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.

Six Degrees of Separation: from the End of the Affair by Graham Greene to Peril at End House

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 linkThe 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.

Six Degrees of Separation: from No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood to …

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  No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, a book I haven’t read.Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.‘ Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2021 and the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021. I don’t think I’ll read it.

As usual I spent some time thinking about where to start my chain – and came up with several options. Maybe another novel shortlisted for the Book Prize of the Women’s Prize for fiction, but instead I came up with another book about talking –

Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach, a novel. Daniel is autistic, but at first Stephen his British father refuses to accept that there is anything wrong with him, whilst his American mother, Melanie, struggles to find out what is wrong with him and the best way of looking after him and helping him to talk, play and become as ‘normal’ as possible.

My second link is to another character called Daniel – Daniel Hawthorne in The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz. ex-policeman, Daniel Hawthorne, who had been an adviser for Horowitz’s Foyle’s War series. The police call on Hawthorne as a consultant on out-of-the ordinary cases and he is working on the Diana Cowper murder. He proposes that Horowitz writes a book about him and his investigations into the case.

Magpie Murders also by Anthony Horowitz is my third link. This s a brilliant book by a master story-teller, with a wonderfully intricate plot. It’s a prime example of a puzzle-type of 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.

My fourth link is to another book that contains a story within a story – Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Beginning with Iris’s account of her sister’s tragic death, Atwood then introduces a novel-within-a-novel, entitled The Blind Assassin. It is a science fiction story, a pulp fantasy set on Planet Zycron.

My fifth link is to a novel also set on a planet – a real one, Mars, in The Martian by Andy Weir. I haven’t read this but I have watched the film , which I read is a faithful adaptation. An astronaut is stranded on Mars with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Being a botanist, he creates a garden inside the ‘Hab’ using Martian soil fertilized with the crew’s bio-waste and manufactures water from leftover rocket fuel.

My sixth link: is to Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham writing as John Beynon, was first published in 1936 as Planet Plane They claim Mars to be part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, a claim later disputed by the Russians when a second rocket lands.

My chain started with a book about living a life on social media to living a life on Mars, taking in books about autism, crime fiction and a novel within a novel.

Next month (March 5, 2022), we’ll start with a modern classic and a book that I have read, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair.

Six Degrees of Separation: from Rules of Civility to The Serpent Pool

It’s a New Year – welcome to 2022!

And 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 chain this month begins with  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, a book I haven’t read. Set in New York in 1938, it begins, appropriately for today, on New Year’s Day.

My first link is to another book by Amor Towles – A Gentleman in Moscow – another book I haven’t read, but one that is on my TBR list. Both books have received rave reviews, so I’m hoping they aren’t over hyped! The Times describes it as ‘A book to spark joy’. I do hope so.

My second link is The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith, the second book in the Poppy Denby Investigates series. It’s historical fiction is set in London in 1920 with flashbacks to Russia in 1917, beginning with an episode in Moscow in 1917 as an unnamed man in a bearskin coat enters the house of an aristocratic family to find a scene of carnage.

Moving from Moscow my third link is via the name Poppy. This time it is the author’s name, Poppy Adams and her book, The Behaviour of Moths. I thought this was a brilliant book! It’s the story of two sisters, Ginny and Vivi. Vivi, the younger sister left the family mansion 47 years earlier and returns unexpectedly one weekend. Ginny, a reclusive moth expert has rarely left the house in all that time.

My fourth link is to the word ‘moth’, but this time used as a name. Moth is Raynor Winn’s husband and their story is told in her book, The Salt Path. Despite finding out that Moth has a rare terminal illness, the couple decided to walk the South Coast Path. He had been diagnosed with a brain disease for which there is no cure or treatment apart from pain killers and physiotherapy. It’s not just the story of their walk, but also about their determination to live life, about overcoming pain and hardship, and the healing power of nature. 

My fifth link is via the place, Penzance, which is one of the places the Winns went to on their walk. Penzance is the setting of W J Burley’s crime fiction novel, Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death. Wycliffe is mystified by the murder of Matthew Glynn, a respectable bookseller who was found bludgeoned and strangled and there are plenty of suspects, including his brothers and sister and their grown-up children. 

My sixth link: is to another bookseller, Marc Amos, a rare book dealer who owns a secondhand bookshop in Martin Edwards’ Lake District murder mysteries, featuring DCI Hannah Scarlet, in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team. Amos is her partner and in The Serpent Pool George Saffell, one of Marc’s customers, is stabbed and then burnt to death amidst his collection of rare and valuable books.

My chain started in New York and travelled via Moscow, and in various periods of time and places in England, ending up in the English Lake District. It links together historical fiction, nonfiction and crime fiction.

Next month (February 5, 2022), we’ll start with a book that topped Best of 2021 lists, No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.

Let’s hope this new year will be a happy and healthy one and for those of us who love reading, may we all enjoy lots of good books!

Six Degrees of Separation: from Ethan Frome to Beneath the Surface

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 chain this month begins with  Ethan Frome, a novella by Edith Wharton, which I have read and loved. Set in the fictitious town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, this is a tragedy about a farmer trapped in an unhappy marriage. Their lives are changed when his wife’s cousin comes to live with them to help in the house.

My first link is to another book by Edith Wharton, Xingu and other stories, one of my TBRs, There are five short stories – about jealous husbands, spinsters who have wasted away their lives, and bored ladies infatuated with money and aspirations.

My second link is to another book of short stories, which I’m currently reading. It’s The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier, a total of six stories. Hitchcock based his film on du Maurier’s horror story of a farmhand, his family, and his community who are attacked by flocks of birds.

My third link is Corvus: My Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson, which is part memoir and part nature study. Corvus’ is a genus of birds including jackdaws, ravens, crows, magpies and rooks. The specific birds Esther Woolfson looked after are a rook, a young crow, a cockatiel, a magpie, two small parrots and two canaries.

My fourth link is to the word ‘raven‘ in Raven Black by Ann Cleeves, the first book in her Shetland series – Inspector Perez. It begins on New Year’s Eve as Magnus Tait is seeing the new year in on his own, until two teenage girls knock on his door to wish him a Happy New Year. A few days later one of the girls is found dead in the snow not far from Magnus’s house, strangled with her own scarf.

My fifth link is to a novel that also begins on New Year’s EveThe Nine Tailors by D L Sayers,  as Lord Peter Wimsey is driving through a snow storm and ends up in a ditch near the village of Fenchurch St Paul in the Fens. He is taken in for the night by the vicar and helps the bell-ringers ring in the New Year. A few weeks later Wimsey is asked back to the village to help solve the mystery of the dead man found by the sexton whilst he was opening up Lady Thorpe’s grave to bury her husband.

My sixth link: is to Beneath the Surface by Fiona Neill, which is also set in the Fens, where Patrick and Grace Vermuyden and their two daughters, teenager Lilly and ten year old Mia, are living in badly built, damp and draughty house.This is an emotionally charged novel about the burden of keeping secrets and the effects that misunderstandings and lies can have. 

Beginning with a novella by Edith Wharton about a family tragedy my chain travels to another family in an ever decreasing spiral of disastrous events, thus making the chain into a circle and linking together short story collections, stories about birds, books beginning on New Year’s Eve and books set in the Fens.

Next month (January 4, 2022), we’ll start with a story that also begins on New Year’s Eve (what a coincidence!)– Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, a book I haven’t read.