Six Degrees of Separation from Beach Road to The Nightingale

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 Beach Road by Emily Henry. I haven’t read this and it doesn’t look like a book I’d enjoy, described as a laugh-out-loud love story.

My First link is the word ‘beach’ in the title. It is The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett, a murder mystery I read in July 2010, the first in Simon Brett’s Fethering Mysteries. It’s an easy read, a ‘cozy mystery’ set in a fictitious village on the south coast of England where Carole Seddon has taken early retirement. She discovers a dead body on the beach but by the time the police arrive it had disappeared. She joins forces with her new neighbour, Jude, to solve the mystery.

My Second Link is also a book I read in July 2010 – Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. Set in 1941-2 it is a novel of the personal lives of the ordinary people of France under the German occupation of their country. Irène was interned in France because she was of Jewish descent. Despite all their efforts her friends and family were unable to find out where she was sent and her fate in Auschwitz was not known until after the end of the war.

My Third Link is also by Némirovsky, Fire in the Blood. This is an intense story of life and death, love and burning passion. It’s about families and their relationships – husbands and wives, young women married to old men,  lovers, mothers, daughters and stepdaughters. 

My Fourth Link is set in Devon in 1944 about a different type of fire. It is Fire in the Thatch by E C R Lorac. When Little Thatch is destroyed in a blaze, the tenant Norman Vaughan is found in the burnt-out debris and Chief Inspector Macdonald of New Scotland Yard is asked to investigate the case.  

My Fifth Link is another E C R Lorac murder mystery set during the Second World War, Murder by Matchlight. It’s set in London in 1945, in the darkness of the blackout as the bombs are still falling. A murder takes place in almost complete darkness in Regent’s Park and Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald is put in charge of the investigation.

My Sixth Link is another novel set during WW2, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It is one of the most moving books I’ve read. It tells of two French sisters and their experiences during the occupation of France in the Second World War. 

My chain after starting with Beach Road, described as a ‘witty love story that will make you laugh a lot, cry a little and fall head over heels, became dominated by murder mysteries and books set mostly during the Second World War.

Next month (4, February 2023), we’ll start with Trust by Hernan Diaz. It was Longlisted for the Booker Prize,The Sunday Times Bestseller and the book that topped the most Best Books of 2022 pick – New York TimesTIME, Slate, Oprah DailyKirkus, LA Times, EW. And I haven’t read it.

Six Degrees of Separation from The Snow Child to Crime at Lark Cottage

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 Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. I have a copy of this book but haven’t read it yet. So all I know is that it is set in Alaska in the 1920s where a childless couple build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

It was a nominee for the Goodreads Choice Award in the Best Historical Fiction category in 2012. My First link is to the winner of that Award, which was The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman. It’s set on a lighthouse keeper’s island, where the Indian Ocean washes into the Great Southern Ocean in the 1920s. A boat washes up on the shore of the island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.

My Second Link is a book with a similar title, both books containing the word ‘between‘, The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine. I confuse the two. It is set in the Outer Hebrides, on a crumbling estate with a century-old secret, historical fiction set in 2010  and in 1910, described as ‘An echo of Daphne du Maurier‘. One of the characters is called Hetty,

My Third Link also contains a character called Hetty. In Adam Bede by George Eliot Adam, a hard working young man, a carpenter, with a strong sense of right and wrong, strong and intelligent, is in love with Hetty Sorrel. But she is attracted by the seductive charm of Arthur, the local squire’s son. They begin to meet in secret, with tragic consequences. 

George Eliot is the pseudonym of Mary Anne Evans and my Fourth Link is another novel written under a pseudonym. It’s The Chalk Circle Man, the first book in the Commissaire Adamsberg novels by Fred Vargas, the pseudonym of the French historian, archaeologist and writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeauin. It’s a very cleverly constructed and quirky mystery with a twist at the end. Strange blue chalk circles start appearing on the pavements of Paris and then the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut is found in one of them.

Thinking about other books set in Paris brings me to Georges Simenon’s Maigret books. So my Fifth Link is a short story – A Maigret Christmas – set in Paris on Christmas Day in which Maigret and his wife receive two unexpected visitors who lead him on the trail of a mysterious intruder dressed in red and white. I liked the light it throws on Maigret and his wife, their relationship and the sadness they feel at being childless, particularly so at Christmas.

My Sixth Link – is Crime at Lark Cottage by John Bingham a short story in The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories. One snowy Christmas car trouble and poor weather lead John Bradley to Lark Cottage, the home of Lucy Shaw and her young daughter Julia. Her husband, serving a life-sentence for murder, has escaped from Lanforth Prison, and she implores her unexpected visitor to stay the night. 

My chain this month starts with a snow child in Alaska and ends with another child in a country cottage one snowy Christmas, travelling through an island in the Great Southern Ocean, to the Outer Hebrides and France before ending in England.

Next month (7, Janusry 2022), we’ll start with Beach Read by Emily Henry.

Six Degrees of Separation from The Naked Chef to Broken Homes

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 Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver, his first book published in 1999. Just look how young he looked when he was 25. We bought the book and watched the TV programme and since then we’ve carried on watching and buying his books. Of course, he wasn’t naked but had stripped down his recipes to the basics.

My First link is to not any of Jamie Oliver’s book but to Neil Oliver’s book The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places – described on the book jacket inside cover as ‘a broad sweep of British history and landscape’. I’ve enjoyed watching Neil Oliver’s TV documentaries and his book looks just as informative, encompassing our earliest history, via Romans and Vikings, civil war, industrial revolution and two world wars, looking at the places that he considers to be the most characteristic of our history, with many colour photographs. The last one in his book is Dungeness, a place he describes as ‘the most unforgettable location in Britain‘.

My Second Link is The Birdwatcher by William Shaw. It’s set in Dungeness on the Kent coast, a wind-swept shingle beach close to the Nuclear Power Station and Romney. Sergeant William South is a birdwatcher a methodical and quiet man. Alternating with the present day story is the story of Billy, a thirteen year old living in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’. 

Using the Troubles in Northern Ireland my Third Link is Turning for Home by Barney Norris. The narration is split between Robert and Kate interspersed with extracts from the Boston Tapes, an oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland recording the recollections of combatants on both sides. Robert’s day is interrupted by a phone call from Frank, a retired Oxford professor, whom he had known from his days as a civil servant working in Ireland.

My Fourth Link is to The Riddle of the Fourth Mile by Colin Dexter, a murder mystery involving two more Oxford professors. When a dismembered and headless corpse is found in the Oxford Canal it could have been that of Morse’s his old classics tutor, Browne-Smith or Browne-Smith’s hated rival, Westerby. This is a most complicated mystery, one of the ‘puzzle’ types.

My Fifth Link also has a headless corpse. It’s Rivers of London by Ben Aaranovich. In this book a headless corpse is found in front of the West Portico of St Paul’s at Convent Garden. Peter Grant is a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard in this urban fantasy novel – a fast-paced police procedural of a very different kind. He lives in the Folly in Russell Square with DCI Thomas Nightingale who is his mentor. Molly who is fae (a type of fairy) is the housekeeper, chef, and butler.

My Sixth Link – Molly is also in Broken Homes (the 4th book in the Rivers of London series). Her culinary skills are legendary but after Peter’s  arrival at the Folly Molly introduced more modern cuisine onto the menu, partially through their gifts of modern cookbooks and partially through her own hard work. Her current cooking and baking appears to be inspired by both Jamie Oliver and The Great British Bake Off.This then completes the circle linking back to the starting book, The Naked Chef.

My chain this month starts with Jamie Oliver’s cookery book and ends with a book in which one of the character’s cooking is inspired by Jamie Oliver, travelling through non-fiction, crime fiction and urban fantasy novels.

Next month (3 December, 2022), we’ll start with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

Six Degrees of Separation from Notes on a Scandal to Gray Mountain

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 Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller. I haven’t read it. It’s about a teacher at a London comprehensive school who has an illicit affair with an underage pupil. It was shortlisted by the 2003 Booker Prize and there’s a film version too, which I’ve not seen either.

I’m not immediately drawn to read it, so for my First Link I’m using the word ‘Notes‘ in the title:

Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale. Artist Rachel Kelly, a manic-depressive, subject to highs and lows is found dead in her Penzance studio, leaving her family with lots of unanswered questions. It becomes clear that her Quaker husband knew nothing about her early life.

My Second Link is also via the title, this time using the word ‘Exhibition‘ – Pictures at an Exhibition by Camilla Macpherson. This is structured around Daisy’s letters to her cousin Elizabeth telling her about the paintings on display at London’s National Gallery during the war years. It’s a dual time period novel moving between the present day and the Second World War,

My Third Link is via the word ‘pictures‘ in the title – Pictures of Perfection by Reginald Hill. Set high in the Mid-Yorkshire Dales in the traditional village of Enscombe, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel and DCI Peter Pascoe investigate the disappearance of a policeman. As they dig beneath the veneer of idyllic village life a pattern emerges of family feuds, ancient injuries, cheating and lies. And finally, as the community gathers for the traditional Squire’s Reckoning, it looks as if the simmering tensions will erupt in a bloody climax.

Still using a word in the title my Fourth Link is the word ‘Perfection‘ in The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville, which won the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction. The title indicates the theme of the book with the characters all falling short of the impossible aim of perfection. Set in Karakarook, in New South Wales the two main characters are Douglas Cheeseman, an engineer who has come to pull down a quaint old bent bridge before it falls down and Harley Savage, who has come to advise the residents how to promote their inheritance.

My Fifth Link is a bit of a leap as I’m moving away from a book set in New South Wales to one set in South Wales – How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn – a story of life in a mining community in rural South Wales as Huw Morgan is preparing to leave the valley where he had grown up. It tells of life before the First World War.

My Sixth Link is to another book about miningGray Mountain by John Grisham. This book is just as much a campaign against injustice and the misuse of power, about the good little guys against the big bad guys as his earlier books are. In this case it’s the big coal companies that come under the microscope, in particular companies that are  ruining the environment by strip-mining in the Appalachian mountains.

My chain this month has travelled from London through Cornwall, to New South Wales and Wales to the Appalachian Mountains – quite a journey!

Next month (November 5, 2022), we’ll start with a cookbook – The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.

Six Degrees of Separation from Death at Wentwater Court to Death in the Clouds

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.

First Link

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.

Second link

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.

Third link

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.

Fourth Link

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.

Fifth Link

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!

Sixth Link

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.

Six Degrees of Separation from The Book of Form and Emptiness to Death at Wentwater Court

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 Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness, which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year. The judges stated that: it stood out for its sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy. A celebration of the power of books and reading, it tackles big issues of life and death, and is a complete joy to read. Ruth Ozeki is a truly original and masterful storyteller.”

I haven’t read it. Amazon’s description makes me wonder whether I want to: After the tragic death of his father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house and sound variously pleasant, angry or sad. Then his mother develops a hoarding problem, and the voices grow more clamorous. So Benny seeks refuge in the silence of a large public library. There he meets a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret; a homeless philosopher-poet; and his very own Book, who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

First Link

There are a number of ways I could have started my chain, but I made it easy by linking to another ‘Book of’ title – The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster. It tells the stories of two men, David Zimmer, a professor whose wife and two sons were killed in a plane crash and Hector Mann, a silent movie star who disappeared mysteriously in 1929. David is plunged into depression and ‘lived in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity’ until he watched a clip from one of Hector’s films. It made him laugh. In typical silent movie style Hector, with his slicked-back hair, thin and greasy little mustache and white suit, is the target and focal point of every mishap.

Second link

Another silent movie, Safety Last!, features in Simon Garfield’s Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time. Harold Lloyd climbs the outside of a department store, obstacles falling on him as he does so, until he reaches the giant clock at the top, grabs hold of it, and dangles above the street below. Garfield recalls that for the first audiences time just froze, some went into hysterics and others fainted. Garfield’s focus is on the concept of time that the movies portrayed and goes on to explain how films were originally produced and shown when the timing depended on the cranking skills of the cameraman during filming and the projectionist during showing.

Third link

I’m linking next to another book with the word ‘Safety‘ in the title – A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, nonfiction about the French Revolution concentrating on three of the revolutionaries – Georges-Jacques Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilian Robespierre, from their childhoods to their deaths. I never really sympathised with any of them – after all they were responsible for the deaths of many people, including their own friends and played a major part in the Reign of Terror. But at times I was drawn into hoping that they would escape their fate – they were all guillotined. 

Fourth Link

From a book about the French Revolution my next link is to : Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, about her grandmother, her mother and herself, telling of their lives in China up to and during the years of the violent Cultural Revolution from 1966 until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. In it she casts light on why and how Mao was able to exercise such paralysing control over the Chinese people. His magnetism and power was so strong and coupled with his immense skill at manipulation and his ability to inspire fear, it proved enough to subdue the spirit of most of the population; not to mention the absolute cruelty, torture and hardships they had to endure.

Fifth Link

From a book about a grandmother, mother and daughter in China the next link is to another book about a grandmother, mother and daughter, in Kingsmarkham, a fictional English town, a novel Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter by Ruth Rendell, an Inspector Wexford mystery. Chief Inspector Wexford and Inspector Burden are faced with solving the brutal murders of author Davina Flory, her husband and daughter, shot dead at Tancred House. Only Daisy, her granddaughter survived, and wounded in the shoulder she had crawled to the phone to call for help. ‘Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter’ is a phrase derived from a tradition in the Royal Navy, as Wexford explains, it means being flogged.

Sixth Link

Another character called Daisy also in 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. 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.

My chain this month has a variety of books linked in different ways – words in the titles, revolutions, daughters and characters with the same name. I has books of historical fiction, crime fiction and nonfiction.

Six Degrees of Separation from Wintering to Death of a Red Heroine

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.

Next month (July 2, 2022), we’ll start with Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times by Katherine May.

I haven’t read this book. According to Amazon ‘Wintering’ is a poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life, times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves. Katherine May thoughtfully shows us how to come through these times with the wisdom of knowing that, like the seasons, our winters and summers are the ebb and flow of life.

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris a book I read many years ago, came into my mind as I wondered where to start my chain. It links to Wintering in that it is a quiet, meditative book. It is about the time she spent among the Benedictine monks, on two extended residencies at St John’s Abbey in Minnesota. The Cloister Walk demonstrates, from the rare perspective of someone who is both an insider and outsider, how immersion in the cloistered world — its liturgy, its ritual, its sense of community — can impart meaning to everyday events and deepen our secular lives.

A different type of walk is the subject of A Time of Gifts in which Patrick Leigh Fermor describes his travels on foot in 1933 from the Hook of Holland through Germany, to Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, on his way to Constantinople. In a way his journey was a gilded experience as he had introductions to people in different places – people who gave him a bed for the night, or longer stays. There were also people who didn’t know him who welcomed him into their homes as a guest – as the title says it was a time of gifts. It was also the period when Hitler came to power in Germany.

My next link is rather a stretch – ‘march‘ is another word for ‘walk‘ but in the title of my next link, March: a love story during the time of war by Geraldine Brooks it is the name of John March, the father of the four March girls, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy in in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This novel is about his life whilst he was away at war during the American Civil War when he was an abolitionist and chaplain in the Union Army. During this time, John March wrote letters to his family, but he withheld the true extent of the brutality and injustices he witnessed on and off the battlefields.

My fourth link is a double biography of Louisa May Alcott and Bronson Alcott, Eden’s Outcasts: the Story of Lousia May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson, a book that clearly reveals the relationship between them. Bronson Alcott was a complicated person who appeared to have mellowed as he grew older. Louisa, well known and loved for her children’s books never achieved her ambition to write serious books for mature readers, enduring debilitating illness in her later years.

From a double biography the next link is to a triple biography: Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, about her grandmother, her mother and herself, telling of their lives in China up to and during the years of the violent Cultural Revolution from 1966 until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. Her family suffered atrociously, her father and grandmother both dying painful deaths and both her mother and father were imprisoned and tortured.

Staying in China my final link is Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong, his first book featuring Chief Inspector Chen. It won the Anthony Award for Best First Crime Novel in 2001. Set in Shanghai in 1990 Chen investigates the death of a prominent Communist Party member. This is as much historical fiction as it is crime fiction. But there is also so much in it about China, its culture and its history before 1990 – the Communist regime and then the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s – as well as the changes brought about in the 1990s after the massacre of Tiananmen Square. 

My chain this month has a variety of books linked in different ways – either by the subject of the books or by the variations on the meaning of words. Beginning with two books of nonfiction, it then touches on historical fiction, before returning to two more books of nonfiction and ending with crime fiction, whilst travelling through a number of different countries.

Next month, on August 6 2022, the chain begins with the winner of the 2022 Women’s PrizeThe Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki.

Six Degrees of Separation from Sorrow and Bliss to Casino Royale

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 point is a book by an Australian author shortlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction  Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. It’s about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is.

I haven’t read Sorrow and Bliss and so my first link is to the word ‘sorrow’ in the title – A Game of Sorrows by Shona MacLean set in 1628 in Ulster, in which Alexander Seaton seeks to find the author of the curse on his dead mother’s family and is confronted by a murder.

Again, using a word in the title my second link is – A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin, set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, in a grim a nd violent world full of tragedy, betrayals and battles; a tale of good versus evil in which family, duty, and honour are in conflict.

Moving on from there my third link is to a book by another author with the initials ‘R R’ – Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien, an epic fantasy set in Middle-earth, telling of the quest to destroy the one, ruling Ring of power before it falls into the hands of its maker, Sauron, the dark lord of the title.

From the dark lord my fourth link is to another lord in The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers. When his sexton finds a corpse in the wrong grave, the rector of Fenchurch St Paul asks Lord Peter Wimsey to find out who the dead man was and how he came to be there. There is a lot of detail about bell-ringing, which is essential to the plot

My fifth link is to another book with the word ‘tailor’ in the title, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre, in which George Smiley uncovers a Soviet spy within MI6. To find him he has to spy on the spies. Smiley is an enigmatic character, a lonely man, who is self-effacing and apparently meek, a small, podgy man who has a habit of polishing his spectacles on the end of his tie. People underestimate him.

Smiley is a complete contrast to the spy, James Bond, 007, which brings me to the final link in my chain, Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, the first James Bond book, in which Bond has to outplay Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale and shatter his Soviet cell.

My chain has travelled in and out of this world from Ireland to Westeros and Essos, Middle-earth, the English Fens, London and France. The books are from different genres, crime fiction, fantasy, and spy thrillers.

Six Degrees of Separation from True History of the Kelly Gang to Worth Killing For

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 is True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

I haven’t read True History of the Kelly Gang. According to Amazon: To the authorities in pursuit of him, outlaw Ned Kelly is a horse thief, bank robber and police-killer. But to his fellow ordinary Australians, Kelly is their own Robin Hood. In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey brings the famous bushranger wildly and passionately to life. Set in the desolate settler communities north of Melbourne in the late 19th century, the novel is told in the form of a journal, written by the famous outlaw and “bushranger” Ned Kelly, to a daughter he will never see.

First Link:

True Grit by Charles Portis follows Mattie Ross, a determined 14 year-old, who in the 1870s leaves her mother and younger brother at home whilst she sets out after Tom Chaney, who had worked for her father and had killed him. Chaney had joined a band of outlaws – the Lucky Ned Pepper gang and had gone into hiding in the Indian territory. She hires one of the marshals, Rooster Cogburn to get Tom Chaney.

Second Link:

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry, set in Tennessee in the 1870s, where former soldiers Thomas McNulty and John Cole and Winona, the young Indian girl they had adopted are living on a farm, about seven miles from a little town called Paris. These are dangerous times not just in the town but also in the woods outside the town from Zach Petrie’s gang of ‘nightriders’.

Third Link:

Any of the Rebus books by Ian Rankin, featuring Big Ger Cafferty, the ruthless gangster boss, organiser of crime in Edinburgh. The Black Book is the first book in which he appears.

Fourth Link:

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo. Inspector Macbeth, an ex-drug addict is the head of the SWAT team in an industrial town in the 1970s in Scotland, a town full of drug addicts, where there is a titanic struggle for control between the police force, corrupt politicians, motorbike gangs and  drug dealers.

Fifth Link:

In Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens young Oliver is forced to join a gang of young pickpockets led by the Artful Dodger under the control of Fagin in Victorian London.

Sixth Link:

My final link is Worth Killing For by Ed James. It reminded me of Oliver Twist with a phone-theft gang of young hoodies on bikes, who snatch mobile phones in modern day London. They are led by the mysterious Kamal.

My chain has just one link running through it. It has travelled from north of Melbourne in Western Australia to western Arkansas in America, then to Edinburgh in Scotland and ends in London in England, linked by gangs in each location – gangs of outlaws, ‘nightriders’, organised criminals, drug dealers, motorbike gangs, gangs of pickpockets and mobile phone thieves.

Six Degrees of Separation from Our Wives Under the Sea to Five Little Pigs

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 is Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield:

I haven’t read Our Wives Under the Sea. It’s about Leah and Miri, a married couple, whose relationship hits difficulties when Leah returns home after a three month absence on a deep sea mission and has changed. It seems to me like a variation on the mermaid folklore tales.

Leah is also a character in The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon set in London in 1924, with Britain still coming to terms with the aftermath of the First World War. Evelyn Gifford, one of the few pioneer female lawyers takes on the case of Leah Marchant, whose children had been taken into care. It’s early days for women to be accepted as lawyers and Evelyn struggles to defend Leah who distrusts her and wants Daniel Breen, Evelyn’s boss to defend her.

Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee, a novel about a painter and his family is also set in the aftermath of the First World War. The back cover reveals that it is a ‘detailed portrayal of an era which refuses to become part of the past, even today.’ I bought this book because I’d read and enjoyed Sue Gee’s novel The Hours of the Night.

In The Hours of the Night, also by Sue Gee, Gillian Traherne and her mother Phoebe lead a remote existence in their grey, stone house on the Welsh borders. Gillian is a loner, an eccentric poet in her thirties, who has a difficult relationship with her very different mother: a well-known and expert gardener. Into their strange and secluded world, described with beautifully observed detail, come strangers from London to disrupt life as Gillian knows it.

Another author with the surname Gee is Maggie Gee.In her novel, My Cleaner, Vanessa, white, middle-class and totally self-absorbed asks Mary, black, and equally selfish, to return from Uganda to help look after Justin, Vanessa’s 22 year old son. Mary had worked as Vanessa’s cleaner 10 years earlier, but their relationship has changed and the balance of power between the two women shifts as the story reaches its climax. 

Another character who is also a cleaner called Mary is in Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. Mary Blakiston was an unpleasant character, who lived in the village of Saxby-on-Avon. She was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at Pye Hall. Magpie Murders is a novel within a novel. The inner story is a whodunnit, a murder mystery and the chapter headings are taken from the rhyme One for Sorrow’ in the same way that Agatha Christie used rhymes for chapter headings in some of her books.

One of Agatha Christie’s books using lines from a nursery rhyme in some of the chapters and in its title is Five Little Pigs – ‘this little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home …’. In it Poirot investigates a crime that had been committed sixteen years earlier. The convicted murderer’s daughter is convinced her mother was innocent.

My chain began with a novel about an underwater mission that went wrong and ended up with a murder mystery, in which it is claimed the wrong person was found guilty. The books are a mix of historical and crime fiction, and contemporary fiction.

Next month (May 7, 2022), we’ll start with Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang.