Life Without Parole: A Kate Conway Mystery

Life Without Parole: A Kate Conway Mystery

by Clare O'Donohue


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452297821
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/24/2012
Series: A Kate Conway Mystery Series
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

CLARE O'DONOHUE is a freelance television writer and producer as well as the author of the Someday Quilts mystery series. She lives outside Chicago, Illinois.

Reading Group Guide

After the death of her ex-husband, things are finally returning to normal for Kate Conway-so normal that she's gotten a little bored. Out of the blue, the television producer is offered a documentary gig about lifers in a state prison. Kate jumps at the chance. The only problem is that she's also just been asked to produce a reality show about the opening of a new restaurant-one backed by Vera, her dead husband's mistress. Reluctantly, she agrees to both.

But when one of the restaurant's investors is murdered and Vera is the chief suspect, Kate must ride a treacherous psychological edge, relying on the minds of death row killers to help her solve the case.


Clare O'Donohue is a freelance television writer and producer as well as the author of the Someday Quilts mystery series. She lives outside Chicago, Illinois.


Q. This is your second book about Kate Conway. Did you find yourself learning new things about her as you were writing, or had you fleshed out her character completely while writing Missing Persons? What kind of challenges present themselves when you’re writing a series as opposed to a single book?

Her husband has only been dead about six months, so this is definitely a time of transition for Kate. It’s her first time ever as a single adult. In Life Without Parole she keeps putting off the decision to buy a new car because Kate’s never made a major purchase on her own, and she’s scared. Kate is learning about herself, so I’m learning along with her. I think she’ll continue to grow and change – and Andres, Victor and especially Vera will challenge her to push beyond her comfort zone.

Rather than a challenge, knowing that Kate is a series character allows me to make the changes in her personality more subtle, slower — as they would happen in real life. It makes her more real, I think. She’s certainly become very real to me.

Q. What kind of research did you need to do in order to write the novel? You, like Kate, are also a freelance television producer –– how did your own experiences inform this mystery?

I do a lot of independent research. In Life Without Parole I talked to people in the restaurant business in Chicago and read books about life in prison. I also used my real life experiences of interviewing inmates for various TV shows and newspaper articles. Beyond that, I use the flavor of my work — the realities of being freelance, of putting together a television show, and the camaraderie of the crew — in each book. However, the specifics of the stories are complete fiction, and I do play around with some TV stuff to make it fit the novel. It’s sort of like reality television, I take the truth and tweak it to make it more entertaining (just like Kate).

Q. Will we meet Kate again? What are you working on next?

I love Kate. I would love to keep writing about her for years. Currently I’m working on the third in the series, in which Kate will be producing a documentary about a controversial figure from American history — and getting herself involved in state politics, romance, and, of course, murder. As always, Victor, Andres and Vera are along for the ride and we’ll see a change in the relationship she has with Vera as well as a new side to Victor.

  • How do the very first few paragraphs of the novel set the tone for the rest of the book?
  • At the beginning of the book, Vera invites Kate over for dinner. Kate says, “I could have not shown up. But here I was. I can be a real jerk when I want to be, but for some reason, I don’t like being impolite.” What does this tell you about Kate? How does this trait manifest itself in the rest of the novel?
  • Why do you think Vera resists placing any blame on Doug after Erik’s murder, despite the fact that there is some damning evidence against him? What does this reveal about Vera’s character? What does Kate think it says about Vera?
  • Discuss Kate and Vera’s friendship. What does it tell you about both women? Can you imagine a scenario where you would be able to be friendly with someone your spouse had an affair with? How does Vera endear herself to Kate?
  • How do Andres and Victor support Kate? Why do you think she pushes them away at times? Why does she push her sister and mother away? How do Brick and Tim get under Kate’s skin, despite her attempts to close herself off to them?
  • Were you surprised by the development of Tim’s character? How does he initially convince Kate that he’s a good guy? What is it that eventually clues her in to his deception? What about Brick? Were you surprised by his sincerity?
  • What role does Detective Makina play in the book? Is he as bad as Kate makes him out to be?
  • What clues did the author give you about who Erik’s murderer was? Did the author lead you astray in other ways? How did you feel when Roman’s killer was exposed?
  • Kate remarks towards the end of the book that she learned a lot about Frank after his death. How does the book deal with the unknowability of other people? How is Kate surprised by the actions of others throughout the story?
  • What did you make of the end of the book? Are you hopeful for Kate’s future? What about Vera’s?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Life Without Parole 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
    judiOH More than 1 year ago
    this author writes cozy mysteries about quilters. this is not a cozy, but it is a mystery. it is a bit darker and edgier than the cozies, but not overdone in that area. kate conway is a free-lance producer. she takes on the job of interviewing inmates doing life without parole, thus the name of the story. at the same time she is doing a story on a new restaurant from the construction to the opening. one of the investors is murdered. this story follows two different venues and yet they intertwined and is an excellent read. had a hard time putting it down. no way will you figure the ending....guaranteed! do not miss it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is a great series. Start with Missing Persons, for sure, but this one is even better than the first. I hear there's a third in the works. Can't stand how long it will be before I get to read it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Dollycas More than 1 year ago
    We first met Kate Conway, free lance television producer in Missing Persons, her soon to be ex-husband was killed and she was the prime suspect. Of course, she didn't do it. In Life Without Parole Kate is actually a little bored as her life returns to "normal". Then she is offered two new jobs. One is a documentary about prison inmates sentenced to life without parole and the other is a reality show about a new restaurant. She accepts both jobs and works out a schedule. Things go awry when one of the investor's in the restaurants is murdered. Then become even poor intense as she digs deeper in to the minds of the prisoners. Can what she learns from these death row killers help her solve the murder mystery? Dollycas's Thoughts I adore the way Clare O'Donohue writes. These stories are of the edge of your seat variety, face paced, exciting and can't put down. Kate Conway knows her job and she does it well. She gets in the heads of both the investors and the prisoners. There are a lot of mind games happening here giving this story some unexpected psychological elements. Clare O'Donohue is writing what she knows as she has worked in television. Her experience helps draw some awesome characters and plausible plots. The dialogue rings true as do the relationships, even the most unlikely friendship between Kate and Vera. In my review of Missing Persons I said I felt like I was watching a television drama and almost forgot I was reading a book. The same is true in this installment. Kate Conway continues to develop at a perfect pace. With her chosen profession the material for future stories is endless. That makes this reader very happy.
    BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
    Life Without Parole was only okay for me. The book was well-written with interesting characters, but I didn’t quite understand the main character’s actions at times. I realized later that this book is part of a series and I haven’t read the first one, Missing Persons. I would suggest reading that first to get some background on Kate, the split from her husband and the circumstances surrounding it. I had a tough time understanding the relationship between Kate and Vera (her ex-husband’s mistress). I kept asking myself how anyone could protect a woman who ruined your marriage, even if it’s the right thing to do. I just felt like there needed to be more background on that. Otherwise, I really liked the bits about the prisoners and how Kate utilizes their knowledge to help solve her own case and prove Vera’s innocence. I thought it connected the two stories really well. Aside from needing to read the first book in the series, my only complaint is that I didn’t think there were enough twists and hardly any that surprised me. I obviously would recommend reading the first book in series before attempting to read this book. There are some very complex emotions going on in this book that I think reading the first book would sort out a little better. 3 stars for Life Without Parole. Reviewed by Brittany for Book Sake.