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 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.