1. At the outset, The Subversive Detective seems to be about American airmen chasing U-boats but quickly changes focus to a murder in Atlantic City. The author wants readers to wonder about connections between the two events. Can you think of possible links?
  2. In the final chapter, Helen paraphrases John Donne’s famous phrase, “no man is an island”. She says, “no woman is an island”. What events in the book led her to that conclusion? Does it have a different meaning for a woman?
  3. There is tension between the protagonist, police detective Dave Levitan, and his partner, Henry Canterbury. Their nuanced relationship is based, in part, on personality differences. What hints are you given? And what does the size of Henry’s shoe have to do with it?
  4. The weird bullet is a critical clue. How did Levitan discover it? When we learn about its origin in Chapter 5, what does it tell us about the killer? How does this influence our suspicions?
  5. Dave lives with a woman, Helen Rubin. She has special talents that reveal her character. What is she like? How do we know? Why aren’t they married?
  6. A horrifying letter arrives at Helen’s parents’ house that brings the war closer to home. In what way are the Rubins’ perception of the war different from other Americans? How do the facts revealed in the letter change the story?
  7. Sam Brodsky, Helen’s cousin, is a gangster with ties to a terrorist organization. He makes Dave an offer. Why does the offer appeal to Levitan?
  8. The Subversive Detective takes place around Philadelphia and Atlantic City. When Levitan visits Fort Mifflin in South Philadelphia, he thinks about the historical ties between the Philadelphia and the British Empire. What was he wondering as he gazed across the river? Are the questions in his mind important to the story? Do Dave’s observations change your understanding of the American history? Could the story have happened anywhere else?
  9. Throughout the second half of the book, Levitan is expecting to see a specific article appear in newspapers. Why is the publication or failure to publish the article significant? What questions does it raise about the power of the mass media, then and now? If the story took place in the present day, would the role of media be different?
  10. Levitan listens to Helen play the piano at the Grotto. The jukebox plays popular hits when he visits Hurricanes bar. Are you familiar with any of the tunes mentioned in the story? Does naming the particular songs enrich the reader’s experience of the book? What does Helen’s musicianship tell us about her character and her relationship to Levitan?