L.A.-based private detective Regan Reilly gets a call from her best gal pal, urging her to come to Hawaii for one last girls' weekend before Regan ties the knot with Jack "no relation" Reilly, and so she happily packs her bags.
At the Waikiki Waters Playground and Resort, the body of Dorinda Dawes, the hotel's gossipy PR woman, washes ashore wearing a valuable lei that once belonged to a Hawaiian princess and was stolen from a museum in Honolulu thirty years ago.
The resort manager doesn't believe that Dorinda drowned accidentally and persuades Regan to take on the case. The more she starts digging, the more danger she is in. Can Regan find out what really happened before it's too late for her and the other vacationers at the Waikiki Waters?
About the Author
Hometown:New York, New York
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A., Mount Holyoke College, 1978
Read an Excerpt
"This is going to be the snowstorm of the century," the action reporter, Brad Dayton, cried with a certain hysterical glee. Clad in bright yellow foul weather gear, he was standing on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Cars were inching by, sliding and spinning, as a gusty wind blew wet snow in every direction. The flakes seemed to target the reporter's face and the lens of the television camera. The sky was thick with gray clouds, and the whole Northeast was hunkering down for an unexpected blizzard.
"Don't go anywhere," he cried as he blinked to avoid the pelting precipitation. "Stay home. And forget the airports. They're closed, and it looks like they won't reopen for several days."
Regan Reilly stared at the television in her cozy Los Angeles office in an ancient building on Hollywood Boulevard. "I can't believe it," she said aloud. "I should have flown out yesterday."
"Be careful out there, Brad," urged the cable news anchor in the climate-controlled studio. "Try to stay dry."
"I will," Brad shouted over the shrill wind. He started to say something else, but the sound was knocked out. The news director cut quickly to a weatherman standing in front of a map with lots of ominous arrows pointing in all directions.
"What have you got for us, Larry?" the smiling blond anchorwoman asked.
"Snow coming from all directions," Larry explained urgently as his hands made circles around the map. "Snow, snow, and more snow. I hope you all have lots of canned goods at home because this storm is going to stay with us for the next several days, and it is packing a wallop!"
Regan looked out the window. It was a typically sunny day in Los Angeles. Her suitcase was packed for New York. Recently engaged, Regan was a thirty-one-year-old private investigator based in Los Angeles. Her honey, Jack "no relation" Reilly, was the head of the major case squad in New York City. They were to wed in May, and she had been planning to fly out for the weekend to see Jack and her parents, Luke and Nora, who lived in Summit, New Jersey.
Regan and her mother were supposed to meet with a wedding coordinator on Saturday to review all the plans for the big day -- menu, flowers, limos, photographer, the list went on and on. On Saturday night she and her parents and Jack had arranged to hear a band they were considering for the reception. Regan had been looking forward to a fun night out. The snowstorm would have precluded those plans, but if Regan had gotten to New York yesterday, she could have had a cozy weekend with Jack. It was the second week in January, and she hadn't seen him for ten days. And what's more romantic than being together during a snowstorm?
She felt lonely and frustrated, and the sight of the shining sun she found irritating. I don't want to be here, she thought. I want to be in New York.
The phone rang.
"Regan Reilly," she answered without much enthusiasm.
"Aloha, Regan. It's your maid of honor calling from Hawaii."
Kit Callan was Regan's best friend. They'd met in college on a junior year abroad program in England. Kit lived in Hartford and sold insurance. Her other job was the hunt for Mr. Right. So far she was having better luck peddling her policies.
"Aloha, Kit." Regan smiled and immediately felt better just hearing her best friend's voice. She knew that Kit had gone to Hawaii for an insurance convention. "How's your trip going?"
"I'm stuck here."
"Not many people would complain that they were stuck in Hawaii."
"The convention ended Tuesday. I took an...
Reading Group Guide
BURNED: A Regan Reilly Mystery
Carol Higgins Clark
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. When her best friend Kit calls, begging her to come to Hawaii instead for one last “girls’ weekend” before her wedding, Regan hesitates. But when she learns a dead body has washed up on the shore, she decides to go. What does this reveal about Regan? What is your impression of Kit? What do we learn about the relationship between Regan and Kit in the first few pages?
2. In chapter two, we learn that Regan’s mother is a well-known mystery writer. How much do you think the author, Carol Higgins Clark, draws on her relationship with her own famous mother, Mary Higgins Clark? What are some specific examples of their interactions that could have been drawn from “real” life? Why do you think the author included this character in the story—what role does she play?
3. Jack “was a worrier when it came to Regan. And now he had a particularly good reason. Whenever she was with Kit, something odd always happened.” (14) What does this tell you about Regan and Kit’s past? What does it make you think is going to happen next? Why doesn’t Regan tell Jack about Dorinda Dawes, the woman whose body washed up on the beach of the hotel where Regan will be staying?
4. The Waikiki Waters Resort has had numerous “mishaps” occur recently, with Dorinda Dawes’s dead body the latest and most extreme “accident.” Will, the hotel manager, in desperation hires Regan to investigate these occurrences while she is there. How do we know he is not behind the problems? How does the author make us trust him? Is Regan being a bad friend to Kit by taking the case while on their special vacation? Why or why not?
5. When Steve Yardley, Kit’s new love interest, is described as a “handsome, thirty-five-year-old retiree from Wall Street who moved to Hawaii when he got sick of the rat race” (18), why are we immediately suspicious? How much does Kit’s lack of success with men in the past figure into our assessment? What does Regan think of Steve? Steve lets a phone call go to voice mail instead of answering in front of Kit and Regan. People sometimes let phone calls go to voice mail in the company of others to be polite. Why does it make the reader feel distrustful of Steve? What else makes you feel wary of Steve and why?
6. In chapter seven, we meet the hefty twins, Gert and Ev who lead the Mixed Bag Tour group, Ned the physical trainer on the prowl, Artie the dissatisfied masseuse, vain, middle-aged Frances, the dreary couple Bob and Betsy, and the lively twenty-one-year-old Joy. What is your impression of this group? Do you immediately suspect any of the members of wrongdoing? Who, and why? How do your doubts change?
7. We learn that Will is the person who gave Dorinda Dawes the lei she was wearing when she died. He acquired it from his parents, who had innocently bought it thirty years ago from a teenager with abnormally long second toes. What is the significance of this detail? How is Will now implicated in Dorinda Dawes’s death? When you learn that Will was hiding important information related to Dorinda Dawes’s death, do you still trust him? Why or why not?
8. What does Regan learn about Dorinda Dawes from Janet, Will’s secretary? What do Dorinda’s newsletters reveal? How does this information begin to shape her suspicions about Dorinda’s death? What are Regan’s suspicions?
9. We learn that Ned had a difficult childhood, and a long history of compulsive stealing. He came to back to Hawaii to start a new life after his divorce. Why, after years of “staying clean” and a lot of therapy, does he become obsessed with stealing the leis? What does the theft symbolize for him? How does he feel when he finds out that the next day he will be entertaining the couple he originally sold the stolen lei to thirty years ago? Why does he believe the couple will not recognize him?
10. After the leis are stolen, Jimmy, Janet, and others say they believe there must be a curse on the leis. Is this a natural reaction to the events? Do you believe that things can be cursed? If so, what is an example? Can believing in a curse cause bad things to happen?
11. What does Regan learn from Dorinda’s notes that help her narrow down her suspects? Who are the primary suspects in the murder of Dorinda Dawes?
12. Why does Glenn the bellman become suspicious of Ned? When Glenn snoops, and opens Ned’s package, he finds the leis. Why doesn’t he call the police? Why doesn’t he keep the leis for himself? Why doesn’t Will suspect Glenn of the mishaps? Have you been duped by someone you trusted implicitly? How? Were there signs that the person was untrustworthy?
13. What do Dorinda’s notes say that make Regan more suspicious of Steve Yardley? What does she learn at the party about Steve? Why doesn’t she share her reservations with Kit? Why isn’t Kit skeptical of Steve?
14. How does Regan find out about the twins’ embezzlement of Sal Hawkins money? Why does she become suspicious of Carla and Jason’s disappearance? How does she connect Carla and Jason’s disappearance to Gert and Ev? How does Regan figure out where Carla and Jason are located and make the police take her fears seriously?
15. Ned decides that Glenn isn’t “going to beat me at this game. Because I always play to win.” (224) What do you think Ned is going to do to Glenn? Do you believe at this point that Ned murdered Dorinda? Ned ultimately gets away with the theft of the leis. Do you think he will continue to steal or has the experience with the leis cured him? Why?
16. Why does Steve try to kill Kit? When Steve tries to drown Kit, Regan comes to Kit’s rescue just in time. Regan tells Kit to “Get back on the jetty!,” but Kit refuses, and helps Regan subdue Steve. What does this reveal about Kit? After Steve is arrested, Kit makes Regan promise to check out the next guy she dates. Regan agrees, saying, “That’s a guarantee. Especially if you’re gaga.” Do Regan and Kit believe that Kit can make good choices? Do friendships in real life develop similar dynamics? What do you think will happen to their friendship after Regan is married? Will Regan continue to get involved in solving crimes after she is married? Are some people destined to certain careers?