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Book Reviews - Fiction

cover for The Spyglass File

The Wicked Trade- by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A Morton Farrier Forensic Genealogist Story

Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1977083845
Price: £8.99

This is the seventh book in the Morton Farrier ‘Forensic Genealogist’ Series and is all about the smuggling of contraband that took place in Kent and Sussex in the early 1800’s and this book is set in the 1820’s and introduces you to smuggling which was also known as “The Wicked Trade”. 

Morton is persuaded to take on the case of searching for Ann Fothergill reluctantly as he is suspicious as to the motives of the family.  The family want to find out about her rags to riches story and Morton quickly discovers she was involved in the Aldington Gang.  This was an infamous Smuggling gang operating in Kent at this time.  The story is told through Ann’s eyes as well as the eyes of Samuel Bannister who was another high-ranking member of the gang and the book follows Ann’s association with the members of the Gang and her possible involvement in it.  The characters in the book even uses the language of the time and really transports you back to that time.

The book follows Morton’s research process exploring the various Archives.  Morton takes us with him to the Archives he visits and takes you though the various documents he uses to learn more about Ann Fothergill and the Aldington Gang.  Also intertwined is the continuing sage of  Morton’s family life and his relationships and the result of his own family research.

The book takes the reader down many different avenues and keeps you guessing right until the end and is a real page turner. 

I would thorough recommend this book and found it a hugely entertaining read! 

Reviewed by Debbie Bradley

June 2018

cover for The Spyglass File

The Spyglass File - by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A Morton Farrier Forensic Genealogist Story

Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN-13: 978-1537228532
Price: £7.99

This is the 4th book in the series. It is 277 pages long with additional biographic and historical information.

Morton reluctantly takes up a request to discover who the real parents were of his elderly client who had discovered she had been adopted. Morton, who had discovered that he had been adopted, is endeavouring to locate his own real ancestors. His client’s birth occurred during the course of World War Two. The story concentrates on a young WAAF, whose knowledge of German found her working for Y- Service, who intercepted German wireless messages.

The author once again weaves Morton’s modern research and conclusions, with the history of what really happened, with several twists and turns along the way as well as some dramatic episodes for Morton too . The book is well researched and written, so that the story leaves the reader wanting to find out what happens next like any good thriller or detective story.

It would make a good present for Christmas for a fan of the series or someone who wants a good read especially if they are interested in family history and enjoy mysteries or thrillers.

Reviewed by David Lambert

November 2016

cover for The America Ground

The America Ground - a genealogical crime mystery by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1517170042
Price £7.99

The history of part of Hastings known as ‘the America Ground’ forms the background to this interesting murder mystery story. The America Ground really existed. It comprised an eight acre no-man’s land outside the town boundary, occupied by a thousand inhabitants by the 1820s. Hastings tried to exert control over the area to the resentment of the residents, who declared themselves to be an Independent State of the USA. The Crown successfully claimed ownership of the land so eventually the residents were forced to leave.

Morton is persuaded to discover who murdered (180 years ago) a woman, resident on the America Ground, whose portrait is to be the auctioned shortly. He embarks on the case and discovers more than he bargained for!

This is the third novel, readers of the previous two novels involving Morton Farrier ‘the forensic genealogist ‘ will know what to expect and will not be disappointed.

The author’s skilful juxtaposition of Morton’s research in the archives and online and what actually happened to the families being researched, makes for interesting reading. He has some narrow escapes from persons who do not want him to succeed in his research, whilst at the same time he furthers his personal family history search for his real father. Well written and an enjoyable ‘whodunit’ and thriller.

Reviewed by David Lambert FHS of Cheshire & Metcalfe Society

January 2016

cover for The Lost Ancestor

The Lost Ancestor - by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A Morton Farrier Forensic Genealogist Story

Published by: Good Reads

This is the second book in what promises to be series of Crime Mysteries with a genealogical twist.

The hero is Morton Farrier who works as a ‘forensic’ genealogist. He is asked to trace Mary Mercer by his dying client who wants to know what happened to his aunt. Morton embarks on an interesting genealogical journey not without its surprises and danger. The story is set in two time zones. The present in which Morton follows up leads and traces the family history of the Mercers, using aids known to family historians. The past, revealing to readers what actually happened to them.

Needless to say the hero does manage to ascertain what had occurred and the reason for the secrecy of the aunt’s disappearance. It’s a good story and well written like the first. Possibly less dramatic than the first book in the series but encouraging you to turn the page to see what happens next. It would make a good present for a family historian who enjoys detective stories.

Reviewed by David Lambert

March 2015

cover for Hiding the Past

‘Hiding the Past’ A Genealogical Crime Mystery
- by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN 1492737429

There are a small but increasing number of authors writing books whose hero uses family history or genealogical techniques and skills to solve mysteries of murder and mayhem!

This book is the first novel by the author and is the first of what promises to be a series involving Morton Farrier, ‘the forensic genealogist’.

The story starts with a presumed murder of a mother in 1940s wartime Britain. It then moves to the present and finds Morton struggling, unsuccessfully, to find the birth of the father of his client, who 5 days earlier had paid Morton a very handsome fee! His client dies suddenly- seemingly suicide but was it? Morton fortunately was quick to bank the cheque as he did not have any problem in it being cleared before his client’s death!

Interwoven in the story are Morton’s own ambivalent feelings to his adopted father and brother with flashbacks to Wartime Britain as Morton discovers more. All contribute to an entertaining read. The book, like every good ‘thriller’ will not allow you to put it down. You do want to know what Morton’s next attempt to trace the parentage of his client is going to reveal and with it the consequences, increasingly dire, as he edges nearer to the truth. Being a forensic genealogist clearly is not without its hazards as readers soon discover.

Morton follows up leads and uses records known to all family historians and eventually with several clandestine escapades, which James Bond would have been proud of, the mystery of his late client’s ancestors unravels.

I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book!

For more details about the author see his website www.nathangoodwin.co.uk. Follow him on Twitter @nathangoodwin76 and ‘Like him’ on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nathandylangoodwin.

Reviewed by David Lambert

April 2014

cover for The Cuckoo's Daughter

The Cuckoo's Daughter by Griselda Gifford

Published by Country Books
ISBN 978-1-906789-87-9
Price £6.29

Griselda Gifford is an established author who has written more than 30 books for children and short stories for adults. Her latest short (167 pages) novel, aimed at pre-teen girls, is set in rural Surrey in 1799. The novel is written in the first person and tells of a few months in the life of Louisa La Coast. She has lived since birth with foster-parents on their farm, and kept in ignorance of her parentage. The action in the novel centres on what happens when she begins to question this. It is based on a true story, that of the author's great great grandmother, and is an example of family history being fictionalised to bring a forebear’s story to a modern audience. In the author’s words “I felt her story had to be told as she was so badly treated by her real parents”.

It is a domestic account, tailored to its young audience. Louisa’s search for her origins is interwoven with the progress of her relationship with Captain Godfrey Macdonald, a penniless younger son brought up in Edinburgh. There is no reference to the political context, and only a passing mention by Captain Macdonald to a “perhaps ill-considered invasion” of the Low Counties. It is crisply written and fast-paced. However, to my adult perspective any possiblity of tension is undermined by an over-detailed blurb which summarises almost all the plot, with remaining uncertainty removed for anyone reading the author’s introduction.

At a time when concern is expressed about the ageing profile of local societies, this is an example of what can be done to make the lives of ancestors more accessible to a (much) younger audience. However Louisa's life and choices are far from typical of the agricultural or factory workers that are the norm for many family historians.

Reviewed by Karin Thompson (FFHS)

October 2013



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