Six Degrees of Separation from The Tipping Point to Five Red Herrings

I love doing 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.

This month the chain begins with The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, a book I haven’t read. The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. 

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and they are all crime fiction.

The Secret Place: Dublin Murder Squad:  5 (Dublin Murder Squad series) by [French, Tana]A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs Mysteries Series Book 8) by [Winspear, Jacqueline]Dead Scared: Lacey Flint Series, Book 2 by [Bolton, Sharon]Time is a Killer: From the bestselling author of After the Crash by [Bussi, Michel]Five Red Herrings: Lord Peter Wimsey Book 7 (Lord Peter Wimsey Series) by [Sayers, Dorothy L.]

My first link in the chain is to the word ‘point’ in the book title – The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah, also a book I haven’t read. It’s a psychological thriller in which Sally Thorning has a secret affair.

The Secret Place by Tana French is another book about secrets that bind  a group of adolescent girls together in a girls’ boarding school when they become involved in a murder investigation. It’s the 5th book in the Dublin Murder Squad Series. Another book I haven’t read yet.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – historical crime fiction set in 1932. Maisie Dobbs directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service goes undercover as a lecturer at Cambridge University to monitor any activities ‘not in the interests of the Crown.’ Yet another TBR book.

Another crime fiction book set in Cambridge University is Sharon Bolton’s Dead Scared in which DC Lacey Flint is posted at the University, after  a spate of student suicides, with a brief to work undercover, posing as a vulnerable, depression-prone student.

Sticking with the theme of crime fiction takes me to my next link – Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi, a murder mystery set in Corsica. Clotilde is determined to find out what  happened in a car crash that killed her parents and brother 27 years earlier. There is a plan showing the Revellata Peninsula, a wild and beautiful coastline, where Clotilde’s grandparents lived, and all the key locations.

I think maps and plans are really useful in crime fiction. Another book that has a map is Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers. Lord Peter is on holiday in Scotland, in a fishing and painting community when Campbell, a local landscape painter and fisherman is found dead in a burn. The map at the beginning of the book helped me follow the action – I needed the map!

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My chain this month is linked by: crime fiction, books about secrets, books set in Cambridge and books with helpful maps. And in a way the books all link back to The Tipping Point as they all demonstrate how the little, minute things in the details of each case add up to help solve the crimes.

Next month (July 7, 2018), we’ll begin with Tales of the City, the first in the much-loved series by Armistead Maupin – yet another book I haven’t read or even heard of before!

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

Publication date: 24 August 2017, Hodder & Stoughton

Source: review copy via NetGalley

I was attracted to read Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah by this description on NetGalley:

She’s the most famous murder victim in the country.

What if she’s not dead?

Did You See Melody? is a different kind of Sophie Hannah novel.

It is a stand alone.

It is pure psychological suspense, with a chilling hook and a killer central mystery.

It combines Sophie’s critically acclaimed writing with a pacy and twisty plot.

So, I was expecting it to be a gripping, tense and intriguing mystery. But I became increasingly disappointed as I read pages and pages of description of the five-star Swallowtail Resort and Spa in the foothills of Camelback Mountain, Arizona at the beginning of the book. I like description but this was far too much even for me. It’s like reading a promotional article for the resort. It picked up pace a bit when the subject of Melody was introduced. She was seven when she disappeared and although her body had not been discovered her parents were tried and found guilty of murdering her.

Cara has left her husband and two children at home in Hertford in England without telling them where she was going, but leaving them a note saying she’d be back on 24 October. She’d booked herself into the Swallowtail and arrives, exhausted from her journey only to find that her room is already occupied by a man and a young teenage girl. However, the receptionist is extremely apologetic and settles her into a casita with her own private infinity pool at no extra charge.

The first hint about what had happened to Melody comes the next morning when one of the guests announces that she’s seen Melody and eventually Cara’s curiosity is aroused and she discovers the tragic story of Melody’s murder. Cara wonders if the girl she’d seen the previous night was Melody. At first Cara’s reason for leaving home as she did is not explained and when it was I was less than impressed and I didn’t really warm to her character.

From that point my own interest in the story picked up as the details of what had happened to Melody are gradually revealed as Cara talks to Tarin, a fellow guest, reads accounts on the internet and excerpts from the TV talk show, Justice With Bonnie, hosted by the truly terrible Bonnie Juno. Bonnie is described as a legal commentator and I really disliked her and her interference in the case.

There is quite a lot of hyperbole and contrasting depictions of both the American and British characters, which made me wonder if this is a spoof, as really, most of the story just beggars belief. It’s far-fetched, contrived and over complicated. But once I’d got past the lengthy opening section I did want to know what happened next and it is in the last few pages of the book that I found something that really did send a little shiver down my spine – and left me wondering just what had really happened to Melody, and what would happen next.

My thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton, the publishers for a review copy.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2826 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (24 Aug. 2017)
  • My rating: 3*

A Game For All the Family by Sophie Hannah

I’ve recently finished reading A Game For All the Family by Sophie Hannah, a standalone book, described as ‘ a literary puzzle to unlock the dark side of the mind.’

Publishers’ blurb:

Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better…

After escaping London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine plans to spend her days doing as little as possible in her beautiful home in Devon.

But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to withdraw when her new best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school. Justine begs the head teacher to reconsider, only to be told that nobody’s been expelled – there is, and was, no George.

Then the anonymous calls start: a stranger, making threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past and a guilty secret – yet Justine doesn’t recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves – two big and one small, to fit a child – Justine fears for her family’s safety.

If the police can’t help, she’ll have to eliminate the danger herself, but first she must work out who she’s supposed to be…

Practically from the start I had my doubts about Justine. Was she an unreliable narrator? Could I believe her story, told in the third person but revealing what was going through her mind? Or was her daughter Ellen right when she told her mother that she was a ‘nutter‘? That sense of distrust pervaded my reading. Obviously something had happened to make Justine give up her job in TV drama production and want to ‘do Nothing’, something traumatic and life-changing – had it affected her mental stability or had it happened because she was mentally unstable? I couldn’t decide.

What I can say is that it’s a book about the truth – just who is telling the truth, just who is who they purport to be, and most of all about identity. Who is real, who is making it all up (well Sophie Hannah, obviously).

It is described as a ‘chilling ‘ novel, but I didn’t find it spine tingling, or scary, because it came over to me as artificial, and contrived. It’s also long-winded and mostly completely unbelievable, which made it lose any sense of tension or suspense. But it is a cleverly complicated plot, with stories within stories, – it’s just not chilling.

As well as the anonymous threatening phone calls, and the head teacher’s denial that George had not been expelled and indeed her insistence that he had never even been at the school, Justine is also puzzled by the story that Ellen is writing for her creative writing homework – a story set in their house about a strange family who had lived there in the past and a murder that had taken place there. Where did Ellen get this story, is it based on fact? Ellen simply won’t tell her. Are the phone calls connected to this story and to George?

Maybe it’s too complicated, because at times I just wished the endless questions that went through Justine’s mind would come to an end. They did of course and by the time I did get to the end I still couldn’t decide whether Ellen was right – is Justine a nutter and as I suspect an unreliable narrator, or not?

I didn’t love this book, but it certainly filled my mind and made me think both whilst I was reading it and for days afterwards – and I like that about a book. If Justine is a reliable narrator and was telling the truth all along then she is still a nutter, because if what she described actually happened at the end of the story it was terrible and she was mentally ill and in that case, definitely a chilling ending. I just can’t decide! It is an extraordinary and weird book.

My thanks to Lovereading for sending me an uncorrected proof copy of this book that has had me puzzling for days. A Game For All the Family is due to be published on 13 August 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton.