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Genealogy

The Missing Father by M J Lee

Alice Taylor was adopted during World War Two and now she has asked her neighbour and genealogist, Jayne Sinclair, to help her find out the truth about her background. Who were her parents and what exactly happened to her father? Jayne’s research takes her back to Singapore and a particularly heartbreaking part of the war.

The plot for The Missing Father was like a story straight out of ITV’s Long Lost Family, and will definitely appeal to fans of this show. Alice’s story is an emotional one and I really felt for her as she weighed up whether she wanted to know everything about her parentage and the circumstances behind her adoption. As in previous books, the author includes great advice within the plot for anyone wanting to research their own ancestry and I am pleased that we are still seeing record offices used rather than just online sources!

World War Two is an era much used in genealogical fiction, but this is the first time I’ve read a book with the fall of Singapore as its backdrop. This is something I didn’t know a great deal about but M J Lee’s obvious research helps the reader to develop an understanding of the time and the atrocities that were taking place.

This is a great addition to the series and I look forward to seeing where Jayne’s research takes her next.

The Foundlings by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

In his latest case, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier aims to uncover the truth about three babies who were found abandoned in shop doorways in the 1970s. DNA evidence has connected these three babies but who, exactly, was the mother? The case also has a personal element for Morton as one of the foundlings is his recently-discovered half-aunt and there are potential revelations about his own grandfather. With time against him, what will Morton discover and will he want to share his shocking findings with those involved?

In recent years, popular television programmes such as Long Lost Family have used DNA testing to reunite family members and in The Foundlings, Nathan Dylan Goodwin uses this scientific advancement along with the more traditional methods of genealogy to piece together family histories that would otherwise stay hidden. The research is explained well and plays its part in an engrossing, highly readable plot.

The story is told in two time frames: the present day research of Morton and the actual events that the genealogist is researching. For the first time, we see Morton uncomfortable about his research, not sure whether he should share it with the foundlings due to the explosive nature of the information he finds out. The story is compelling and keeps you hooked right until the end and I enjoyed the humorous moments that provided some light relief.

One word of warning is that there are some references to events in previous books. While this will not spoil your enjoyment of The Foundlings, it will take away the element of surprise should you choose to go back and read the earlier stories. This is a series that is going from strength to strength and I thoroughly recommend each and every one of them.

The Wind Chime by Alexandra Walsh

After the death of her mother, Amelia Prentice is clearing out her attic when she finds a box of Victorian photographs. Depicting the Attwater family who resided at a Pembrokeshire estate called Cliffside, Amelia sets out to discover who they were. When she finds the diaries of Osyth Attwater, she finds her interest piqued even more.

Back in 1883, young Osyth overhears a conversation which shatters her world and leaves her wondering what other secrets her family has kept from her. What exactly did happen to Osyth’s mother and is there any link in the present day to Amelia?

I am a huge fan of the Marquess House series by Alexandra Walsh and was pleased to see that she had written another timeshift book, this time set in my favoured period of historical fiction, the Victorian age. The author captures the era perfectly and I particularly liked how it deals with some of the subjects that would have been taboo in that age such as mental illness and relationships outside of marriage.

Initially, I found myself favouring the sections written in the present day due to my love of all things genealogical but as the book progressed and I found myself understanding the complex family relationships of the family in 1883, I began to enjoy both eras equally. Osyth soon became a firm favourite and I admired her tenacity despite her reputation for being a bit of a dreamer.

The Wind Chime is a beautiful, poignant book written with sensitivity. I have already downloaded the next in the series, The Music Makers.

Take a look at my reviews of the Marquess House series by the same author:

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy

The Family Tree by Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry

After taking a DNA test, Liz Catalano is shocked to discover that she is adopted. Feeling that her whole life has been a lie, she is determined to find her biological family in order to discover where she actually came from. What starts as a family search soon turns into something more sinister – her DNA is connected to a notorious serial killer who has been operating for decades. The Tri-State killer abducts pairs of young women, keeping them hostage before killing them and it would seem that time is running out for his latest victims. With Liz desperate to get to know her new family, is she walking straight into a trap that will see her becoming the next victim?

As a family historian who loves reading books about serial killers, the blurb for this book ticked all of the boxes for me. I have enjoyed reading genealogical fiction for many years but it is only recently that I have seen authors venture into the world of DNA, something that I feel opens up so many potential storylines. In The Family Tree, this is used with great effect as we see Liz dealing with not only the news of her adoption but that her biological family contains an active serial killer.

I really felt for Liz and although I felt her treatment of her adoptive family was, initially, very poor, I could understand her desire to seek out her roots. Even after she discovered the reality of her biological family, it was easy to see why she did not want to break this newly-found bond, even if it was with a serial killer.

The story moves on at a good pace, providing clues and red herrings about who the killer is. We do get to read about the unnamed killer in flashback chapters where we are introduced to his particularly sadistic crimes. This is one terrifying individual, the scenes made even more chilling with his captives’ realisation that others have gone before them.

The Family Tree is an easy to read book with a great plot that kept me more than entertained. Highly recommended.

With thanks to Avon Books UK and Net Galley for my copy.

**BLOG TOUR** The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl

In 1911, Emma leaves the family home to become a stewardess onboard the ocean liner Olympic. Leaving her two sisters, Lily and Ruby, behind, she promises to be back soon. Nothing ever goes according to plan, however, and soon the sisters’ lives are changed for ever. In the present day, Harriet finds her late grandmother’s travelling trunk in the attic. Finding a photo of her grandmother with her sisters, she is confused. She knew that her grandmother had a sister who died young but who is the other girl? She soon finds herself learning about the three sister ships Olympic, Britannic and Titanic and discovering what tore the sisters apart.

It is always a pleasure to feature on a blog tour for a Kathleen McGurl book and more so when the subject is something that I have a great interest in – RMS Titanic. The story of the Titanic has been well documented but the fate of her sister ships is less known and it was clear to see the research that has been undertaken by the author in order to tell their stories. Most fiction about the Titanic tends to focus on the passengers, so it was pleasing to read about a member of staff, giving a different perspective of life at sea.

The two time frames each have their own plot, linked neatly together by a family connection. We also see the common theme of complicated sibling relationships running throughout both eras. There were many parallels between the two sets of characters, Ruby and Davina being headstrong with no concerns about how they are perceived by the outside world and the more staid personalities of Emma and Sally.

I am a fan of genealogical fiction and so I particularly enjoyed reading about Harriet’s desire to find out about her family and her use of DNA testing. This gave the story another superb layer, helping to contribute to the several twists and turns that the author has included, one of which, in particular, knocked me sideways!

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline novels and this one is another wonderful read. An accurate portrayal of family relationships with a plot that is both heartwarming and heart wrenching, I thoroughly recommend reading The Lost Sister.

With thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources, Net Galley, H Q Digital and Kathleen McGurl for my copy and for organising the blog tour.

Take a look at my reviews of some of Kathleen McGurl’s other books:

The Emerald Comb 
The Pearl Locket
The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall
The Girl from Ballymor 
The Drowned Village
The Forgotten Secret
The Stationmaster’s Daughter
The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

The Girl in the Painting by Steve Robinson

When a genealogy student asks him for help in researching the subject of a painting, Jefferson Tayte feels that she is holding something back. It transpires that the woman in the painting is an ancestor of student Nat and that she would like to find out more about her and why she seems to disappear from the records at around the time the picture was painted. To complicate matters further, the painting has recently been stolen and there are also links to a recent murder. Why would someone steal this painting all those years later and what secret does it hold that would make someone want to kill?

Oh how I have missed Jefferson Tayte! Our favourite genealogist is back only this time, his job title has changed! After events in previous books, he is now teaching others how to research their families, something he hopes will be less dangerous! Of course, it’s not long before one of his students piques his interest and he finds himself embroiled in another dangerous mission in the pursuit of a long-lost ancestor.

If you have never read any of the Jefferson Tayte books before, this is a great introduction to the series as, with it being a novella, it is a quick read. The plot is an interesting one, taking us into the slums of Victorian London and contrasting it to the lives of the well-to-do. This is my favourite era to read about in historical fiction and so with the genealogical theme, it was right up my street.

The story is told in two time frames, both being as good to read as the other. As a family historian, I enjoyed reading about Jefferson’s research and it made me long for the pre-pandemic days when we could visit galleries and record offices.

If you haven’t read any of Steve Robinson’s books yet, then I recommend every one of them. Here are my reviews of some of his other books:

Dying Games

Letters from the Dead

Kindred

The Penmaker’s Wife

The Chester Creek Murders by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

After their success in using DNA evidence to help solve a cold case, Detective Clayton Tyler engages the help of specialist company Venator to help him with a cold case of his own. In the 1980s, three young women were murdered, their bodies found dumped in Chester Creek, Delaware County. Despite having the killer’s DNA on record, no arrest has ever been made, and the trail has gone cold. Can Madison Scott-Barnhart and her team use their cutting-edge technology to help to bring the killer to justice?

I have been a fan of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Morton Farrier books for many years and so I was immediately drawn to The Chester Creek Murders, the first book in the Venator Cold Case series. Like the Farrier books, this also has a genealogical theme but with a twist. Using the DNA left by the perpetrator at a crime scene, the specialist company are able to use the DNA samples submitted by people wishing to research their family history in order to find a family connection. This lengthy process is obviously something the author understands well, and I found the research process fascinating. As someone who has submitted their DNA profile to a genealogical website, it really helped me to understand how it all works.


There are a good mix of characters, each with their own back stories which I am sure will be explored further in future books. There is a good subplot involving Madison (Maddie) and her missing husband which would be worthy of a book of its own, especially as it also appears to involve another of the characters. I also enjoyed another of the subplots where we begin to explore the ethics of DNA profiling and the secrets it could reveal.


I am a big fan of genealogical fiction and I really like how Nathan Dylan Goodwin has taken this and given it a fresh twist. I am already looking forward to reading about Venator’s next cold case.

Hammer Blow by John Nixon

When genealogist Madeleine Porter delivers the news to a client that she is about to inherit a sizable fortune from a long-lost relative, little does she know that she is about to open a huge can of worms. Researching the family of another client, Madeleine begins to realise that there is a connection between the two families and that they are tied together by an event that took place many years before. Someone else has knowledge of the story, however, and they will stop at nothing to get their revenge…

As a family historian myself, I love the Madeleine Porter books as there is a lot of emphasis placed on the research undertaken by the genealogist. For anyone wanting to start to look into their lineage, these books provide valuable nuggets of advice as to the steps you should take to begin your journey, giving hints as to the sources you can use and where you can find them.


Hammer Blow also has a great plot involving a murder that happened many years previously and the consequences of that fateful day. While, initially, I found myself getting confused by the characters and wishing I’d drawn up a family tree to see the connections, as the story progressed I found myself becoming clearer with who was who. In books like this, I often find a family tree included as part of the book helps, but this is impossible to do in Hammer Blow as it would give away much of the plot.

If you have an interest in family history and are looking for a quick read, I can definitely recommend the Madeleine Porter series. I will be looking forward to seeing where John Nixon takes the wonderful Madeleine Porter next.

The Christmas Carol by M J Lee

Genealogist Jayne Sinclair finds herself with an unusual request when an antiques dealer asks her to discover the provenance of a first edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. With the only clues being a hand-written dedication, a name, a place and a date, she only has three days to complete her task before the book is due to be auctioned. With Christmas fast approaching and with the prospect of spending the festive season on her own, Jayne must try to unearth the truth of what happened in Christmas 1843.

This is the latest book in M J Lee’s Jayne Sinclair series and this time we see the genealogist taking on a different sort of mystery. Instead of being asked to trace the family tree of a client, she is tasked to prove that a copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’, dedicated to a local man in 1843, is indeed a first edition. The value of the book could increase dramatically if this could be ascertained although trying to find information about the man could prove impossible in the time frame she has been given to solve the mystery.

Like in all of the previous books in the series, I loved reading of the research that Jayne undertook and was particularly pleased to see her exploring the libraries of Manchester instead of just relying on online sources. I always like reading about places I have visited and the comments about the John Rylands library mirrored my own when I visited, albeit briefly, a few years ago. After being reminded of this wonderful place, I have made a mental note to revisit once the pandemic is well and truly behind us.

Crime fiction set in the Victorian era is a particular favourite of mine and I have been enjoying the Dickens and Jones series by J. C. Briggs. I was pleased, therefore, to see that this would also feature Dickens as a character in the chapters of the book set in 1843. M J Lee paints a vivid picture of Victorian Manchester, showing the sort of lives that the mill workers of the north had to endure. In most books of this type, it is the slums of London that we read about so it was good to read about somewhere different.

The Christmas Carol is a quick read, heartwarming and perfect for this time of year. I hope it won’t be too long before we get to read about Jayne’s latest adventure, possibly with a tie in to her forthcoming holiday with her step-parents?

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