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The Wicked Trade by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Genealogist Morton Farrier finds himself researching the shadowy world of Georgian smugglers after a client asks him to research the life of his ancestor, Ann Fothergill. Using a letter she wrote in 1827 as his starting point, research soon points to her connection with the notorious Aldington Gang, a group from the south of England whose reputation spread far and wide. Just exactly how did Ann make her money and why is someone in the present day so interested in Morton’s work?

This is the seventh book in the Morton Farrier series and, I don’t know how he does it, but Nathan Dylan Goodwin keeps pulling it out of the bag! I’m a huge fan of genealogical fiction and it’s fair to say that while some is better than others, I would definitely put this author up there with the best. Such is my love of Morton Farrier, as soon as I realised that another book had been published, I immediately downloaded it and, despite my mounting reading pile, started to read straight away!

Like other books in the series, The Wicked Trade is told in multiple time frames, in this case the present day and the 1820s. Both parts of the story were equally as compelling and I enjoyed finding out about Ann’s life and also the research Morton took to uncover it. As a fellow genealogist, I am always interested in Morton’s visits to record offices and I am always pleased with the author’s attention to detail. Morton’s life has changed a lot since the start of the series, and since the birth of his daughter he has other commitments in addition to his job so it was good to see how he is juggling his personal and professional life.

The story of Ann Fothergill was a fascinating one and showed how it doesn’t matter the circumstances in which you were born, if there is a chance to improve your life you should take it. I found I had mixed feelings towards Ann. I admired her for her ability to turn her life around from an illiterate streetwalker to the owner of public houses but, on the other hand, her involvement with the Aldington Gang and the subsequent events left me with a nasty taste in my mouth.

I loved the historical detail in the book and it painted a great picture of how smugglers operated in the nineteenth century. The use of language that would have been spoken at the time also gave the story a more authentic feel.

There is still much to tell about Morton Farrier so I hope that another book is in the pipeline!

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Blood Underground by Dan Waddell

When a body is found entombed in a disused tube station in London, shortly followed by a second one, DCI Grant Foster fears that there is a serial killer is on the loose. With little to go on, he calls in the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes to see if he can come up with a connection between the victims. Nigel’s life is soon put in danger, however, as the killer closes in on their next victim…

Over the last few years, there has been a boom in the genealogical fiction genre with the likes of Steve Robinson and Nathan Dylan Goodwin coming to the fore. The first time I read anything in this genre, though, was a number of years ago when I read the first of Dan Waddell’s Nigel Barnes series. Having not seen anything new recently, I thought that this series was finished so was delighted to hear that Nigel was making a comeback! Blood Underground may only be a short story but it has certainly whetted the appetite for a new full-length addition to the series!

I first found out about ‘ghost’ stations on the Underground during an episode of BBC’s Sherlock and was immediately fascinated by these ‘frozen in time’ parts of London. Dan Waddell’s use of these disused stations provides a very atmospheric, claustrophobic crime scene which will certainly have people thinking next time they are on the tube!

If you have not read any of the previous books in the series, then Blood Underground would be an ideal way to introduce you to the work and investigations of Nigel Barnes. A great short read.

The Malice of Angels by Wendy Percival

When Max Rainsford, a former journalist colleague of her late husband, Tim, arrives to quiz Esme about a story he was working on thirty-five years ago, the genealogist is reluctantly forced to revisit her troubled past. Meanwhile, Esme’s friend, Ruth, is desperate to know the story behind her aunt, Vivienne, a nurse during the Second World War who never returned home. As Esme starts her investigation, she soon realises that the two cases are linked and is forced to come face to face with the devastating truth about her husband’s death.

The Malice of Angels is the third full-length Esme Quentin mystery and is by far the most complex. At the start of the book, we see Esme preparing to relocate to Devon where she will be nearer some of her old friends. The appearance of Max Rainsford, however, makes her return to a particularly dark period in her life when her husband was killed whilst pursuing a story. Initially reluctant to help Max with his task, she is soon drawn in after looking at her late-husband’s notebooks from the time of his death. Ever since being introduced to Esme, it was inevitable that her past would, one day, be explored and Wendy Percival has done this with style. I really felt for Esme as she was forced to confront her past and finally discover the true circumstances behind Tim’s death.

The way the two stories intertwined was very clever and I particularly enjoyed reading about a part of World War Two that I didn’t really know too much about – the Special Operations Executive. The story of Vivienne, Ruth’s aunt, was a particularly harrowing one and was one that was filled with subterfuge and cover-ups. It was clear to see how much research the author had done in order to make this complicated plot into a story that was easy to follow. I also liked the short chapters, making you want to read ‘just one more’ before putting it down.

Lately, for fans of Esme, we have been spoilt with The Malice of Angels and, also, the short story Death of a Cuckoo. I hope it won’t be too long before we find out what Devon life holds in store for the genealogist.

The Malice of Angels is available now: The Malice of Angels 

 

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!

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!

 

 

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