St. Michael’s College is as much a character in Death at the Alma Mater as are the fictional characters. What other detective or mystery novels can you name where a place or an institution played this role?
The characters in the book reunite after some years for an alumni gathering, and the atmosphere is tense from the start. How does this compare with reunions—academic or family—you may have attended?
In what ways have the old members of St. Mike’s changed over the years? Have they remained the same?
Sebastian (Seb) Burrows, a young student, seems to be a “golden lad” but also to be a driven and unhappy soul. What did you learn about his background that may have played a part in shaping his character?
Discuss Augie Cramb’s role in the story. Are you sympathetic to his quest, or do you think he should have left the past alone?
How well has Hermione Jax managed to escape the role in life that was assigned to her?
Lady Bassett is described as a man’s woman—physically unremarkable yet possessed of a magnetic charm. Have you met women like her in your life? What do you think is their appeal?
Geraldo Valentiano is the quintessential roué. What do you think is the basis for the perennial attractiveness of a man like Geraldo?
In what ways is Lexy Laurant different from or similar to her old rival Lady Bassett?
Discuss the role of the River Cam in the story. What does it symbolize to you?
DCI St. Just is portrayed as a decent, hard-working, yet shrewd public servant. Does he remind of you of other fictional detectives? How is he the same, or different?
The academic setting, such as that of Death at the Alma Mater, has long been a favorite for detective, mystery, and/or comic novelists. What other novels by what authors have you read with such a setting? What do you think is the appeal of the academic setting for these authors?