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Forensic Genealogy

The Sterling Affair by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

The death of a 92-year-old man wouldn’t ordinarily make the newspapers, but this was no ordinary elderly gentleman. Notwithstanding the fact that he appears to have committed suicide, there is another major problem: this man actually died in the 1940s. Tasked by a woman to investigate the real identity of the man who has been living under the name of her long-dead brother, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier finds himself involved in the shady world of 1950s espionage. Meanwhile, he has a problem of his own to solve when a close DNA match poses problems for the Farrier family.

As a family historian and a fan of genealogical fiction, I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s previous books centred around Morton Farrier. Farrier is a likeable character and it has been great fun to go with him on his professional and personal journey as he researches the family history of his clients whilst also trying to untangle his own complicated genealogy. The Sterling Affair, however, is a step up from the author’s previous offerings, mixing mystery, genealogy and espionage with ease and creating a genuinely enthralling story.

It is plain to see how much research has gone into this book as the author mixes fact with fiction making it impossible to see where one ends and the other begins. The Suez crisis is not a period of history that I profess to know a lot about and so I enjoyed learning about the events in the middle east and the involvement of Britain in its development. Told in two time frames, it allowed us to see events as they were unfolding in the 1940s/1950s and also Morton’s research in the present day. As always, Morton’s research was thorough and I liked reading about different sources that I (as yet) have not had the opportunity to use.

As well as the fascinating main plot, I was also drawn in by the plot regarding Morton’s own family. Just when you thought he couldn’t have any more skeletons in his closet, his DNA throws up an amazing twist, with a story line worthy of a book of its own. I hope that this is a case that the genealogist takes on as I would love to read the outcome in the next book.

The Sterling Affair is a gripping read, thrilling and educational at the same time. Highly recommended.

Take a look at my reviews of other books in this series:

The America Ground

The Spyglass File

The Missing Man

The Wicked Trade

 

 

The Asylum by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

After seemingly completing one of his research cases, forensic genealogist, Morton Farrier feels that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Further investigation leads him to the suspicious death of a woman in an asylum many, many years ago. Morton must now ensure that all of his facts are right before revealing the awful and life-changing truth to his client.

The Asylum is a prequel to Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Morton Farrier series and as it is only 93 pages long, is an excellent introduction to anyone who has not yet come across this brilliant series. For regular readers, like me, you will be pleased to know that as well as the mystery being investigated, we also get a chance to discover how Morton met his partner, Juliette.

The mystery is an emotive one, dealing with the controversial issue of asylums and the reason women could find themselves incarcerated. Again, we see the steps Morton took to solve the mystery, using the sources that would have been available at that time. There were also some light-hearted moments, though, and I particularly enjoyed reading about his solo trip to the asylum and his realisation when studying a photograph in more detail.

The Asylum is another great addition to the series and I hope it won’t be too long before we get to read the next one.

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!

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 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.

The America Ground by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Forensic genealogist, Morton Farrier, returns and this time he’s America Groundready to delve into his own past. Keen to discover the identity of his biological father, he is soon sidetracked however, when he is commissioned to investigate the history of Eliza Lovekin, the subject of a nineteenth century painting. In true Morton Farrier style, the case is not as straightforward as it may seem and soon he finds himself part of a race against time to avoid something untoward happening…

‘The America Ground’ is the third of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s novels featuring Morton Farrier (a novella, ‘The Orange Lilies’ was published last year) and continues in the same vein as the previous books. It is not essential to have read the first two parts of the series although they do come highly recommended!

The author weaves fact and fiction together seamlessly and also gives good advice for anyone wanting to research their own family history. Despite the timeshifts throughout the book (the Lovekin story occurs in the early nineteenth century while Morton Farrier is very much of the present), the story is easy to follow and the numerous twists and turns make it an exciting read.

I am now eagerly waiting the fourth book of the series!

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