Book Club: Florida Femmes Fete Fairstein

Proud New Yorker I may be, but I’m lucky enough to spend my winters in south Florida—no snow, lots of sunny days with weather warm enough to swim, bike, and walk outdoors. But what about my brain, you ask. Does it get any exercise?

 Flamingo book art from PrintsByFormedByFire on EtsyYes it does, thanks in no small part to The Festival Book Club of North Fort Myers, a erudite group of women who selected their club’s name from the Southwest Florida Reading Festival  a marvelous literary event held each March at the Harborside Event Center, nestled on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers.

The Festival, which has been sponsored by The Lee County Library System for more than a decade, has grown into a relaxed and fun-filled literary event that catches the attention numerous authors of fiction and non-fiction alike. I suspect the authors enjoy the Festival because it attracts thousands of readers. Because it is held in south Florida in March, the readers who attend the Festival are as likely to come from another state or another nation, as they are to be full time Floridians. And the same is true for our book club. Nearly half the members are Floridians, while the rest of us come from a number of States and Canada just for the winter season.

I was delighted when it was my turn to select a book and host a recent meeting. My choice of book was limited to anything written by an author attending the 2011 Reading Festival, which meant I could select from a wide array of fiction and non-fiction authors.

Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein
Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein
Well, I’m a life-long New Yorker and Linda Fairstein manages to include the City of New York as a character in all of her superb Alex Cooper novels, so I decided to recommend Linda’s 2009 bestseller, Lethal Legacy. Over the years, I have been “guest writer” at a number of book clubs.  Naturally, I’ve been to meetings of The Festival book club, so I should’ve just taken the Lethal Legacy meeting in my stride.  But this was the first time that I was responsible for choosing the book and shepherding the conversation.

So, rather than enjoying a leisurely visit with Alex, Mike and Mercer, I was constantly taking notes, just a bit fearful that I’d let the Festival gals down by not being prepared to lead the discussion. I went online and read a number of interviews Linda Fairstein had given around the time that Lethal Legacy was released and I researched the New York Public Library building, since so much of the action takes place there.

I need not have worried. As usual, the ladies of The Festival Book Club were filled with opinions and not afraid to share them. What surprised me most was that not every one is as charmed by the concept of having New York City as a character in the book as I am. Some readers thought that the book went overboard on all the intense description of the library and its environs, while I consider all the New York history to be a secondary mystery to unravel as the characters solve the primary “who dun it.”

We also discussed Alex’s relationship with Luc. Is he really necessary? Some members like the idea of a romantic Frenchman popping in and out of Alex’s life on a very irregular basis, but more thought that Luc comes across as an add-on. His main purpose seems to be to show Alex as a woman, not just a prosecutor. I think that while a romance with a local, more available man might seem to interfere with Alex’s job, in the long run, readers would get comfortable with that give and take. But, of course, we are all waiting for Alex to hook up with Mike.

 That’s what I like best about book club: everything is fair game—setting, characters, style and substance. Next, we’re moving on to a non-fiction work. 

I’m sure our discussion will be lively. It always is.

Image courtesy of PrintsByFormedByFire

According toTerrie Farley Moran, writing short mystery fiction is nearly as much fun as hanging out with any or all of her seven grandchildren. One of her recent shorts can be found in the anthology Crimes By Moonlight, and Terrie blogs at Women of Mystery.


  1. Cathi Stoler

    It actually seems as though you were able to keep the book club ladies on track and had a great discussion about the book rather than start gossiping. I have to disagree with not being charmed by having NYC and the library as characters. The city is as interesting as they come and that particular library is legendary. Linda described them both perfectly and made them a real part of the story.

  2. livclaire

    I’ve lived in Montana. People there positively hate NYC and New Yorkers. No, I don’t think they’re envious, although I can’t imagine why. I must admit that their mountains, lakes, glaciers, grisly bears and sunsets make for meaty characters as well. Maybe not quite as mysterious as NY…maybe not quite as rich in delicious detail. But then I think of Carl Hiasson. He’s got Florida down to a T, and if that place ain’t a character, what is?

    Your book club sounds wonderful. I’m envious.

  3. Terrie Farley Moran

    Hi Cathi, the Festival Book Club is an extremely serious book group. We never gossip! It would be hard to find a more interesting and interested group of readers. and, Livclaire, I do understand your envy, I am so happy to be a member of Festival.

  4. Laura K. Curtis

    I’m interested in the idea of a series book as a book club discussion pick. Had most of the others read any of Fairstein’s other work? Do you think the discussion might have gone in a different direction if they had/hadn’t? I am always wary of things like that–my own view of characters, setting and relationships is so colored by earlier books in a series I don’t know how much patience I would have with people who didn’t have that background.

  5. Terrie Farley Moran

    Hi Laura,
    A couple of us have read other books in the Alex Cooper series, but for many of the members, Lethal Legacy was their introduction to Linda Fairstein’s work. I picked the book, not even thinking about what number in the series it was. For book club our goal is to find a book that the Lee County library has at least fifteen copies available for us to reserve–although the Kindle readers frequently buy and download.
    You bring up an excellent point. A lot of people like to start a series at the beginning and move forward. Our book club is very eclectic in taste and curiosity, so there are always a few of us who will read the book and then research the series, the topic, etc. so, generally, those who are interested in finding out more, do so before the meeting. And I will say that Fairstein’s books are very pick-up-able. There is always the usual “how we got here” references to former books but basically, the stories are very focused in the moment for the story and in the past only for the history of the parts of New York that Linda is using as backdrop/part of the story. You don’t need to know a lot of character history.

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