At first read, The Writing Circle seems to be an easy beach read with an uncomplicated plot but it develops into an interesting mystery with many surprises in store for the reader. Once you are drawn in you will want to read until the end.
The book is about a group of writers who come together to discuss their work, supposedly to help each other by sharing and brainstorming ideas. Many of the characters are dysfunctional or come from dysfunctional families. Some are driven by blind ambition without a thought for the consequences while others are driven by the opposite need to do right by the world. They seem to be, but they are not random strangers, since they are interconnected by a variety of circumstances.
It was sometimes a difficult book to follow because there were so many characters introduced and they often seemed at cross purposes. Their connections were hard to tie in to the whole story and/or to each other. I found that if I read it as if it was a series of short stories, I was not as disappointed when a character was not as fully developed as I hoped or when its connection to the main theme was difficult to ascertain. Sometimes, in a later chapter, the character was re-introduced and the plot became clearer, other times it became even cloudier.
The book could be seen as a study in unethical behavior vs living with a "moral compass" and in the end I was left with the feeling that justice is not always served very well. The just are not always rewarded with the success they deserve and often the unjust are not punished for the actual crimes they commit. Like a Pollyanna, I suppose I wanted the book to punish the guilty and reward the innocent. I wanted it to end with all the loose ends tied up neatly and justly but life is not a fairy tale even in a novel.
This novel forces the reader to face the issue of making good choices or bad ones. We are all faced with that dilemma in our own lives. Which do we choose and why?