Saturday, January 29, 2022

Olive Kitteridge: Elizabeth Strout

This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2009, and was described at that site as:

A collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.

Olive Kitteridge is the focus for many of the stories. Within the confines of her family, Olive's behavior can be very volatile and damaging. She is a controlling mother to her son Christopher and somewhat abusive. In her life outside the home she has a reputation for being disagreeable and prickly. Yet at times she can be helpful and kind to friends and neighbors.

The first story, "Pharmacy," focuses on Henry, Olive's husband, and is told from his point of view. Of course it tells us a lot about Olive, their marriage, and some about Christopher, their son. That story is a fantastic opener for the book. Henry is a genuinely good, considerate, generous man, who tries to think the best of all people at all times. From what we know of Henry in the stories in this book, he is this way with everyone: with his family and the customers he meets at his pharmacy and neighbors in the community. He also tries to mediate between his son and Olive.

There are only four or five stories (out of thirteen) that focus primarily on Olive and her thoughts and reactions to people. The other stories focus on incidents experienced by families within the community of Crosby, Maine. Each story contains at least one appearance or mention of Olive. Sometimes the story is not about her but she takes an active part. 

The other stories provide other viewpoints of Olive and her behavior. Those stories are still good, just not my favorites. And some of the stories were distressing to read. The stories cover Olive and Henry's life together and spans  decades of their lives, but most of them are about the later years. 

My thoughts:

The stories in this book provide an interesting picture of small town life in Maine. The emphasis was on people that have particularly problematic lives and relationships, and I am sure that communities like this one have many "normal" families also. Some stories related to old age, life after losing a spouse, and suicide.

I found most of the stories to be depressing. I am sure that this is not true for every reader, but it was true for me. Several of the stories were about damaged families with children who were affected by the situation. There we some rays of light, some people who escaped from their situation and were looking for a better life for them. Most nights I read only one story from this book, and had to stop for the night. Yet I liked the book quite a lot. Olive is a wonderful character regardless of her flaws. I was never bored. 

The last two stories that were primarily about Olive were exceptional. In "Security," Olive visits her son and his new family; it was emotional, unsettling at times, but not so depressing. "River" ended on a positive note. 

I will read Olive, Again, the second book of stories about Olive Kitteridge, and I will read more books by this author. I have My Name is Lucy Barton on my TBR. Elizabeth Strout is a fantastic writer and had me sympathizing or empathizing with many of the characters.


Publisher:  Random House, 2008
Length:     270 pages
Format:    Trade paperback
Series:     Olive Kitteridge
Setting:    Small town in Maine
Genre:     Fiction
Source:    I purchased my copy

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: The Mysterious Mr. Quin, Part 2

Last week I featured The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie for Short Story Wednesday. This week I will talk about some of the stories in that book. I had hoped to read all 12 stories by this time, but that did not happen. I have now read a total of 8 stories. 

They all have a similar premise. Mr. Satterthwaite meets his friend, Mr. Quin, and together they solve a crime. Usually Mr. Satterthwaite is not even aware that there is a puzzle or a crime, but it appears a bit later in the story, and Mr. Quin is instrumental in some way in finding the solution. How and where this happens is what provides the variety in the stories.

Mr. Satterthwaite is quite well off financially, a bit of a snob, and loves good food and comfort. Mr. Quin is tall and dark and shows up out of the blue and saves the day in some way. It all makes sense, I never found the solutions unrealistic, but sometimes one has to assume he has to have some type of clairovant ability to see the future. 

Here are my thoughts or notes on the stories I have read:

"The Coming of Mr. Quin"

I was not especially impressed with this story. One thing I did like is that it was set at a New Year's Eve party at a country house. I will read just about anything set at Christmas or New Year's Eve. Maybe I would like it better on a reread, after getting accustomed to the style of the stories.

"The Shadow on the Glass"

This story has a more conventional murder mystery format, until Mr. Quin arrives. This one has a definite haunted house theme, with a window which always contains the image of "a man's face surmounted by a plumed cavalier's hat," no matter how often the pane is replaced. An impossible crime takes place in the garden, and it is not until Mr. Quin arrives for an unrelated appointment during the investigation that he is able to see a solution that the others could not.

While reading this story, I realized I had read it before but could not remember where or when. It turns out it was included in the book English Country House Murders: Classic Crime Fiction of Britain's Upper Crust, which I read in February 2020. 

"At the Bells and Motley"

I particularly enjoyed this one because of the setting at an inn that Mr. Quin sometimes frequents. Mr. Satterthwaite is only there because his car has broken down. Together, while eating their dinner, they figure out how a man disappeared from Ashley Grange.

"The Sign in the Sky"

At this point, Mr. Satterthwaite begins to travel outside of Britain. Mr. Quin shows up uninvited for dinner with Mr. Satterthwaite. They discuss a recent trial, and Mr. Quin suggests that Mr. Satterthwaite go to Canada and search for clues to clear a young man of murder.

"The Soul of the Croupier"

A quote from the story:

Mr. Satterthwaite was enjoying the sunshine on the terrace at Monte Carlo. 

Every year regularly on the second Sunday in January, Mr. Satterthwaite left England for the Riviera. He was far more punctual than any swallow. In the month of April he returned to England, May and June he spent in London, and had never been known to miss Ascot. He left town after the Eton and Harrow match, paying a few country house visits before repairing to Deauville or Le Touquet. Shooting parties occupied most of September and October, and he usually spent a couple of months in town to wind up the year.

"The World's End"

Mr. Satterthwaite goes on a trip to Corsica with a penny-pinching duchess. He has to suffer bad accommodations and discomfort on the trip. They meet Naomi, an artist, and go up into the mountains for a picnic. Mr. Quin shows up and solves the puzzle of the theft of a opal.

"The Voice in the Dark"

Mr Satterthwaite is on the French Riviera at Cannes with Lady Stranleigh, who asks him to check on her daughter Margery when he returns to England. She is reporting hearing voices and she wants to marry a vicar, which Lady Stranleigh disapproves of. A very complex story, not my favorite.

"The Face of Helen"

Another one that was too complex for me. A beautiful young woman rejects a young man who loves her. Mr. Quin seems to have foreknowledge that her life with be threatened.

What do I like about these stories? I enjoy the new facts we learn about Mr. Satterthwaite's life in each story. Although the stories all have a similar premise, each story is a bit different, not formulaic. Some are investigations of a crime, some are just puzzles.  A supernatural or clairvoyant approach to solving crimes or puzzles isn't usually my cup of tea, but in these stories I did not mind it. Even the ones I like least have good points. Often the characters are very interesting.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Book Bingo 2022

For the first time, I am joining in on Book Bingo at Unruly Reader. I learned about this challenge from Cath at Read-warbler. This year’s theme is Time and I find that appealing.

Here is the card with the categories:

How to Play Book Bingo 2022:

  • Read a book that fits the category. Each book can qualify for only one category.
  • Complete just one row or column, or go for blackout by reading a book in every category.
  • All books must be finished in 2022. Books started in 2021 but finished in 2022 count.
  • We’ve provided some definitions, but you can free-style it if you like—as long as you can make a case that the book fits the category.
  • All categories can be fiction or nonfiction (your choice), unless otherwise specified.

Some of the categories are obvious: 


Other categories are not so obvious:

NEWS = North, East, West, South: fiction or nonfiction book about an event that affects a region.

TIME CAPSULE = A book about another era–could be time travel or a current-day perspective on an earlier time.

I think I will naturally end up reading some books that fit the categories, and I could have fun finding books for other categories. But I am fairly sure I won't be filling them all in.

Sign up at the Introducing Book Bingo 2022 post (in the comments). That post also provides definitions for each category.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie

A few months ago I read several short stories by Agatha Christie, two featuring Hercule Poirot and three Miss Marple stories. This week I turned to short stories from The Mysterious Mr. Quin. The short stories in this book all center around Mr. Satterthwaite and his friend Mr. Quin, who usually runs into Mr. Satterthwaite unexpectedly when there is a mystery to be solved. 

A description of Mr. Satterthwaite from the first story, "The Coming of Mr. Quin":

Mr. Satterthwaite was sixty-two–a little bent, dried-up man with a peering face oddly elflike, and an intense and inordinate interest in other people's lives. All his life, so to speak, he had sat in the front row of the stalls watching various dramas of human nature unfold before him. His role had always been that of the onlooker. Only now, with old age holding him in its clutch, he found himself increasingly critical of the drama submitted to him. He demanded now something a little out of the common. 

Mr. Quin has an enigmatic personality. He seems to be able to see how a mystery could be solved, and sometimes walks in just when a crime has taken place. He and Mr. Satterthwaite work together synergistically to solve problems, whenever they meet. He seems almost magical, on the verge of having supernatural abilities.

I had a paperback copy of this book previously, but at the 2021 Planned Parenthood book sale I found the Dell Mapback edition shown here. It is not in good condition and the pages and covers are fragile, so it is hard to read, but I have managed to get through the first six stories of the twelve in the book. Next week I will talk about those and any others I read in the meantime.

Monday, January 17, 2022

The 2022 TBR Pile Challenge

Roof Beam Reader’s official TBR Pile Challenge is back for its NINTH YEAR! I did this challenge in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019. I like this challenge because it only includes books added to the TBR pile before 2021, thus forcing me to go back to books that have been on the shelves longer.


  • List 12 books to read for this challenge. The books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2021 or later (any book published in the year 2020 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile). 
  • Two alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books ends up in the “did not finish (DNF)” pile.
  • The complete and final list of the  books for this challenge must be posted and linked at Roof Beam Reader by January 31st, 2022. When books are read and reviewed, the link to the review post is added to this signup post.
  • The challenge runs from January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022.

My list is below:

  1. Fire Watch by Connie Willis
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  3. Bangkok 8 by John Burdette
  4. Mysterioso by Arne Dahl
  5. Goodnight Sweet Prince by David Dickinson
  6. Vanish by Tess Gerritsen. 
  7. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes  by Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. Dog On It by Spencer Quinn 
  9. The Saint Zita Society by Ruth Rendell 
  10. Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson
  11. Lincoln at the Bardo by George Saunders
  12. Head On by John Scalzi


Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Toshikazu Kawaguchi

This lovely little book is about a tiny café in Tokyo which has been serving a special coffee for more than one hundred years. Visitors to the café can also take advantage of a special service; they can travel back in time under specific conditions. There is limited seating in the café, one small room with three seats at the bar and three small tables that each seat two people. I am willing to try any book that includes time travel, and this one was perfect for me.

The novel is divided into four sections, each about 60-70 pages long. Each part has connections to the others. The sections of the book are: "The Lovers," "Husband and Wife," "The Sisters," and "Mother and Child." So you can see that each time travel event explores relationships. Except for the first part, each one has a very emotional story to tell. I was most affected by the second part, "Husband and Wife."

This is a time travel book but very different from others I have read. Compared to time travel where the concept is explored in depth, this novel only gives us a few small doses of time travel. The time travel in this book is made for personal reasons, not for scientific or historical research. There is no machine or scientific invention that controls the time travel, or study or preparation to get ready for the actual trip back into an earlier time. Once you visit the café, if you follow the rules and convince the staff to facilitate the trip, it can happen. 

There are, however, a lot of rules and limitations, and those who want to time travel are informed of these before they start. Whether they will follow the rules is another issue.

I felt good, upbeat and happy, while reading this novel, especially at the end. I read one section every night, and looked forward to returning to the story the next day. The story was sad at times, but overall it was optimistic and positive. I liked the characters, they seemed real to me, and I enjoyed getting to know them for a little while.

This novel highlighted for me how much our own attitudes and background determine our reactions and what we consider appropriate or useful behavior. So although I disagreed with or was confused about choices some of the characters had made, I did not feel judgmental about them. This book also confirmed that I like time travel in any form. 

The story is an adaptation of a play written by the same author, and sometimes that shows. The action is limited to the café, even the time travel event. The story has also been adapted to film. I found the story both entertaining and thought provoking.

This was my first selection for the Japanese Literature Challenge 15.


Publisher:   Hanover Square Press, 2019 (orig. pub. 2015)
Translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot 
Length:       272 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Setting:       Tokyo, Japan
Genre:        Fiction, time travel
Source:       From my TBR shelves. Purchased in 2021.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Japanese Literature Challenge 15

Again I am joining in on the Japanese Literature Challenge, now in its fifteenth year. The event is hosted at Dolce Bellezza. It started this month and continues through March 2022.

I like this event for many reasons. The emphasis is on enjoyment and not on meeting a goal. I do enjoy Japanese mysteries, and this year I am branching out to other genres. My husband also likes books translated from Japanese, so he has introduced me to some of the authors.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Read as many books as you like from January through March. (Even if that is ”only” one.)
  • Make sure the work was originally written in Japanese.
  • Choose from classic to contemporary works, whatever appeals to you.
  • Leave a link at the main post for the challenge so that others can see your review.

And here are some books I am planning to read for the challenge:

  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Geoffrey Trousselot  (Translator)
  • The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide, Eric Selland (Translator)
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami, Allison Markin Powell (Translator)
  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)
  • Out by Natsuo Kirino, Stephen Snyder (Translator)
  • I would love to read one or two more crime fiction books by Keigo Higashino, but I may not be able to fit those in.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s “The Stranger in the Car”

“The Stranger in the Car” is the fourth story that I have selected from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives for Short Story Wednesday. The anthology was edited by Sarah Weinman and its subtitle is "Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense."

This story focuses on Carrol Charleroy, husband of Susan, father of two boys and two girls, now all grown up. The youngest daughter, Julia, is the only child living at home. Susan is in the hospital with the flu, Julia is out dancing with friends, and Charleroy is feeling lonely. Miss Ewing, a music teacher who sometimes comes to stay and take care of the household, is staying with them while Helen is in the hospital, but she has gone off to bed. When Julia comes home in the middle of the night, she has trouble getting upstairs to her room and this awakens her father. He can see that she has been injured; the next morning she has a black eye. She says she remembers leaving with a man but little of what happened after that. The man brought her home in a taxi. After more discussion, Miss Ewing suggests that she and Julia go to the Charleroy's home in the country, Meadowsweet, and Helen won't have to be bothered with what is going on. 

More mishaps happen and Charleroy ends up at Meadowsweet with a dead body. He is trying to get everything under control, but in truth it is the women of the family who are able to handle the situation and straighten it out. 

The story is longer than most stories in the book, at 69 pages.

In the introduction to this story, Sarah Weinman says...

The famously prickly Raymond Chandler said of ELISABETH SANXAY HOLDING: 

"For my money she's the top suspense writer of them all. She doesn't pour it on and make you feel irritated. Her characters are wonderful; and she has a sort of inner calm which I find very attractive."

I was intrigued by this story and I want to read some of Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's suspense novels. 

Here are some links for the author:

Sunday, January 9, 2022

2021 Overview and Reading in December


2021 statistics ...

In 2021 I read 105 books. I usually aim at 84 books in a year, which would be seven books a month. In 2020 I read 113 books.

My reading continues to be focused on mystery novels. This year I read 69 mystery novels, which is less than last year. That group includes any historical mysteries and spy fiction I read. Of that total, 27 were published in 1960 or before, 26 were published between 1960 and 1999, 12 were published between 2000 and 2018, and only 4 were published in 2019-2021. The mysteries were divided almost equally between male and female authors. 

Other fiction reading was divided thus:

  • Science fiction: 7
  • Fantasy: 2
  • General fiction: 8
  • Historical fiction: 11

All of those numbers are up from last year, and I am pleased with that. I would like to read more science fiction in 2022.

I continued reading short stories every month, but I only completed one book of short stories. I have sampled stories from a lot of short story collections and anthologies, and I need to finish more of them this year. 

My nonfiction reading was much lower than last year. I only read 6 books in that genre. Of all the books I read, only 6 books were from my Classics List. That is another area I need to improve on. 

And now, on to books read in December 2021...

General Fiction

The Last Noel (2002) by Michael Malone

This book was set at Christmas and has a definite Christmas theme. It takes place in the small town of Moors, North Carolina. Noni (real name Noelle) is the daughter of the Tilden family, a rich and privileged family that has lived in the area for many years.  Kaye is the grandson of the Tilden's black maid, who has worked for the Tilden family for years. Kaye and Noni's relationship is viewed through twelve Christmases, starting in 1963 and ending in 2003. See review here.

High Rising (1933) by Angela Thirkell

This was one of the books set at Christmas, at least partially. I have been hearing about the Barsetshire series by Thirkell for years. At first I thought that they were not for me, but recently I became curious and decided I had to read one and I wanted to start at the beginning. I am glad I tried it, it was an entertaining read. I hope to continue the series, but there are 29 books in the series, so maybe that is a bit much. I will try to get through the books written during the war years, which is about half of them. 

Historical Fiction

Rules of Civility (2011) by Amor Towles

This is not a Christmas book, really, but the main story starts on New Year's Eve in 1937 and ends with a surprise Christmas gift two days before Christmas in 1938, so it felt like holiday reading to me. I loved this book. See review here.

Crime Fiction

Spence And The Holiday Murders (1977) by Michael Allen

This is the first book in the Detective Chief Superintendent Ben Spence series. It was an enjoyable read, the type of book I enjoy now and then, but it was a pretty standard 1970s police procedural. But is was set in the UK and around Christmas time, so a timely read.

Murder in the Snow: A Cotswold Christmas Mystery  (1950) by Gladys Mitchell

This book was originally published as Groaning Spinney, and it was the 23rd book in the Mrs. Bradley series. I read it as a part of a group read hosted at Jason Half's blog; there is commentary there from the group in four parts. It begins here and the final post is here.

As the subtitle above indicates, some of the action takes place at Christmas, when Mrs. Bradley is visiting her nephew and his wife, but the Christmas festivities are over very quickly. The investigation continues for months afterwards. I love the setting in the Cotswold and there are treks through the rural areas there. My only complaint is that the investigation drags on and on.

Pictures of Perfection (1994) by Reginald Hill

The 14th book in the Dalziel & Pascoe series. Pascoe is sent to a small village in Yorkshire to investigate the disappearance of one of their uniformed officers. Coincidentally, Sergeant Wield had just a few days previously stopped in the village on the way back from vacation and had a mild altercation with the missing village policeman. When he gets back from vacation, he is also sent to investigate, but neither of them finds any evidence of what has happened to the missing man. This entry in the series is Reginald Hill's version of a village cozy, and has much more humor than usual. 

Fortune Favors the Dead (2020) by Stephen Spotswood

This was Spotswood's debut novel and the first in the Pentecost and Parker series. The author is a fan of the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout and used it as inspiration in coming up with this detective duo. Since Rex Stout is my favorite mystery writer, I had to try the series. Lillian Pentecost is a successful private detective in her forties but she has multiple schlerosis and her health is failing. She hires Willowjean Parker, a young woman who ran off to work in the circus when she was 15, to be her assistant and offers to provide training in many areas. They are the perfect pair, and I loved the story. 

My husband took this photo at Mackenzie Park in Santa Barbara. The photo at the top of the post was taken at Lake Los Carneros located near Stow House in Santa Barbara County. Click on the images for best viewing quality.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: More Short Stories by George Simenon

This week I finished reading all of the stories in Maigret's Christmas, a collection of stories by Georges Simenon. The book is 405 pages long and only consists of nine stories, so some of them are very long (for a short story).

However the four stories I read this week are comparatively short: 

  • "The Most Obstinate Customer in the World" (36 pages)
  • "Death of a Nobody" (34 pages)
  • "Sale by Auction" (15 pages)
  • "The Man in the Street" (14 pages)

Of those stories listed above, my favorite story is "The Man in the Street", the shortest story in the book. 

The story begins with these two paragraphs:

The four men were packed close together in the taxi. Paris was in the grip of frost. At half-past seven in the morning, the city looked leaden, and the wind drove powdery rime against the ground.

The thinnest of the four men, on a folding seat, had a cigarette stuck to his lower lip and handcuffs on his wrists. The biggest of them, a heavy-jawed man in a thick overcoat and a bowler hat, was smoking a pipe and watching the railings of the Bois du Boulogne race past.

The man in the bowler hat smoking a pipe is, of course, Maigret. He is taking the man in handcuffs to take part in a reconstruction of a crime in a park. A man was shot through the heart as he walked home through the park at night. The reconstruction has been written up in the newspaper in hopes of enticing the real killer to come and watch.

Several onlookers at the scene are followed and two of those are questioned. Only one man continues to evade the police who are following him. This leads to a cat-and-mouse game where the man is followed for days through the streets of Paris. Maigret personally handles much of the tailing, hoping to force the man to lead the police back to his home.


I have previously read and discussed:

"Maigret's Christmas", the first story in the book. It is lengthy for a short story, 60 pages in this collection. It was first published in France in 1951. 

"Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook", which is also about 60 pages.

The last story in the book, "Maigret in Retirement", which was 105 pages long. It has been published alone, as Maigret is Angry.

I have pointed out my favorite stories in this book. Only a few of the nine stories are related to Christmas. However, all of the stories in this book are well worth reading.


Publisher:   Harcourt, Inc., 1976
Length:       405 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Setting:      France
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      Purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2021.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation: From Rules of Civility to The Quickening

The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. The idea behind the meme is to start with a book and use common points between two books to end up with links to six books, forming a chain. The common points may be obvious, like a word in the title or a shared theme, or more personal. Every month Kate provides the title of a book as the starting point.

The starting point this month is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. The main story in that book begins on New Year's Eve in 1937, and ends shortly before Christmas in 1938, so it is very appropriate for this time of year. I own that book and when I saw that Kate had picked it for the beginning of the chain for January 2022, I decided to read it in December. My review is here.

In the Preface to Rules of Civility, the book's heroine, Katey, is attending an exhibition of photographs by Walker Evans at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition is Many Are Called, the first exhibit of the portraits taken by Walker Evans in the late 1930s on the New York subway with a hidden camera. She sees two photos of a man she knew in 1938, which leads her to remembering that year in her life. Thus my first link is to Walker Evans at Work, part of my husband's collection of photography books. 

The subtitle for this book is "745 Photographs Together with Documents Selected from Letters, Memoranda, Interviews and Notes." There are photographs from Walker Evans' projects throughout his life, with notes on how they were chosen, and how he worked. Often there are several versions of photos, not just the ones chosen for publication or viewing. The book includes several pages of subway photographs, and various drafts of explanations how the photos were achieved with a hidden camera. Check this link for photos from the Many are Called collection.

From photos taken on the subway, I move to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey, which is primarily set on one subway train in New York City. 

Subway train Pelham One Two Three is hijacked by four men: an ex-mercenary soldier; a former motorman (driver) for the subway; an ex-Mafia crook; and one man hired mainly for his muscle. They demand a $1 million ransom, or else hostages will be killed. The book was published in 1973 and it was adapted to film in 1974. I enjoyed both book and film. My review here.

For my next book, I chose another one set in New York City. The Art of Violence is the thirteenth book in S.J. Rozan's series about private investigators Lydia Chin and Bill Smith. Bill lives in Manhattan; Lydia is an American-born Chinese who lives in New York’s Chinatown. This one is set in the art world of New York. Bill's client Sam Tabor, just out of prison after a five-year homicide stint, is a very talented painter who is convinced that he has killed two women. My review here.

Death of a Ghost, published in 1934 by Margery Allingham, also focuses on the world of art. This one is set in London. Belle Lafcadio's husband was a famous painter, and he instructed his agent to exhibit twelve of his pictures, one every year, after his death. A murder is committed at the event when the eighth painting is unveiled. Albert Campion, Margery Allingham's detective and a friend of Belle, investigates. This was the 6th book in the Campion series. My review here.

From "ghost" in the title of the previous book, I move to The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi. With this book, I move away from crime fiction to military science fiction. When I read this book I had never read any military science fiction, but really it isn't much different from other books in the science fiction genre. The "ghosts" used in the Special Forces in this book are clones of dead soldiers turned into perfect soldiers for dealing with challenging situations. I especially liked the characters in this book: the portrayals of the humans working at all levels, the portrayals of the alien species.  Also moral issues surrounding the use of clones bred to defend earth and its colonies are explored. My review here.

Continuing with the "ghost" theme, my last book is The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward (who also writes as Sarah Ward). This is a suspense novel with gothic elements, spooky and sort of creepy. It is set in 1925 and highlights how many families lost sons and fathers to World War I. The main character is a female photographer who is documenting the contents of an estate that is in disrepair and being sold. There is an excellent subplot about a séance that took place back in 1896, and its continuing effects on the family. I felt like the ending left it open whether there was an actual ghost at work in this story or not, but the possibility of a ghost on the estate is important to the plot.

So my chain moves from Rules of Civility, a historical novel set in New York, to a book about the photographs of an important photographer, on to two crime novels set in New York City, then to the art world in London in the 1930s, next to a science fiction novel, and ends in the British countryside at a possibly haunted estate.

Next month's Six Degrees on February 5, 2022 will start with No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.