Reading Group Guide
1. What makes Penelope a survivor while others perish? How does her mother’s legacy become a source of strength?
2. How did your impressions of Björn shift? Why were he and Penelope drawn to each other? What did they fail to realize about each other?
3. Discuss the network of political leaders in the photograph. What is their common motivation? How are they able to look past the suffering Penelope has devoted her life to eradicating?
4. What accounts for the differences, yet the devotion, between the siblings Robert and Axel, as well as between Penelope and Viola?
5. As Penelope and Björn desperately searched for help, were you surprised to see them rejected and brutalized? In your community, would it be hard to find a stranger who is willing to render aid?
6. Enduring his memories of Greta, does Axel form a therapeutic relationship with Beverly, or is their arrangement harmful to both of them?
7. What is the effect of the music that echoes throughout the novel? We’re told that Guidi’s late wife, Fiorenza, was an accomplished violinist. How does he reconcile his passion for beautiful, rare musical instruments (including Fiorenza’s Amati) with the bloodthirsty world he created?
8. How do Veronique and Pontus face the risks of doing business with Guidi? Why did they think they could outwit him? How did their experience differ from Palmcrona’s?
9. Is money the only allure of signing a Paganini contract? If Guidi were able to uncover your worst nightmare, what would it look like?
10. How do Saga and Joona complement each other? How are their detective roles different from that of The Needle’s (Chief of Forensic Medicine Nils Åhlén)?
11. In the closing scenes, a chain of world leaders, from Swedish export control workers to Kenyan politicians and international transportation companies, are thought to have acted “in good faith,” just as Pontus said would happen. What power do Penelope and her fellow activists have against such a system?
12. What do you predict for Peter’s future?
13. Discuss the statistics that are delivered in the novel’s closing paragraph. How did you react to the realities of weapons exportation?
14. How has Joona evolved since he handled the Josef Ek case in The Hypnotist? What do both novels say about the nature of evil?