the novel were justified?

16. Did you feel that Carl was forced into making bad decisions, or that he was in 

control of his own actions?

17.  What really surprised you or shocked you about the story?

18.  Did you feel like justice was served in the end?

19.  What did you think about the author’s choice to keep Danny alive and let him gain the respect of the townspeople?

20. Were you satisfied with the book’s ending? What do you think the future holds for Danny? For the Sheriff? For the town?