Genealogical Sleuths – Fiction for you to Enjoy 3

In recent years, several authors of fiction have chosen genealogical sleuths as their main characters. In general, these are crime novels but frequently they have a ‘time-slip’ facet, so that they also contain elements of historical fiction. I have to say that if genealogy was as dangerous a career as some of these books imply, no one would be advised to take it up. The mundane, might be more realistic but would not make for very exciting fiction. I thought that I would introduce you to a few of my favourite exponents of this genre. There are others and I hope that readers will share details of those that they have enjoyed. In an effort to be fair, I have listed the authors in alphabetical order.

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Nathan Dylan Goodwin writes about ‘forensic genealogist’ Morton Farrier. Two threads run throughout the books that have been published so far. The first relates to Morton’s quest for his own ancestry and the other is his developing relationship with his police officer partner Juliette. There are four full length novels, Hiding the Past, The Lost Ancestor, The American Ground and The Spyglass Files, plus three shorter adventures in the series. In these, Goodwin writes of Edwardian Britain, Suffragettes, the Western Front, The Battle of Britain and his home town of Hastings.

M J Lee introduces us to former detective Jayne Sinclair. So far, there are three books in the series, The Irish Inheritance, which is a case that centres on the Easter Rising, whilst The Somme Legacy covers both the first world war and the suffragette movement. The American Candidate sees Jayne investigate the background of a potential candidate for the American Presidency and takes us back to the 1940s.

John Nixon’s genealogist is also female, in the shape of Madeleine Porter. Her adventures include, The Cuckoo Clock, Stolen Futures, Family Shadows and Another Summer, which revolves around a First World War mystery. The Cost of Silence begins with the murder of a genealogist. Have they been silenced before they could uncover something inconvenient?

Wendy Percival has also created a female genealogist in the shape of Esme Quentin and her career is slightly less hazardous than that of some of the male genealogists that we have met so far. The first book, Blood Tied, begins with the murder of an unidentified victim and unravels a sixty year old family mystery. The Indelible Stain takes us from a dying woman on a North Devon beach, to the story of a young girl’s transportation to Australia. The third book, The Malice of Angelsfocuses on the Special Operations Executive in the second world war. There is also an Esme novella Death of a Cuckoo.

Steve Robinson’s anti-hero is American genealogist Jefferson Tayte. Many of his cases take him to the UK and his bumbling attempts at relationships echo throughout the series of books. In this series, we have another genealogist who is seeking out his own birth family. The first book, In the Blood, is set in Cornwall; a centuries old murder is solved thanks to his efforts. To the Grave sees Tayte unraveing a secret that has been kept since the days of World War 11. Kindred is also set in World War 11. In The Last Queen of England, fact and fiction are intertwined as Tayte races against time to solve a puzzle, set by members of The Royal Society, relating to the rightful heir to the throne. The Lost Empress focuses on a 1914 shipwreck that has remained relatively unknown in the shadow of the Titanic and Lusitania. The recently released Dying Games finds Tayte investigating the bizarre deaths of twin brothers.

Happy Reading!

About Janet Few

Janet Few is an experienced family, social and community historian who writes and lectures regularly on these subjects throughout the English speaking world. She is well known for her appearances as her alter ego ‘Mistress Agnes’ who aids Janet’s work as an historical interpreter. Janet is the manager of Swords and Spindles, a company providing living history presentations for history groups and schools. For further information see

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