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“Ingenious...sexy...carefully plotted.”—The New York Times Book Review

From the critically acclaimed author of Leave No Trace, the “nail-biting page-turner that grabs you early and never lets go” (The Real Book Spy), comes a visceral thriller where a high stakes crime triggers a woman’s complicated and potentially deadly search for the truth.

Nora Trier catches thieves. As a forensic accountant and partner in her downtown Minneapolis firm, she’s unearthed millions in every corner of the world. She prides herself on her independence, the most essential currency of accounting, until her firm is hired by Strike.

An anti-corporate, feminist athletic empire, Strike is owned by Logan Russo, a brash and legendary kickboxer, and her marketing genius husband, Gregg Abbott. They’re about to host a major kickboxing tournament with twenty million dollars in prize money, and the chance for the champion to become the new face of the company. Gregg suspects his wife already has a new face in mind—a young trainer named Aaden, for whom Logan feels an unexpected connection.

Days before the tournament begins, it’s discovered that the prize money is missing. Gregg hires Nora’s firm to find both the thief and the money but Nora has a secret connection to Strike that threatens her independence. Her partner pressures her into taking the case anyway, hinting he has information about Strike that could change the course of the investigation in a shocking and deadly way.

A tense and unpredictable thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page, Strike Me Down reveals the remarkable power of Mindy Mejia’s writing which “crosses back and forth between exquisite literary descriptions and thrilleresque escapes and acts of violence” (New York Journal of Books).

This reading group guide for STRIKE ME DOWN includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Mindy Mejia. 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

From the critically acclaimed author of Leave No Trace, comes a fast-paced, visceral thriller where a high-stakes crime triggers a woman’s complicated and potentially deadly search for the truth.

Nora Trier catches thieves. As a forensic accountant and partner in her downtown Minneapolis firm, she’s unearthed millions in every corner of the world. She prides herself on her independence, the most essential currency of accounting, until her firm is hired by Strike.

Strike is owned by Logan Russo, a brash and legendary kickboxer, and her marketing genius husband, Gregg Abbott. They’re about to host a major kickboxing tournament with twenty million dollars in prize money and the chance for the champion to become the new face of the company. But days before the tournament begins, it’s discovered that the prize money is missing. Gregg hires Nora’s firm to find both the thief and the money but Nora has a secret connection to Strike that threatens her independence.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Strike Me Down is told from two perspectives: Nora’s and Gregg’s. Which character’s point of view was more valuable to the story? What is the effect of having the story told by these two characters in particular? How different would the book be if Logan’s perspective were added?

2. What is the effect of having Gregg’s sections told in first-person narration and Nora’s in third-person narration? Why do you think Mindy Mejia structured her novel this way?

3. Nora recalls how her parents made themselves obsolete as she looks at her son Henry. “Nora smothered the instinct to hold him closer. It was better this way, she repeated to herself as he disappeared around the end of the street, better for him to be the one to turn away.” Nora later admits to Logan that she doesn’t consider herself a good parent. Why do you think she comes to this conclusion?

4. Nora has an open marriage, explaining it as “we don’t rely on each other for every physical and emotional need” (p. 58). We later find out that she talked her husband into it. In your opinion, what led to Nora’s deciding an open marriage would work best? Did it have anything to do with being with other men?

5. Gregg explains his marriage with Logan by saying “It’s impossible to know, sometimes, where our personal lives end and the company begins.” In your opinion, is it ever a good idea to go into business with a spouse? Did he marry Logan for love or for a profitable business?

6. The relationship between Gregg and Logan and Gregg and Nora is pivotal to the plot. He is drawn to Logan because of her fighting capabilities and describes Nora as “relentless in a courtroom as Logan Russo was in the ring.” Is Gregg attracted to Nora because she reminds him of Logan? Why is he attracted to both women even though Gregg described them both as “untouchable”?

7. Nora thinks of herself as invisible, “a quality she’s not only taken for granted, but turned into her greatest asset” (p. 3). She embraces her obscurity by becoming “a faceless friend, an anonymous confidant” (p. 54). Why is this an important skill for Nora to have? How does this affect her marriage? Her relationships?

8. Nora is more worried about how Logan will react if she knew about her and Gregg than if the fighter stole twenty million dollars. Why is Nora so captivated by Logan? Is it Celebrity Worship syndrome?

9. Nora explains that opportunity, pressure, and rationalization is the birthing ground of crime. Define what the opportunity, pressure, and rationalization was for Gregg’s crimes.

10. Greg states that he didn’t understand desire without pain. Does this explain the amount of risk and planning to take down Logan? What was his motivation?

11. Logan tells Nora “just because something’s dangerous doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.” Why was it important for Logan to beat Gregg at his own game? What are some examples of something dangerous worth doing?

12. Logan is very confident about whom she wants as the face of Strike. What are the characteristics? What does she see in the people she chose to be the face of the company?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. In the beginning of the book, Nora admits to being the whistle-blower that led to the downfall of Computech, a tech company where she worked as an accountant. What other companies were famously taken down by whistle-blowers? What do you think was the whistle-blower’s intention?

2. Corbett agrees to take a Strike class with Nora, where Logan begins to correct his form. When she jabs at his ribs, he groans that he’s an accountant not a fighter. Logan responds with “Are you kidding me? I saw that movie. . . . We’ve got Affleck right here, guys. Let’s see how much ass he can kick.” Watch the film The Accountant, starring Ben Affleck. How is the story line similar and different to the novel? Why do you think Mindy Mejia decided to mention the movie in her book?

3. Take a kickboxing or gym class with your book club group. How do you feel after the workout? What other reasons do people go to the gym, outside of health reasons?

A Conversation with Mindy Mejia

1. This is very different subject matter from your last books, Everything You Want Me to Be and Leave No Trace. What made you want to write about the forensic accounting world?

As both an accountant and a writer, I belong to various networks and have groups of colleagues and friends from each career. Sometimes it’s felt like inhabiting two different worlds. This book was my attempt to marry those worlds and show how accounting and thrillers can occupy the same territory. Nora Trier approaches her cases very much like Sheriff Del Goodman from Everything You Want Me to Be would investigate a crime. I hope readers feel those commonalities throughout Strike Me Down.

2. You previously worked in corporate finance as an accountant while writing. How did you find the time to write and still work another career? When did you know it was time to quit and write full-time? And what advice would you give writers that are trying to find balance between work, life and passion?

For many years I wrote during my lunch breaks. I would shut my office door and leave corporate America for whatever story I was currently writing. It’s not the quickest way to finish a novel—it took me four years to complete Everything You Want Me to Be—but that was the time I could carve out to dedicate to my novels. With the success of Everything, my editor was eager for me to finish my next book, and the four-year-plan wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I left my accounting job to finish Leave No Trace, and have been writing full-time ever since. To all the writers out there who are struggling to find balance, I see you. It doesn’t matter if you get only twenty minutes a day to write. Guard those twenty minutes, and the words will come.

3. Minnesota is the main setting in all your books. Why is it important that your novels are set in Minnesota? Is there a big writing community there? Are there other places that you want to explore as a setting for a novel?

So much literary attention is paid to the coasts, while the middle, the “flyover country,” is often overlooked. But here’s the thing: People reveal themselves when they think no one is looking, and that’s where the best stories live. My next book actually takes place in Iowa, and I wouldn’t rule out other settings in the future, but I’ll always seek out these places where the shadows feel bigger.

I’m not the only writer attracted to the heartland. Minnesota is home to a thriving and diverse writing community, with an abundance of colleges, independent bookstores, small publishers, literary centers, and festivals. For an artist, it’s a great place to be.

4. Strike appears to be such an inspiring, yet very intimidating, gym. Is Strike based on a real gym?

Strike isn’t based on a real gym, but I’ve taken classes from instructors who inspire cultlike devotion. It’s always interested me, the dichotomy of revering someone who pushes you to the point of physical pain. I’ve been on the verge of vomiting in some of these classes, and yet I go back the next week, eager for more. It’s a special brand of insanity, but one I think we’ve set ourselves up for in our sedentary society. We need outlets like Strike. We crave them.

5. Why did you decide to use the sport of kickboxing as a central plot in the novel? Did you go to kickboxing classes for research? Are there people you met during your research that you incorporated into Strike Me Down?

I wanted a hybrid martial art and kickboxing—a mixture of boxing and karate—fit the bill perfectly. It doesn’t have the flashy jumps of MMA or Taekwondo, making it more accessible to the larger Strike population, and every attack comes from the torso and hips, which I loved from a female fighter’s perspective. For research, I took kickboxing classes for six months and learned so much. I wouldn’t win a fight with Logan or even Nora, but I could probably get at least a few good jabs in now.

6. Many authors write semiautobiographical stories or build upon real-life events. How much of your own life or snippets of various occurrences do you write into your books? Are there any characters in your books that you identify with?

Do I have secret relationships, disappear into the wilderness, and/or murder people? No. My life is pretty pedestrian and not at all useful for writing thrillers. Occasionally I’ll toss in an Easter egg for friends or family, but my characters and stories are entirely fiction. As an accountant, I did identify more with Nora than I have with previous narrators, but Nora’s life looks nothing like mine. I doubt she would even hire me to work at Parrish Forensics.

7. What set you on a path to write thrillers? Is it a genre that you read often? Do you read other people’s work while writing? What books do you tend to read for escape?

I’ve loved mysteries and thrillers ever since I read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin when I was a kid. The challenge of solving the puzzle, especially before the author reveals the answer, has always been irresistible. As a writer, I love creating those puzzles and pushing every situation to the highest stakes possible. I do read other people’s work while I’m writing, whether it’s crime fiction, historical, rom-coms, or classics, and if I’m in the mood for a total escape, there’s nothing better than a good fantasy.

8. The two main protagonists in Strike Me Down are very independent and resilient women. Why was it important to you to have the heroes in this story be women? Do you find that strong female characters are lacking in the thriller genre?

I’ve read so many fantastic thrillers in the last ten years that feature strong and nuanced female characters, but there’s still work to be done, and we know that because the same trait shows up differently based on gender. Assertiveness in a man becomes pushiness in a woman. With Nora and Logan, I wanted to explore two classic feminist ideals—independence and strength—and push the boundaries of where those assets become perceived as liabilities.

9. You write from two different perspectives in Strike Me Down. How do you plot out your stories when dealing with more than one narrator? Was it difficult writing from both male and female perspectives?

Whenever I begin a new book I have to understand which characters own the story, which ones are the most changed by the unfolding events. Sometimes that evolves during the process. For Strike Me Down, I originally wrote from Nora, Gregg, and Logan’s points of view, but I realized during editing that I needed Logan to remain more of an enigma. She’s changed, yes, but not as completely as Nora and Gregg are transformed, so I decided to leave it to the two of them, the people who stand in the shadows, to tell this story.

It’s never been difficult for me to write different genders, and I have to credit my brother for that. He grew up with three sisters and, for lack of any real fraternal company, turned me into his honorary little brother. Growing up with a somewhat fluid gender role makes me now, as a writer, comfortable inhabiting male and female characters. Who knew all those years of noogies, wedgies, and swirlies would someday pay off?

10. In the book you write that opportunity, pressure, and rationalization is the birthing ground of crime. Is this a real framework for crime? Is this something you based the story on, or did it come later?

Opportunity, pressure, and rationalization are the three elements of the Fraud Triangle, a model developed by Donald Cressey in 1973 to explain why people commit fraud. His model has been utilized by auditors for decades to uncover financial and corporate crime. It’s not perfect or foolproof by any means, but it’s proven to be a powerful tool for locating criminals in an organization. When I began writing Nora’s investigation of Strike, the Fraud Triangle became a natural framework for her narrative.
Photograph by Jessica Mealey

Mindy Mejia is a CPA and a graduate of the Hamline University MFA program. Her debut novel, The Dragon Keeper, was published by Ashland Creek Press in 2012. She lives in the Twin Cities with her family, and is the author of Strike Me Down, Everything You Want Me to Be, and Leave No Trace.

More books from this author: Mindy Mejia