The Limehouse Text:
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
- During the opening sequence in the prologue, our narrator's employer
is about to engage in a brutal fight to the death that the narrator blames
himself for causing. How does the prologue set the tone for the rest of
The Limehouse Text? Does the tone and your feelings about the narrator
change from beginning to the end? If so, in what ways?
- In the first chapter, we learn that Quong, private enquiry agent Cyrus
Barker's first assistant, had been murdered by a bullet through his
forehead one year prior. Is it surprising that Llewelyn is not more
concerned about his own well-being, given the fate of his predecessor? Why
or why not? Why is Barker particularly driven to find Quong's killer?
- Describe the relationship between Llewelyn and Barker. How is it
similar to and/or different from Sherlock and Dr. Watson? Why doesn't
Barker tell Thomas more about what they are investigating? How does it
affect the narrative power to find out answers to the mystery at the same
time that Thomas does?
- How does setting The Limehouse Text in London's Chinatown add to the
atmosphere of the narrative? Why do you think the author chose this
locale? Are you surprised to hear that there are only 500 to 600 Chinese
in London, a major hub of commerce and the British Navy, at this time in
history? Why or why not?
- Bainbridge's last words are, ". . . all these Orientals are natural
born liars. They never say what they really mean and you never can know
what they're thinking. They'd turn a laundry list into a mystery." Does
this stereotype toward Asians still exist today? Was the author sending a
message about the dangers of racism by immediately killing off Bainbridge
after he utters these words?
- Why do you think Barker insists on being called a "private enquiry
agent" versus "detective?" What is the difference between the two and what
does it reveal about Barker?
- What is Jimmy Woo's role in the narrative of The Limehouse Text? What
qualities make him seem untrustworthy from the moment he is
- Inspector Bainbridge, before he is murdered, comments, "The Holy Bible
is a book. The Koran is a book. Right now in the Sudan, men are killing
each other over both of them." Why do you think the author included this
information? Does it make you think about recent political situations in
the Middle East?
- How is Barker's friendship with Inspector Poole tested in The
Limehouse Text? Was it proper for Barker to conceal the existence of the
book from Poole? Why or why not?
- How does the intensity of the story change when attempts on Barker's
and his associates' lives are made from within his own house? How does the
introduction of Madame and Etienne Drummolard affect the timbre of the
- Are you surprised at the person Barker chooses to courier the text?
Why does he choose whom he does?
- What do we learn about Barker and Llewelyn by the finish of the story
that we didn't know before -- how do their characters become more
illuminated by the mystery they solve and the adventures they endure? How
does their relationship change?
Book Club Tips:
- Watch a classic Sherlock Holmes film and compare the relationship
between Holmes and Watson to Barker and Llewelyn's.
- Read all three of the Barker and Llewelyn books in a row and discuss
how the characters develop as the stories build upon each other.
- The books in this series could very easily become movies. Who should
play each of the characters in the film versions and why?
- Devour a Chinese feast while you discuss the various characters. Or
conversely, serve high English tea to set a British ambiance for your