It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, 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 starting book this month is the book you finished with in August, which for me is Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn, the first book in her Daisy Dalrymple series, a typical country house murder mystery, with plenty of suspects. The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple, keen to be independent and earn her own living, is on her first writing assignment for Town and Country magazine, writing about country houses. It is set at Christmas time and the family and guests at Wentwater Court are enjoying the snow. One of the guests, Lord Stephen Astwick is found dead in the lake and it appears he has had a skating accident. Enter Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, who is also investigating a jewel robbery at Lord Flatford’s house nearby.
The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake is a vintage murder mystery also set at Christmas in an isolated country house, Easterham Manor in Essex, the home of the Restorick family. The family is cut off from the neighbouring village by snow. There’s a death and a body hidden in a snowman that is only discovered when a thaw sets in. Amateur detective, Nigel Strangeways, is helping the police and he eventually solves the mystery.
Another book with the word ‘corpse‘ in the title is A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty. This is a murder mystery set in Savannah, with its historic buildings, parks and ancient oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Harper McLain, a crime reporter with the Savannah Daily News investigates a murder in downtown River Street, a narrow cobblestoned lane between the old wharves and warehouses and the Savannah River.
I’m linking next to another character with the name Harper, in His and Hers by Alice Feeney – DCI Jack Harper. It’s a standalone psychological thriller. When a woman is murdered in Blackdown village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Anna’s ex-husband, DCI Jack Harper, is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation. It’s one of those books I didn’t really like, but I did enjoy working out the puzzle of who could be trusted, who to be wary of and most of all who was doing the murders.
A good example of a puzzle-type murder mystery is Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. It’s crime fiction combining elements of the vintage-style golden age crime novel with word-play and cryptic clues and allusions to Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s also a novel within a novel, with mystery piled upon mystery. I also particularly liked the use of the rhyme of ‘One for Sorrow’ in the chapter headings of Conway’s novel in the same way that Agatha Christie used rhymes in some of her books.
This link is an obvious one – to an Agatha Christie book in which she uses a nursery rhyme for the title, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Japp investigate the apparent suicide of Mr Morley, Poirot’s Harley Street dentist, who was found dead in his surgery, shot through the head and with a pistol in his hand. Each chapter is entitled after a line of the nursery rhyme and the first line contains an important clue. Earlier in the morning Poirot had visited his dentist and as he was leaving the surgery another patient was arriving by taxi. He watched as a foot appeared. The importance of the shoe and its buckle don’t become clear until much later in the book!
A dentist also appears in Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds, a kind of locked room mystery, only this time the ‘locked room’ is a plane on a flight from Paris to Croydon, in which Hercule Poirot is one of the passengers. In mid-air, Madame Giselle, is found dead in her seat. It appears at first that she has died as a result of a wasp sting (a wasp was flying around in the cabin) but when Poirot discovers a thorn with a discoloured tip it seems that she was killed by a poisoned dart, aimed by a blowpipe. The passengers, including Poirot, and the flight attendants are all suspects,
My chain this month has a variety of books linked in different ways, by snow at Christmas, the word ‘corpse’ in the title, two characters with the same name, puzzle-type murder mysteries, the use of nursery rhymes and two characters who are dentists. The books are all crime fiction, from the first book to the last, with the word ‘death‘ in both the starting book and the last one making the chain a complete circle.
Next month (October 1, 2022), we’ll start with Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller.