The America Ground (The Forensic Genealogist Series Book 4) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin #BookReview

America Ground

Morton Farrier, the esteemed English forensic genealogist, had cleared a space in his busy schedule to track down his own elusive father finally. But he is then presented with a case that challenges his research skills in his quest to find the killer of a woman murdered more than one hundred and eighty years ago.

I always begin an investigation by Morton Farrier with great excitement as I can expect a fascinating historical mystery as well as an eventful, risky adventure in the present day. Personally, I find the research process very interesting too, with the added humour of Morton’s varied relationships with the staff at the History Centres.

Morton’s challenge in this book is to find out why Eliza Lovekin, an ordinary woman depicted in a painting 180 years earlier, was murdered in her bed. The circumstances of her early life in a workhouse and of the America Ground itself seem quite incredible and yet they are both based on known facts.  I had never heard of the America Ground before, part of Hastings and St Leonards claimed from the sea by a group of enterprising people to enable the building of their own houses, but as might be expected, the local authorities sought taxes and threatened the inhabitants with eviction.

The story moves back to 1827, introducing us Eliza’s daughter, Harriet, and an intriguing character, Richard, who may do her harm. Meanwhile as Morton attempts to discover his own real father, he is endangered by Eliza’s legacy reaching into the present day. Trying to protect his fiancé, Juliette, he underestimates the threat hanging over him. You won’t want to put this book down.

The America Ground is available on Amazon UK

Nathan’s Pinterest page shows the documents involved in Morton’s research

 

Death of a Cuckoo: An Esme Quentin Short Read by Wendy Percival #BookReview #Mystery #AncestryHour

Death of a cuckoo

A letter. A photograph. A devastating truth.

When Gina Vincent receives a letter of condolence from a stranger following her mother’s death, a photograph slipped inside reveals a disturbing truth – everything she’s ever known is based on a lie. Shocked and disorientated, she engages genealogy detective Esme Quentin to help search for answers.

The trail leads to an isolated and abandoned property on the edge of Exmoor, once the home of a strict Victorian institution called The House of Mercy and its enigmatic founder, whose influence seems to linger still in the fabric of the derelict building.

As they dig deeper, Esme realises that the house itself hides a dark and chilling secret, one which must be exposed to unravel the mystery behind Gina’s past.

But someone is intent on keeping the secret hidden. Whatever it takes.

My Review

I really enjoyed the three books Wendy Percival has written about courageous genealogist, Esme Quentin, so I welcomed the chance to read this “short read” where we see Esme through the eyes of a young client, Gina Vincent. After the sudden death of her mother, Gina is sorting through her mail when she discovers shocking news about her own birth.  When an intruder attempts to search her mother’s documents, Gina seeks Esme’s help. The two women visit Gina’s birthplace, a remote empty property on Exmoor, and begin to research its past.

The story explores painful episodes from our recent past and I was on the edge of my seat as each woman risked danger. The family history investigation particularly interests me but there is plenty of mystery and adventure for the enjoyment of any reader.

In addition, I also read a free short read from Wendy’s website

https://www.wendypercival.co.uk/legacy-of-guilt-sign-up

Legacy of Guilt takes us back to the time when Esme returned to live in Shropshire and considered becoming a genealogical investigator.  Unexpectedly bumping into her long-lost cousin Joanna, she is determined to help restore her to her inheritance. Discovering a family connection to the sudden death of a young woman in 1835, the two women draw the attention of an unsavoury character who threatens them.  Another great read!

My review of The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival and The Malice of Angels

 

 

The Sterling Affair (The Forensic Genealogist Book 8) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Sterling Affair

When an unannounced stranger comes calling at Morton Farrier’s front door, he finds himself faced with the most intriguing and confounding case of his career to-date as a forensic genealogist. He agrees to accept the contract to identify a man who had been secretly living under the name of his new client’s long-deceased brother. Morton must use his range of resources and research skills to help him deconstruct this mysterious man’s life, ultimately leading him back into the murky world of 1950s international affairs of state. Meanwhile, Morton is faced with his own alarmingly close DNA match which itself comes with far-reaching implications for the Farriers.

My Review

Morton Farrier is a lucky man. His occupation as a forensic genealogist allows him to do what he loves best, research family history. His skills and experience make him very successful and like a terrier he doesn’t give up easily. I have enjoyed previous novels in this series, but this is the most compelling tale, of Morris Duggan, a man who had adopted a false identity.  Perhaps his reason for this was a link with MI6 but will the redacted files Morton seeks out, give any useful information. Alongside Morton’s investigation, we move back in time to Duggan’s life in the Middle East during the 1950s Suez crisis.

The thrilling tale of Duggan’s escapades in Beirut, Egypt and London are convincingly described while the careful examination of evidence in Family Record Offices and online, ring true.  I was also intrigued by Morton’s personal discovery of an extremely close DNA match on Ancestry which cause him to wish he had never embarked along this route.

Another delightful thread within the book is Morton’s family life with his wife Juliet, a police officer, and their daughter, little Grace, always into mischief but loving to play Peppa Pig with her daddy. A pleasant relief from some of the more dangerous escapades within the book. The final chapter, set in 1944, links the characters in a satisfying conclusion.

The Sterling Affair can be found on Amazon UK

My Review of  The Lost Ancestor Book 2 of this series

 

The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist series Book 2) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin #TuesdayBookBlog

Lost Ancestor

As usual I seem to be reading this series of mysteries in the wrong order but in The Lost Ancestor we quickly come to know the character of Morton Farrier, a clever forensic genealogist and his circumstances, living happily with his fiancé, Juliette in an old cottage in the centre of Rye.  Written in the third person, the houses and villages visited by Morton are vividly described and his research is familiar to anyone following their family tree.

On this occasion, Morton’s client is a terminally ill man anxious to discover what had happened to his grandmother’s twin sister.  In 1911, Mary Mercer, a lively, spirited girl had taken a job as a housemaid in the stately home of Lord Rothebone, for which she was totally unsuited. A few months later she disappeared, and no records of her whereabouts were found.  However, in 1962 a message was written by Mary and left with a rose on her sister’s grave.

Morton is intrigued and works hard on the investigation, but other members of Mary’s family seem reluctant to help. The present-day heirs of Lord Rothebone at Blackfriars House seem more co-operative but there is soon evidence that Morton’s life is under threat if he carries on with the case.

This is an exciting, intriguing story told in dual time and I became involved in Mary’s happiness and tragedy as well as anxious for the safety of Morton and Juliette.  A great read for the Christmas break.

The Lost Ancestor on Amazon UK

Nathan Dylan Goodwin

N D Goodwin

Born in the famed battle town of Hastings, England, Nathan Dylan Goodwin has always had a passion for writing in one form or another. Having gained a 2:1 degree in Radio, Film and Television studies, Nathan went on to gain a Masters degree in Creative Writing, from Canterbury Christ Church University.

Nathan started his writing career with non-fiction, his first book ‘Hastings at War’ being published in May 2005. This was followed by three further local history books pertaining to the area around his home town of Hastings. His first forays into fiction writing culminated in the publication in 2013 of ‘Hiding the Past’ – a genealogical crime mystery novel.

In his very early forties, Nathan enjoys running, skiing, reading, genealogy, writing and time with his husband and son. That about sums it up!

The Sinclair Betrayal: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery by M J Lee #TuesdayBookBlog #Review

Sinclair Betrayal

Jayne Sinclair is back and this time she’s investigating her own family history.
For years, Jayne has avoided researching the past of her own family. There are just too many secrets she would prefer to stay hidden. Then she is forced to face up to the biggest secret of all; her father is still alive. Even worse, he is in prison for the cold-blooded killing of an old civil servant. A killing supposedly motivated by the betrayal and death of his mother decades before.

Was he guilty or innocent? And who betrayed his mother?

Jayne uses all her genealogical and police skills to investigate the world of the Special Operations Executive and of secrets hidden in the dark days of World War 2. A world that leads her into a battle with herself, her conscience and her own family.

This is not the first Jayne Sinclair Genealogical mystery but the first I have read. It appealed to me because the wartime drama dealt with the story of British agents undercover in France while the research made by Jayne in the present day showed that investigation can reveal dark family secrets. The plotting is excellent, and we learn a great deal about the possibilities of following leads, but I found both female characters rather lacking in substance. Monique Massat, Jane’s grandmother represents the heroines of the SOE and her sad story reflects the tragedy of war. This story could make an exciting on-screen drama and I shall be seeking out other volumes in this series.

The Sinclair Betrayal can be found on Amazon UK

M J Lee

M J Lee

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

 

The Lost Empress by Steve Robinson (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery 4) #FridayReads

Empress

On a foggy night in 1914, the ocean liner Empress of Ireland sank en route between Canada and England. The disaster saw a loss of life comparable to the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet her tragedy has been forgotten.

When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is shown a locket belonging to one of the Empress’s victims, a British admiral’s daughter named Alice Stilwell, he must travel to England to understand the course of events that led to her death.

Tayte is expert in tracking killers across centuries. In The Lost Empress, his unique talents draw him to one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history as he unravels the truth behind Alice’s death amidst a backdrop of pre-WWI espionage.

This is the fourth book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery series but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.

Once again I have returned to read about professional genealogist, Jefferson Tate or JT as he likes to be called. Hailing from the States he frequently finds his investigations take him to England, even though he hates flying.  He is a very human character, who loves chocolate, has few social skills but is prepared to put himself in danger, in order to solve the mysteries which his clients present him with.

The Lost Empress is a dual time novel, leading up to the tragic sinking of the ocean liner.  We join young mother and Admiral’s daughter Alice Sitwell who is driven to engaging in espionage against her country, to protect her husband and young children. The more she tries to extricate herself, the tighter the noose tightens and we wonder whether Jefferson will solve the mystery of her death or disappearance.

Both Alice and JT are at risk of losing their lives but both act bravely if rather foolishly.  This is a particularly thrilling episode of this series which I seem to be reading in random order but that has not spoilt my enjoyment due to the clear characterisation. A novel which will entertain those who enjoy family history, thrillers or historical novels.

The Lost Empress is available on Amazon UK

My review of Steve Robinson’s Letters from the Dead

Letters from the Dead (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Book 7)

Letters from the Dead

Several years ago, I read the first three books in Steve Robinson’s mystery series about American genealogist Jefferson Tayte.  Now I have taken up the seventh story in which Jefferson travels to Scotland to help client, Damian Sinclair, break through the brick wall concealing the identity of his four times great grandfather.  But this is not just about family history, there is a legend of a valuable ruby stolen in India which the whole family hope to discover.  At first Jefferson is greatly impressed by the magnificent stately home where Sinclair lives with his elderly retainer, Murray, but within the walls he finds shabby rooms and unsafe floorboards.

The parts I most enjoyed were the letters of Jane Hardwick which began in 1822 as she returned to India, a widow and companion to a friend joining her husband in Jaipur.  Jane is a warm, caring woman who tries to look after teenage Arabella and her unhappy mother as their story gradually unfolds.  While Jefferson explores Sinclair’s bloodline, new letters from Jane appear mentioning the legendary gemstone. But he becomes increasingly aware of danger, as one by one, members of Sinclair’s family are murdered.

This book easily stands alone as a thrilling story of love, greed and treachery.  There are many red-herrings and I did not guess the outcome either in the 1820s or in the present-day denouement.  Highly recommended for anyone, not just those who love genealogy.

Letters from the Dead can be purchased on Amazon UK

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson drew upon his own family history for inspiration when he imagined the life and quest of his genealogist-hero, Jefferson Tayte. The talented London-based crime writer, who was first published at age 16, always wondered about his own maternal grandfather–“He was an American GI billeted in England during the Second World War,” Robinson says. “A few years after the war ended he went back to America, leaving a young family behind and, to my knowledge, no further contact was made. I traced him to Los Angeles through his 1943 enlistment record and discovered that he was born in Arkansas . . .” Robinson cites crime writing and genealogy as ardent hobbies–a passion that is readily apparent in his work. He can be contacted via his website www.steve-robinson.me or his blog at www.ancestryauthor.blogspot.com.

Blood Reckoning by Dan Wadell #TuesdayBook Blog #BookReview

Blood Reckoning

Blood Reckoning is the third book about DCI Grant Foster and his occasional working relationship with genealogist, Nigel Barnes.  The two are also linked by Grant’s colleague DS Heather Jenkins, who is Nigel’s girlfriend.  On this occasion the two men are working on separate cases. Nigel is straying away from his usual family research, as he investigates relationships and location for the causes of a young girl’s terrible nightmares.

Foster’s horrifying murder investigations take him back to his early career as a young police officer in Newcastle.  In 1992, a well-respected 73-year-old man had been murdered by two young boys.  On their release, they were given new identities but now Foster must revisit the scene and the circumstances of the murder.  This major part of the novel is a gripping detective investigation by a policeman determined to find the truth without favour. An intense fast-moving plot reveals the far-reaching repercussions of the original case and in an unusual twist Nigel Barnes becomes personally entangled with the latest events.

Unlike the earlier books, crime features more prominently than genealogy, so this novel may have a wider audience, but personally I have enjoyed each of the three books.  The characterisation of the two men is believable and each book stands on its own. A solid contemporary murder mystery.

Blood Reckoning can be purchased at Amazon UK

Dan Wadell

Dan Waddell is a journalist and author of more than a twenty works of fiction and non-fiction. His first crime novel, The Blood Detective, was nominated for three debut awards, included the celebrated CWA New Blood Dagger, and has been published in five countries. He is also the author of the bestselling guide that accompanied the award-winning BBC TV series, Who Do You Think You Are?

An exiled Yorkshireman, Dan has been a cricket fanatic since he witnessed his first England batting collapse aged six. He was a talented junior batsman, played representative cricket for Yorkshire and was even once, briefly, on the payroll of the county club itself. After being lost to journalism for several years, he made a misguided comeback and now captains Acton 2nd XI in the Middlesex County League where, in between taking painkillers, he tries and fails to pass on sage advice to young players. He covered two seasons of county cricket for The Daily Telegraph and his first ever published work was the history of BBC TV’s cricket coverage, And Welcome to the Highlights, where he got to interview David Gower, Richie Benaud and his boyhood hero, Geoffrey Boycott. It has been downhill ever since…

The Malice of Angels by Wendy Percival

Malice

We meet Esme Quentin, at the beginning of this third mystery, packing up to move to the Devon coast where she has friends and fond memories. But first she is disturbed by the appearance of Max Rainsford, an investigative journalist and ex-colleague of her deceased husband, Tim. Max wants information from notes left by Tim and he believes that Esme’s genealogy skills will also be of assistance.

Esme is reluctant to become involved and she is soon researching the mysterious wartime disappearance of her friend Ruth’s aunt, a nurse called Vivienne. The frustrating lack of any record about Vivienne leads Esme to think about Max’s interest in the murder of old soldier, Gerald Gallimore, in 1981 and the possibility of a link to the death of her husband. Soon Esme is making connections which lead her into danger, but she is determined to discover the truth about Tim and Vivienne.

Like the earlier stories in this series, there is a complicated but logical plot and fascinating information about past times, in this case undercover work during the second world war. Esme’s bravery and calm approach, make for a thrilling story which appeal to all readers, not just those interested in family history. It is good to finally discover the traumatic event which caused Esme’s face to be scarred and reinforces the quality of this compulsive series of books.

Percival

Wendy Percival was born in the West Midlands and grew up in rural Worcestershire. She moved to North Devon in the 1980s to start her teaching career.

An impulse buy of Writing Magazine prompted her to start writing seriously and after winning a short story competition and having another story published she turned to full length fiction.

The time-honoured ‘box of old documents in the attic’ stirred her interest in genealogy and it was while researching her Shropshire roots that she was inspired to write the first Esme Quentin mystery, Blood-Tied.

Genealogy continues to intrigue her and its mysteries provide fodder for her family history blog (http://familyhistorysecrets.blogspot.com) as well as ideas for further novels.

Wendy’s website is http://www.wendypercival.co.uk

The Malice of Angels is available at Ancestry UK

The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival #amreading #FridayReads

Indelible

This is the second Esme Quentin Mystery by Wendy Percival and it takes us to a charming part of North Devon. Esme, an historical researcher, returns to Warren Quay where she spent family holidays, 30 years ago, but this time she has gone to assist Maddy, cataloguing the archives of children’s charity SAFE. But her visit takes a dramatic turn when she discovers a dying woman on the beach. Never one to avoid problems, Esme tries to help the woman’s daughter, Neave, discover, why her mother had travelled to Devon from Berkshire and whether there was a connection to the father Neave has never met.

As in the first Esme Quentin Mystery, the reader can discover many interesting aspects of social and genealogical research but there is also a gritty and frightening mystery story. Dramatic events play out against the background of the Mary Ann, a replica nineteenth century sailing ship which has been turned in to a floating museum about the fate of the convicts transported to Australia. Esme and Neave are drawn into a dangerous situation but Detective Sergeant Collins does not believe there is anything to worry about.

I would recommend this to lovers of murder mysteries, intrepid women and those with an interest in family history. I look forward to Esme’s next adventure and perhaps learning more about her previous life.

You can purchase The Indelible Stain at Amazon UK

Wendy

Wendy Percival was born in the West Midlands and grew up in rural Worcestershire. She moved to North Devon in the 1980s to start her teaching career.

An impulse buy of Writing Magazine prompted her to start writing seriously and after winning a short story competition and having another story published she turned to full length fiction.

The time-honoured ‘box of old documents in the attic’ stirred her interest in genealogy and it was while researching her Shropshire roots that she was inspired to write the first Esme Quentin mystery, Blood-Tied.

Genealogy continues to intrigue her and its mysteries provide fodder for her family history blog (http://familyhistorysecrets.blogspot.com) as well as ideas for further novels.

Wendy’s website is http://www.wendypercival.co.uk