Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.
The chain this month begins with The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, a book I have read. It is a study of love and hate, of desire, of jealousy, of pain, of faithfulness, and of the interaction between God and people. Maurice’s love affair with his friend’s wife, Sarah, had begun in 1944 during the London Blitz. They had met at a party held by Sarah’s husband, Henry. The affair had ended suddenly after his house had been bombed by a V1 and Sarah had not explained why. Two years later Maurice, still obsessed by Sarah employed Parkis, a private detective to find out the truth.
As usual I spent some time thinking about where to start my chain – and came up with several options. In the end I chose The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, about a completely different affair – that of the murder of old Mrs Inglethorp. First published in 1920, this was the novel in which Agatha Christie created Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective and introduced Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp. Mrs Inglethorp died from from strychnine poisoning.
My second link is to Peter Robinson’s crime novel Cold is the Grave in which Emily Riddle is also murdered by strychnine, mixed with cocaine. As Inspector Banks investigates her death, the case gets more complicated with blackmail, another death and a suicide.
Blackmail also features in my third link – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler in which millionaire General Stallwood is being blackmailed. This is a story of sex, drugs, blackmail and high society, set in Los Angeles.
My fourth link: is Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre, a crime thriller also set in Los Angeles. It’s at the end of the last century when people were in the grip of ‘1999 Syndrome’. Brookmyre is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author.
My fifth link is via the genre Noir, this time to Icelandic Noir in the The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. This is the first book in her Children’s House thriller series. After seeing her mother brutally murdered, seven-year old Margrét is taken to the Children’s House where Freyja, a child psychologist is in charge. Freyja and the police officer Huldar in charge of the police investigation, try to get to the truth of what had happened.
My final link, brings the chain round to a full circle with the words ‘house’ and ‘end’ in the title of Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House. Poirot is on holiday in Cornwall where he meets Nick Buckley who lives at End House. She tells him of her “accidental brushes with death”. Convinced he is in grave danger, he just cannot resist investigating who is her would-be killer.
My chain is a circle and apart from the starter are all crime novels beginning and ending with books by Agatha Christie. They are a mix of Golden Age mysteries, modern detective stories ,hard-boiled. fiction and two types of ‘noir’ crime fiction.
Next month (April 2, 2022), we’ll start with a hot favourite to make the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield, which I think looks very strange.