This reading group guide for The Other Side of Night includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Adam Hamdy
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. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction For fans of Matt Haig and Anthony Horowitz, an “intriguing and thought-provoking” (Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish) novel in which the lives of a disgraced police officer, a prolific author, and an upstanding citizen are inextricably bound together by a series of mysterious deaths. The Other Side of Night
begins with a man named David Asha writing about his biggest regret: his sudden separation from his son, Elliot. In his grief, David tells a story.
Next, we step into the life of Harriet Kealty, a police officer trying to clear her name after a lapse of judgment. She discovers a curious inscription in a secondhand book—a plea: Help. He’s trying to kill me. Who wrote this note? Who is “he”?
This note leads Harri to David Asha, who was last seen stepping off a cliff. Police suspect he couldn’t cope after his wife’s sudden death. Still, why would this man jump and leave behind his young son? Quickly, Harri’s attention zeroes in on a person she knows all too well.
Ben Elmys: once the love of her life. A surrogate father to Elliot Asha and trusted friend to the Ashas.
Ben may also be a murderer. The Other Side of Night
is a thought-provoking, moving “head-spinner of a novel” (John Connolly) with intriguing narratives and plot swerves that will leave you reeling. By the end, you’ll be shaken as each piece slots satisfyingly into place. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT is told from several perspectives and in several formats—traditional narrative, letters, court reports, video transcripts, and even excerpts from one of the narrator’s novels. What is the effect of all these different styles? As a reader, did you enjoy the multiple perspectives and formats?
2. At the beginning of the novel, David Asha states, “Life is memory” (p. x). Do you agree? How is it true in the context of the novel?
3. Re-read the extract from the fictional book Happiness: A New Way of Life
(p. 18). Knowing the big twist in THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT, how does this fictional book hint at the plot and its themes?
4. Harriet has a strong reaction to Sabih telling their boss she was involved with Ben, and she thinks to herself, “She couldn’t believe Sabih had betrayed her. She’d sacrificed everything for him. He wouldn’t even be alive if it hadn’t been for her, and he’d rewarded her by breaking promises . . .” (p. 111). What does her reaction to Sabih’s behavior tell you about her current state of mind at this point in the novel?
5. In a transcript of her journal, Harriet questions her perception of the night Sabih dies. She asks herself what she really saw, and if she can believe her own eyes (p. 156). How does the novel similarly make you, the reader, question what you’ve read and the characters you’ve met?
6. How did the revelation of the plot’s big mystery, make you reconsider the earlier parts of the novel? Did you go back and re-read any sections? What parts of the big twist were most surprising to you? Did you guess any elements in advance?
7. Why do you think “I want to live. Help. He’s trying to kill me,” the message in the book’s margins had such a powerful impact on Harriet?
8. Describe the relationship between Ben and Elliott. In light of the revelation later in the novel, what do you think of the way they treat one another?
9. Were you surprised to get Beth’s point of view at the end? What did you think of her telling Ben not to try to save her?
10. Most crime novels or mysteries have a villain of some sort. Do you think any character in THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT is a villain?
11. As a novel with many secrets and revelations, did you come up with any of your own theories about the plot and characters as you read? How close to the truth did you come?
12. THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT is as concerned with emotions as it is twists and turns. What do you think the main emotional themes of the novel are? What feelings did the story provoke in you?
13. The novel is tricky to describe to someone who hasn’t read it without giving away major spoilers. How would you attempt to summarize it in a spoiler-free way?
14. The novel employs structure to ensure the reader is never misled or deceived, showing everything, while at the same time concealing the heart of the story for the big twist. What do you think you might take from the book if you read it a second time? Enhance Your Book Club
1. As a group, pick another unconventional mystery/thriller, such as Stuart Turton’s THE 7 ½ DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE, MIRRORLAND by Carole Johnstone, or THE WORD IS MURDER by Anthony Horowitz. In what ways do both the book you chose and THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT play with conventions of the genre? What are the similarities and differences?
2. With its genre-bending plot, nuanced characters, and dramatic locations, THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT seems perfect for film or television adaptation. What parts of the novel might be challenging to adapt to screen? Who would you cast as the main characters? What details would you hope the adaptation kept?
3. THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT is dedicated to the author’s son, who inspired the book with a simple question. However, we never learn what the question is. As a group, discuss what you think it might be and why Adam Hamdy doesn’t divulge what the question is in an author’s note or the acknowledgments. A Conversation with Adam Hamdy Q: In addition to your son’s mysterious question, what inspired THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT? And when in the writing process did you know you wanted to play with genre in such a significant way?
A: When I sat down with my very first editor, she asked me which authors I’d most closely associate myself with, and I said David Mitchell and Michael Crichton. I love Mitchell’s big themes, emotional engagement, and compelling world building, and Crichton’s intelligence and foresight. For various reasons over the years I found myself in an action thriller niche, and THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT was a conscious attempt at the kind of novel I’d always wanted to write, a thought-provoking, emotionally engaging novel that leaves readers feeling they’ve experienced something new and different. I hope it will be the first of many such stories. Q: You list several books you used for research in the acknowledgments; were there any novels that also helped with your writing process?
A: I was commissioned to adapt David Mitchell’s NUMBER9DREAM and so am very familiar with that book and have probably analyzed it more than is healthy. I love the way it plays with the boundaries of what’s real and possible and the techniques Mitchell uses to emotionally engage readers. MOONFLOWER MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz was such an influential book and reminded me of the importance of structure. As a reader I get irritated by deliberate concealment, when an author has a character look away or abandon a train of thought or ends a chapter early because it would reveal an inconvenient piece of information. THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT deals with multiple secrets, perspectives, and twists, but nothing is deliberately concealed from the reader, and if one re-reads the book, one realizes the truth was hidden in plain sight all the time. Structure is what facilitates this, and MOONFLOWER MURDERS was instrumental in reminding me of the power and importance of good structure. Q: Along the same lines, your novel deals with big philosophical questions—did you read the works of any philosophers or major intellectual figures while writing THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT?
A: My first degree is in law, my second is in philosophy. The philosopher in me can explain why something is morally wrong, and the lawyer in me can figure out how you just might be able to get away with it. I’m fascinated by life’s big questions and did my second degree to find out how the world’s leading thinkers set about answering them. I hope THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT encourages people to think. I don’t claim the book holds any answers, but in my experience it’s the questions that matter, not the answer, which will usually be different for everyone. Asking questions keeps alive a sense of wonder and engagement with the world that makes life more interesting. At least for me. Q: How did you keep track of the various timelines toward the end of the novel? Did you have a method for making sure everything aligned and made sense?
A: I wrote my first three novels without a plan, and then started working with James Patterson, who taught me the value of planning. My process is now completely different as a result. I start with a one-page sketch of key elements, move to a three-to-five-page synopsis, and then a twenty-page chapter-by-chapter outline. Once I’m at that stage, I can cut and reorder without too much difficulty and make sure everything flows properly. Once the story and plot are figured out, I start writing, and because I don’t have to worry too much about the big structural elements, I can focus on making the writing as effective and powerful as possible and ensuring the reader gets maximum enjoyment from the experience. Q: You also work as a screenwriter. What elements of screenwriting and film helped you write THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT?
A: I think screenwriting gives one a grounding in the importance of structure, action, and dialogue. Without voice-over, which has fallen out of fashion, screenplays leave little room for inner monologue, so one has to convey character and intention through action—show don’t tell. Dialogue has to feel plausible and realistic and work on two levels—conveying information, but also signaling emotion and/or true intention. And a great screenplay is often a master class in economy of storytelling and structure. Q: You have a variety of narrators and perspectives throughout the novel—who was your favorite to write? Were any especially challenging?
A: I found David Asha a pleasure and a pain to write. As the father of three wonderful children, I could feel his profound sense of loss, which made it a rich and rewarding emotional experience to write from his perspective. It was also painful because it took me to places no parent really wants to think about. Q: Why did you have David be a novelist for his second career?
A: Novelists are outsiders. We spend most of our time living in pretend worlds, engaging with real life to observe and pilfer. I have mixed feelings about some novels that feature novelists because they can seem introspective or contrived, but in this case, it made sense. What would you do if you found yourself in a strange world without any relevant skills or expertise? Becoming an author seemed a sensible career choice for a man in a very unusual situation. Q: In many ways, a detective, like Harriet, and a scientist, like the Ashas, have a similar job description. What interested you about these two jobs and made you want to explore them via these characters and this plot?
A: Scientists make the impossible happen. The computer I’m typing on, the phone beside me, the medicine that keeps a loved one alive, the plane passing overhead, all exist because a scientist set out to solve a problem. They share qualities with detectives because both try to get to the truth. The scientist uses truth to improve our understanding of the world, something that might have practical significance as per the examples above. The detective uses the truth to deliver justice. Both are extremely powerful motivators. There’s a purity to scientific inquiry and an inherent impurity to judicial inquiry, and both fascinate me, and I think make for interesting reading. Q: How did you land on the tone of the novel? It’s quite unique and memorable.
A: I’ve been working on THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT for five years and the tone was one of the last elements to come to me. I woke up one night with David Asha’s voice in my head, rolled over and switched on the lamp to scrawl what is now chapter 61 in a notepad I keep by my bed. Once I had David’s tone, the rest of the book fell into place. I owe an extra thanks to my wife, who has never once complained when the light goes on at an uncivilized hour. Q: Did you explore other scientific methods for Ben to help the Ashas? Why did you land on the cave as the location for where the big moment happens?
A: I try to keep current with scientific discoveries in a range of fields. I think readers appreciate authenticity, and whether one uses a piece of real, cutting-edge technology in a spy thriller, or extrapolates and creates something that’s at the limits of possibility in a book like THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT, grounding it in the real world gives a richer experience. I know a great many scientists and can pick up the phone or message people in a range of fields and delve in and out of scientific journals to stay up to date. Q: Is there anything you hope readers will take away from THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT?
A: The main reason I write is to entertain people, and so I hope THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT is an entertaining read. I know full well it’s an emotional book, because it still gets to me and not only did I write it, I must have read it more than fifty times. I hope people take something from the emotional experience that helps them, either in catharsis or reflection. I get messages from readers who say the book has changed them or the way they perceive the world, which is extremely gratifying. I truly believe it’s important to ask questions about life, even if one doesn’t get satisfactory answers, and I think THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT prompts people to do that. Q: Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
A: I’m working on a novel that’s a real brain-twister. It deals with big themes and big questions and upends many of the conventions of the crime genre. Thanks for taking an interest in my work and for reading THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT.