Six Degrees of Separation in October

Books and reading

‘On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

Six Degrees of Separation: Kate W

The Lottery, a short story by Shirley Jackson begins our chain this month. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here. If you haven’t read it yet, every single one of my choices will be a Spoiler Alert.

I’ve been accused, perhaps rightly, of making some dark choices for Six Degrees. And my first choice, linked to that short story, involves death, because it is a murder mystery. But I don’t read Donna Leon‘s books because I’m all that interested in the crime perpetrated. I’m more than a little in love with Our Hero, Commissario Brunetti. I’m more than a little in love with the back streets of the city he calls home, Venice: and with his wife Paola, and his adolescent children: the meals that they eat and the family occasions they share. There’s the endlessly clever Signorina Elettra at the Questura too, and a backdrop of Brunetti’s opposition to corruption and back-handers. Against these riches, the murder mystery is just a bit-part in the story. None of Donna Leon’s books disappoint, so let’s take the first one I ever read to stand in for them all: Death at La Fenice.

We’ll stay in Italy to meet Commissario Montalbano. Maybe you know Andrea Camilleri‘s detective from the series on BBC 4? I met him in print some years ago, and he’s older and less handsome than his TV alter ego. But still as personable. He’s keen on a good meal, keen on swimming in the sea that laps the beach near his home, and can be funny as well as insightful. I’ve just finished Game of Mirrors: an intrigue involving his neighbour, a bombed warehouse, and a trail of false clues.

Another detective now, Joe Faraday. He lived, as I did once, in Portsmouth. He’s real enough too. His wife is dead. He has a profoundly deaf adult son, with whom he bonded in his early years of widowerhood by their shared love of birdwatching. Working with gritty crimes involves juggling paperwork and bureaucracy besides solving the conundrum of the offence, and it’s this rounded picture of Faraday’s life that I find so appealing. The first Faraday novel by Graham Hurley that I read was Turnstone. You might like to try it too.

DI Charlie Priest lived and worked in Yorkshire. His creator, Stuart Pawson was my friend and colleague when we both worked as mediators for the Probation Service: sadly he died a few years ago. Priest loved to pound the moors and fells of Yorkshire, as I do. His life involved too much work and too little play , but like the previous two detectives, he’s a rounded and believable individual. I’m choosing The Judas Sheep, because he dedicated this book to me.

Jason Webster is an English writer living in Spain. He’s fairly recently turned his hand to detective fiction, and his hero is Max Cámara. I was interested in A Death in Valencia since this is a city I thought I knew quite well. As ever, it turned out not to be those parts of the city that I’d visited, but a much seamier place, with corruption at the heart of local government a commonplace. Add a murdered paella chef, and even the pope to the mix for another thoroughly readable story.

My last choice isn’t a murder mystery. But deaths occur, and the whole thing, like the short story we began with almost feels like a pact with the devil. Alix Nathan, in The Warlow Experiment tells us the story of gentleman scientist Charles Powyss, who in the eighteenth century sets up an experiment to study the effects on humans of total isolation. Uneducated labourer Warlow is that isolated man. Offered every comfort, decent food, books (he can barely read), all he needs – apart from human company – it all goes horribly, desperately wrong.

I began with a few murder mysteries. And I end with a death or so too. Unnecessary, bleak, as was the death with which our chain began. Next month’s choice promises to be a harrowing one. I’ll have to see whether I’m up to dealing with reading it: Sigrid NunezWhat Are You Going Through.

79 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation in October

  1. Ah, at last! Something I’ve read! I enjoyed a couple of Donna Leon, and the entire output of Camilleri, and I’m going to look up your other choices. As long as there is a sense of place and interesting characters, this genre can be worth the read, and not everything is grisly.

    Like

  2. I’ve read a few Camilleri and enjoyed the settings especially because I’ve been to those hill towns in Sicily. I didn’t know that Donna Leon had a series set in Venice. That sounds perfect fir my next choice of audiobook to accompany gym sessions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Go as dark as you like, my dear – it is your chain, after all. But… I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t get to “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann what with the two plays on his title in two of your books here!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Aw Becky, thanks. I think we’ll get sent home early. Though in 2019 year our choit sang there on just such day as this and six people came, instead of the usual healthy crowd. I may pop in just before I leave to say hello to the Saturday afternoon gang.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. For once I know about half of your choices! La Fenice was one of the first Donna Leone’s mysteries that I read, and since I went on to read more, it doesn’t take a Brunetti to guess that I liked it. As for Camilleri, I’m now going very slow on them so that I don’t run out of them. I try to read (among other things) murder mysteries set in a country that I plan to visit, so I wish I’d come across Max Camara a few years ago. I’ll repair that gap now. Reading about The Warlow Experiment I remembered the less harrowing experience of watching Peter Sellers in Being There.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely combination of location and books! Particularly enjoyed the shots of Italy and Spain. I’ve read The Warlow Experiment which was all the more unsettling knowing that she written it after finding an entry in a local archive about a similar experiment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great chain, Margaret. I’ve read that particularly Donna Leon and remember liking it a lot. Have you ever read John Berendt’s City of Falling Angels, a non-fiction book about the fire that destroyed the Fenice theatre in 1996?

    I like the sound of A Death in Valencia – will have to see if it is available at my local library.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As you’re on a theme here, can I suggest one to consider, assuming that I didn’t hear of it from you, which would be a possibility? Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve lapped this chain up, Margaret, and am bookmarking it, because I’m always on the look out for a new detective series to get stuck into. You’ve given me plenty to choose from here. I’m most impressed by your knowing one of the authors and having a book dedicated to you. I’m also sorry about the loss of your friendship.

    I am a sucker for Montalbano on the telly, and have long meant to read the books. Good to know that the Montalbano I’ll meet between the pages isn’t the physical twin of our Commissario on the screen. I struggled with Ann Cleeves’ Jimmy Perez having started watching the tv adaptations starring dreamy old Douglas Henshall before trying the books. Forewarned is forearmed.

    Like

    1. I know. It’s not always a good idea to see the TV first. You’ll see that elsewhere in the comments I’ve suggested Fred Vargas and Commissaire Adamsberg if you want more detectives in your life.

      Like

  9. This is a crowd pleaser, Margaret. I like Donna Leon for just those same reasons, and though I’ve not read any of your other choices, I very easily could. Well, perhaps not the last one? But what really struck me was your having a book dedicated to you. Wow! I’m struggling through A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar currently. I thought the background of schizophrenia/bipolar might be of interest but the higher maths involved is too much for me.
    Hope you didn’t get soaked this afternoon? I’d have volunteered to keep you company too, but I’m a bit distant.

    Like

    1. Now there’s a book I don’t know. I’ve just looked it up, and know that – at the moment anyway – it’s not for me. I’m not doing ‘difficult’ or ‘challenging’ just now. Yup. I got soaked. But the crowds came anyway.

      Like

  10. I am a fan of Montalbano and read the books long before the TV series, I actually like the younger version on TV too. Have you read the Aurelio Zen books? And the Peter May Enzo novels set in France? They are rather good I think. I love a good crime novel and unlike you adore Scandi noir books.

    Like

    1. Aurelio Zen – yes. Peter May, no, but I’ll put that right. Also in France, do you know Fred Vargas, and Commissaire Adamsberg? I can do noir, but not during Covid!

      Like

  11. Oh a couple of Italian detectives and all those tantalising descriptions of Italian meals. I particularly like crime novels written for a home market that are thought good enough to be translated into English for a wider market. The books of Gianrico Carofiglio, Roberto Constantini and Michele Giuttari certainly give you a flavour of the world of police, lawyers and the Mafia.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. 😁 😁 Well, you could strike the Constantini as pretty gritty, but he writes about the Italians in Libya in ‘The Memory of Evil’ (final part of a trilogy) which I found very interesting as the author was born in Tripoli in 1952 and partly writes about the run up and seizure of Libya by Gaddafi.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. You’ve floored me. Really, Margaret – I now want to read every one of these books and most of them are kickstarters to series so heaven knows how many books you’ve directed me towards. Seriously, some I already know but just never quite got around to. It takes someone trusted to nudge me towards them. I loved Montalbano on tv and Dona Leon has come into my orbit more than once. Faraday is new to me but Turnstone – it involves birds, what more do you need to sell it to me? To have a book dedicated to you is something special. I’d want to read that one for that reason alone but in any case, it’s Yorkshire. There you go, selling it to me again. For reasons I don’t like to examine, your final choice also appeals. *deep sigh as S scribbles down titles, authors…* And to end on a positive note here – on my chain we remarked that our tastes are not that similar but here we find common ground 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think I have now, eventually, and rather belated, grasped the concept. I’ve discovered one additional blogger I’d like to follow as her suggestions seem like some I’d love to read too. So ‘bear with’…. I just sent out a book order for 12 books! And I have yet some 200 unread ones at home (of which some of them are – in the meantime – of less interest to me). But I’d definitely read more by Frances Brody, if I had more of her books….

    Also, I’m quite in love with Donna Leon’s Brunetti and the absolutely fab Signorina Elletra. To my distress I had to realise (by checking my book list of over 1800 titles) that by the time I started said list, I had already disposed of a great number of Leon’s books. I therefore have no idea which ones I’ve already read and which I didn’t. Presently I only (still) have ‘Uniform Justice’ at hand and I have read it already. I also gave away hundreds to Charity Shops as well as hundreds went to be burned in France due to lack of any storing space and the impossibility to travel to the UK by car. Still, you can’t get it wrong with Leon – whatever she wrote, I would read.

    On a different note; I love how you put together book titles and photos of said places – you’re pushing your creativity to new heights! And honestly, I’d REALLY like to read all of your proposed books. They seem so interesting and I have to hold back on that finger ticking ‘buy’.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. too late; order is placed and you see a poorer woman in front of you – and a happy one for the joys to come when that huge parcel will show up at my door.

        Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.