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Genealogy

The Suffragette’s Secret by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

With the imminent arrival of his first child, genealogist Morton Farrier has set himself the task of researching the family tree of his wife. During the course of his investigation, Morton finds himself fascinated by one ancestor in particular, his wife’s great-grandmother, Grace Emmerson, a militant suffragette. With his mother-in-law convinced that Grace was a respectable woman, Morton must try to discover the secrets that have been hidden deep in the past.

I am a big fan of the Morton Farrier series so I was pleased to discover that Nathan Dylan Goodwin had written a new installment, albeit in the form of a short story. For anyone who is already acquainted with Morton, this book sees a departure from his normal investigations in that, for once, there is no element of danger! Instead, we see him researching the life of a suffragette, mixing fact with fiction to create a well-researched snapshot of the campaign to give women equal voting rights.

During the course of the books, we have seen Morton change from a confirmed bachelor to a married father but this is not the most surprising transformation. It was amusing to see his least favourite archivist have a complete personality transplant upon finding out the news of his new child! This was a very funny aside and I am assuming that she will back to her old cantankerous self by the next book!

If you have not read any of this series, then I would advise you go back and start from the beginning in order to build up the full story of Morton’s life but for existing fans, this will certainly whet the appetite for a new book!

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The American Candidate by M J Lee

Genealogical Investigator, Jayne Sinclair, is about to undertake her most high profile case to date after being tasked to research the family history of a potential candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. When the man who commissioned the research is shot dead in front of her eyes, Jayne realises that someone will stop at nothing to prevent the research from being carried out. Exactly who is the candidate’s mysterious grandfather and why is someone so keen to keep his secrets well hidden? Jayne knows that, if she is to continue with this case, her life is in the utmost danger.

The American Candidate is the third of the Jayne Sinclair series and, in light of recent upheavals in American politics, deals with a very topical subject. Although the first two books in the series (The Irish Inheritance and The Somme Legacy) had an element of danger, this one really ups the ante and is quite violent from the start when someone she has just met is killed in cold blood in front of her. What follows is a mad dash through the streets of London as Jayne and her companion endeavour to escape from assassins disguised as police. This part of the book was very reminiscent of the Dan Brown book The Da Vinci Code and, indeed, even mentioned one of the same locations – Temple Church. I found this chase sequence very exciting and, due to the skills of the people chasing them, was desperate to discover how they would manage to get away.

Like the other books in the series, The American Candidate is set in two time frames, the other era being prior to and during World War Two. We discover quite early on that the candidate’s grandfather was heavily involved in the Nazi movement and, at times, this was quite disturbing to read due to its subject content. It is obvious that the author has done a great deal of research and it was fascinating to read about the English supporters of Hitler’s ideology and their campaigns under Oswald Mosley. It was easy to see how some young men could be seduced into believing what they were being told about the ‘enemy’ – again a very topical subject today.

It’s not often that a book with a genealogical slant has a twist so I was not expecting it when one occurred towards the end of this book. This was a very clever move and was one that all seemed so obvious when it was explained!

The American Candidate is a great addition to the series and I look forward to reading the next one.

The Girl From Ballymor by Kathleen McGurl

510u-LpbteLIn Ballymor, Ireland in 1847, Kitty McCarthy is struggling to keep her family alive due to the potato famine that has already killed all but two of her children. In the present day, Maria has arrived in Ballymor to research the life of her ancestor, the Victorian artist Michael McCarthy. Will she be able to discover the circumstances surrounding his early life and also what became of his beloved mother, Kitty?

I have loved all of Kathleen McGurl’s previous books and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall was one of my favourites of last year.  I had, therefore, been eagerly anticipating The Girl From Ballymor, and am pleased to say that it is just as good as the rest!

One of the things I like most about Kathleen McGurl’s books is how she seamlessly merges past with present and this is evident here. Speaking as somebody who has ancestors who left Ireland during the potato famine, I found Kitty’s plight highly emotive and could understand her desire to ensure that her son escaped to a better life. Despite living in horrendous conditions, Kitty was an incredibly strong woman and, like Maria, I too became engrossed in the mystery surrounding what became of her. Inevitably, her story was never going to end well, and when her fate was finally revealed it was tinged with more than a touch of sadness.

Sometimes in a dual-timeline story, I find myself liking one of the timelines more than the other but this is not the case in The Girl From Ballymor. Both parts of the story were equally as engaging and were interlinked in a way that moved the plot on. I felt that Maria was a very real character and could sense her trepidation as major changes were about to affect her life in a huge way.

With its cross-genre approach, The Girl From Ballymor will appeal to fans of historical and genealogical fiction and also anyone who enjoys a gentle mystery. This is another great book from Kathleen McGurl and I hope there isn’t too much of a wait before the next one!

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

Death of a Cuckoo by Wendy Percival

4631636995_252x379When Gina Vincent’s mother dies, she is shocked to find a photograph that challenges everything she thought she knew about her life. Calling upon the services of genealogist Esme Quentin to help her make sense of it all, their search takes them to an abandoned property formerly used as a home for young pregnant women. Secrets run deep in this building and Gina soon finds herself facing danger as she tries to uncover the truth about her past.

It has been some time since we last read about Esme Quentin (Blood-Tied and The Indelible Stain) so this book was long overdue! Death of a Cuckoo is not a full-length novel, but Wendy Percival has still managed to write a superb page turner, linking mystery and genealogy effortlessly. For anyone who hasn’t read the previous books in the series, this could be read as a standalone and would provide a good introduction to the character of Esme.

In Death of a Cuckoo, Esme takes a back seat in the investigation, providing the main character, Gina, with advice and recommendations of where to go next. As in most books of this genre, this turns out to be more than just a straightforward case of family research as secrets from the past start to impact on the present, putting the lives of all those involved in danger. The mystery was an interesting and plausible one and I felt for Gina as she tried to find out who she really was in the most awful of circumstances.

This is a well-written short read and I hope that the wait for the next Esme Quentin story isn’t as long!

 

Dying Games by Steve Robinson

51oXpj-8ZILWhen twin brothers are found drowned in a Perspex box in Washington D. C., and a family history chart is left at the scene, the police realise that this is one of several recent murders with a link to genealogist Jefferson Tayte. Knowing that his experience will be invaluable, Tayte is summoned by the FBI to assist in catching the ruthless killer who always seems to be one step ahead. With his reputation at stake and the body count rapidly rising, will Jefferson have to pay the ultimate price to stop the sadist in his tracks?

I have become a big fan of Steve Robinson’s Jefferson Tayte books over the years and I await each new instalment eagerly. I was excited, therefore, to receive Dying Games through Net Galley, telling myself that I would wait until nearer publication day before I would read it. This resolution lasted a whole day before I found myself clicking on it on my kindle!

The book begins in a very macabre fashion as a woman is burned to death inside a dolls’ house. This sets the tone for the rest of the book as the twisted killer re-enacts deaths that have appeared in the family trees of the victims. From quite early on, JT realises that the killer is someone he has encountered in his professional life but is finding it impossible to convince the FBI that the man cannot be working alone. In Frankie Mavro, JT has the perfect sidekick – someone who provides him with the necessary authority to undertake his research but who is also genuinely on his side.

Like the rest of this series, once I started on this book, I found it difficult to put down. I do feel, though, that this one is different to the others as it had an almost Dan Brown feel to it with our hero solving clues against the clock in order to prevent a tragedy. The ‘race against time’ element made it a very fast-paced, exhilarating read and I really liked the fact how, in many of the cases, there was no happy ending, as this helped JT to develop a true hatred of the unknown man.

Dying Games is a superb addition to the Jefferson Tayte franchise and I hope this is a series that continues to run and run: the ending of this book has certainly changed the direction of any future plots!

With thanks to Net Galley and Thomas & Mercer for the ARC.

The Missing Man by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

61gMJQkjzYL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_After discovering the truth about his parentage, the time has finally arrived for forensic genealogist Morton Farrier to locate his biological father. The Missing Man takes him to the east coast of America to discover what exactly happened to Harley ‘Jack’ Jacklin after disappearing from the family home following a fatal fire. Knowing that his time in the States is limited, Morton faces a race against time before his father is lost forever.

Although this is a novella, Nathan Dylan Goodwin has managed to pack in an awful lot of story! The plot moves between three time frames, detailing the beginnings of Morton’s grandparents’ relationship, the lead up to and the repercussions of the fire and Morton’s search for his father. With so much jumping around in time, it could have been quite easy to become confused but the author has ensured that this does not happen and keeps you engrossed throughout.

In typical Morton Farrier style, he might be celebrating his marriage with a honeymoon in the USA, but you just know that much of his break is going to be spent on genealogical business! Never usually one to shy away from a difficult case, it was disheartening to see Morton come up against brick walls so it was good to see his new wife encouraging him not to give up. To find out if he does find his missing man, you’ll have to read the book! I will say, though, that it was nice to see Mr Farrier not having to protect himself from people trying to stop his research!

One of the things I like the most about Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s writing is his accurate use of genealogy resources, both online and in record offices. As a genealogist, I find the research side fascinating and I found it interesting to see how Morton applied his UK research skills in the records of another country.

For any fans of other genealogical fiction authors, I highly recommend Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Morton Farrier books. I look forward to the next full-length installment!

 

 

Unearthed by John Nixon

unearthedWhen skeletal remains are discovered in the garden of their new house, Adam and Ruth Porter know that there is only one person who can get to the bottom of it – Madeleine, Adam’s mother and professional genealogist. What ensues is a taxing investigation which exposes long-hidden secrets and an unknown wartime romance.

Unearthed is the fifth of John Nixon’s ‘Madeleine Porter’ novels and, like the others, is based on an event that occurred in the past that has repercussions in the present. This book is slightly different to the others, however, in that there is less of Madeleine and more of the other present-day characters. There is also more emphasis on tracing living people rather than the ancestors of people who have hired the genealogist.

I found that I enjoyed reading the sections set during the war more than I did the modern-day elements of the story. The chapters set in the past were, at times, heartbreaking, as we saw the effects World War Two had on women of that era. I felt, however, that the modern aspect of the story relied a lot upon coincidence and one part in particular was a tad unbelievable.

I did enjoy reading this book as it was a quick read and the parts about the war were beautifully written. It can be read as a standalone but, if you are interested in this genre, the previous books are well worth a read.

The Somme Legacy by M J Lee

51vc6ddce-lWhen genealogist Jayne Sinclair is tasked with finding details of a 1916 marriage, she takes on what should be an easy case. The only problem is there appears to be no documentation to support the fact that a marriage ever took place, with the recollections of the bride, a long-term resident at an asylum, being the only ‘evidence’. Could lowly shop girl, Rose Clarke, really be the bride of army officer David Russell, heir to the Lappiter estate? With only a few days until the estate passes to the Crown, Jayne has to solve a hundred-year-old mystery that has destroyed the lives of many.

The Somme Legacy, the second of M J Lee’s books to feature genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, was one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2017, and I’m delighted to say that it lived up to my expectations. The follow-up to The Irish Inheritance is told in two time-frames so we get to see the events as they were unfolding in 1916 and also Jayne’s investigation one hundred years later. Like the previous book, I was pleased with how the research was carried out, showing that researching your family history is not just a case of logging onto a website! Jayne’s determination to find documents that might not even exist adds an air of authenticity to this work of fiction.

The plot is an extremely emotive one, dealing with one of the great horrors of British history – the Battle of the Somme. As someone who lost a family member in this battle, I found the description of the trenches particularly harrowing and felt that the author created an accurate representation of the atrocities experienced by the soldiers. Similarly, Rose’s involvement in the Suffragette movement provided another fascinating aspect to the plot, showing the inhumane way these brave women were treated. The reason behind Rose’s incarceration in an asylum is not revealed straight away, but when it is, it really pulls on the heart strings and makes you despair of the cruelty of some people.

In The Somme Legacy, M J Lee has succeeded in creating a heart-warming love story with more than an air of sadness and intrigue. The main characters are extremely likeable and, I particularly enjoyed the relationship Jayne shares with her father who is suffering from the beginnings of dementia.

For any fans of genealogical fiction, this book is a must read and I hope that a third book is in the pipeline!

The Spyglass File by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

When a woman asks for help to discover information about her parents, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier, is less than keen. His recent cases have not gone well and with his wedding to Juliette and the prospect of finding out about his own father looming ever closer, his mind just isn’t on the task. He relents, however, and takes the case, leading him to World War Two Britain and an abundance of secrets and lies.

The Spyglass File is the fourth of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Forensic Genealogist series, and one that focuses less on the main protagonist and more on the mystery being solved. The amount of research undertaken by the author on the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and their involvement in decoding German transmissions is obvious and makes for a very accurate retelling of the roles of these often overlooked women. It was interesting to read that much of the plot was based on something that the author had discovered in his own family.

As in previous books, the characters are extremely well-written and it is easy to have empathy for the plight of Elsie Finch. Stuck in a loveless marriage at a turbulent time when nothing is the norm, I found myself willing her to have a happy ending. You will have to read the book to find out whether this is the case, but suffice to say the ending was a satisfying, if unexpected, one!

Of course, as in all Morton Farrier books, it would not be right if he did not experience some sort of danger throughout his investigation! If anyone tells you genealogy is a boring hobby, just refer them to this man! Thankfully for Morton, he just about gets away with his life once again!

The ending has set up the next book nicely, so I am presuming we shall be off to America in the next installment. I can’t wait!

The Spyglass File is available to purchase now.

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