For reading groups
.... Jeanette's tone became girlish. "You don't need to pretend with me, Claire Marshall. You're unhappy because you can't talk to Frank, but he'll be back." She giggled. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
"I know it's a secret, but he had to tell me." Another giggle. "I'm making your honeymoon reservations."
"What?" Claire gasped.
"The only other person who knows is Sherry, in bookkeeping. She's my best friend. I had to tell her, but it's okay. She won't tell anyone."
"Frank and I have a business relationship. Business, that's all. I don't know where—"
"He was so broken up after Annie Lewis died. I never thought he'd get married again. Neither did Sherry." Jeanette rattled on as if Claire hadn't spoken. "And you're so young, I never would have guessed you're a widow, but Frank told me all about it." A loud sigh. "Both of you lost the person you loved, but now you've found each other."
"No one's found anyone. Frank and I are not in love. We are not getting married. We're not even dating. My company is restoring a property that Frank owns."
"I know. It's a secret romance."
"There's no romance, secret or otherwise. There is a problem with a check." Claire spoke through clenched teeth. "Can someone else help me?"
"Sherry writes all the checks, but Frank gave her the week off, you know, because he wasn't going to be around."
"Please have him call me as soon as possible."
Claire Marshall’s world crumbled when her husband died in a fire. Trying to build a new life, she buys into a small company that restores historic houses. When one of her clients is found dead in a burned building, the police suspect her of arson, murder, or both. No one believes her relationship with the late Frank Palmer was strictly business. After all, he spent his last days telling the world they were in love and planning to marry. Claire can't imagine why, nor does she know how to win an argument with a dead man. Determined to clear her name, she begins an investigation into Frank's life. What she learns could get her killed.
An emotionally fragile young widow becomes a pawn in a murderous conspiracy...
A PERFECT VICTIM
A Perfect Victim is a murder mystery. It is also about second chances, the importance of accepting responsibility for your decisions, and the power of caring for other people. Claire's journey takes her from emotionally fragile widow to a woman strong enough to help herself and others. The following questions address those underlying themes.
1. The reader first encounters Claire when she is visiting her husband's grave. A phone call from her business partner shifts her concern to financial problems. Did that change make her less sympathetic?
2. When the story begins, Claire is traumatized by her husband's death, foggy from too many pills, and isolated except for work. This combination makes her the perfect victim. To what extent do you think that situation was her own fault?
3. By the end of the book, Claire has found inner strength. What aspect of her personality contributed most to her progress? What impeded it?
4. A Perfect Victim could have ended when the killer's identity was revealed, but it continued for several more chapters. What did the trip to New Mexico represent, and how did it contribute to Claire's story?
5. Secondary characters play major roles in this story. Which one did you find most sympathetic? Which one would you most like to meet?
2015 Best Mystery
- EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition)
"Complex characters come to life in this suspenseful mystery and you’ll find yourself rooting out loud for Claire. I enjoyed A Perfect Victim and would highly recommend it!"
- Star @ The Bibliophilic Book Blog 3/11/14: Five of five stars
"A Perfect Victim by Patricia Dusenbury is a novel awash in crime, suspense, and drama."
- Online Book Club Official Review 10/9/14: Four of four stars
"New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou is the perfect setting for A Perfect Victim. The mystery here is as deeply layered as the bayou, secrets are hidden, and danger lurks around each bend."
- Ute Carbone, award-winning author of The Tender Bonds