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The Placebo Effect

The Placebo Effect

  • reading group guide
Decker Roberts has the dangerous gift of detecting the truth. For years this talent proved to be a lucrative sideline to his acting teaching. Only his closest friends know, and he keeps his identity secret from the companies that pay him to tell them if the people they are planning to hire are truthful.

But Decker’s carefully compartmentalized life starts to fall apart. His house burns down, his credit cards are cancelled, his bank loan is called and his studio is condemned. He realizes that he must have heard something in one of his truth-telling sessions that someone didn’t want him to know.

Decker has to go on the run and figure out why he’s been targeted. There’s also a government agent hunting him who seems to know absolutely everything about Decker Roberts’ identities, real and false—and other people of “his kind.”

How will Decker find out which truth was endangering his life? Who betrayed him and revealed all his secrets? Decker needs to find answers quickly, before knowing the truth turns from a gift into a deadly curse.
Choose a format:
  • Touchstone | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476746876 | 
  • March 2013
List Price $14.99
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Placebo Effect includes discussion questions 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.

1.The prologue begins with Decker Roberts on the steps of an ancient cathedral in Chartres in 1988. It is there that he meets Brother Malcolm who asks him if he has decided to stay. Brother Malcolm offers to teach Decker everything he knows and in return, the cathedral and ministry will become Decker’s home. Brother Malcolm says, “It is another path, a way to avoid the room with no windows – and the hanging man” and Decker knows that he is telling the truth (p.3). Why did the author begin the story this way? What did this encounter with Brother Malcolm foreshadow in the story?

2.On more than one occasion Decker refers to himself by saying, “You are from them, but not of them.” If Decker doesn’t think he’s a synaesthete, then what is he? Why does he feel the need to put himself above others of ‘his kind.’ i.e. Mike Shedloski

3.There is significance in the number of religious buildings in Decker’s neighborhood and we are told they were built as a response to “feeling the evil” (p. 57). What evil are they referring to?

4.Decker has a strained relationship with his son. Although his son is like him see more

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About the Author

David Rotenberg
Photograph © John Reeves

David Rotenberg

David Rotenberg has published five mysteries set in modern China as well as the Canadian bestselling historical fiction novel Shanghai. He is the artistic director of the internationally renowned Professional Actors Lab. He has directed on Broadway, in South Africa, in major regional theatres in North America and for television. He directed the first Canadian play staged in the People’s Republic of China—in Mandarin. He lives in Toronto.

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