Tag Archives: family history mysteries

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Fred’s Funeral’ by Sandy Day

None of us have the luxury of hearing what is said about us after we are dead. In Fred’s Funeral, Canadian author Sandy Day tells the story of one soldier, returned from the First World War, who felt misunderstood and sidelined by his family. Only when he dies in 1986, seventy years after he went to war, does he observe his own funeral and find out what they really think of him. Sandy Day

Fred Sadler has lived his post-fighting years in one institution or another. Clearly he is suffering from some form of shell shock or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but this goes undiagnosed. There are periods of living in boarding houses, his family is unwilling to have him live with them, until his behaviour deteriorates and he is sent back to hospital. Now dead and trapped as an unwilling ghost, Fred observes his funeral presided over by Viola, the sister-in-law he always disliked. As the mourners sit around and share memories of Fred, he watches, frustration mounting, as he is unable to correct their observations. They portray a ‘Fred Sadler’ which he does not recognise. I kept expecting something to happen; a true memory of the war, an event, which would explain Fred’s illness and set the record straight with his family. But it didn’t come. The story is told in linear fashion; the anecdotes of Viola and the remaining family are interchanged with Fred’s reaction to these stories plus a few flashbacks to the war. Clearer signposting of these sections would make reading easier.

Day clearly captures the time and place of post-Great War Canada, a subject which is new to me. However I found the repeated digressions into the extended family history and details of the lifestyle a distraction from the main story [so many cousins, great-great grandparents and houses]. I so wanted to cut some of these unrelated sections to allow a stronger novel to push its way to the surface; simpler, more powerful. The inclusion of so many family details makes me wonder if the core of Fred’s Funeral is a memoir, inspired by a real family, from which the author feels unable to cut some relations and take the leap into pure fiction.

The portrayal of Fred’s experience at Whitby Hospital for the Insane is heart breaking, as is the disinterest of his family. For them, Fred is an embarrassment. It is a sad indictment of our treatment of soldiers returning from war and our ignorance that the effect of fighting can last a lifetime. It is easy to assume that in the 21stcentury this has changed, but the modern day strand of Day’s story suggests it hasn’t. It is as if Fred’s life has paused. “He banished feeling anything long ago. He feels timid. He feels tentative, like every step he takes is on a thick layer of ice and at any moment, he might crash through into a frenzy of drowning.”

At the end of the novel, there is no ‘reveal’, no surprise, and I felt a little let down. Overall, this is a thoughtful examination of how family tensions, petty jealousies and misunderstandings can spread down the generations. Gossip and guesses are transformed into ‘truth’.

Day also writes poetry and this shows in her neat turn of phrase. For example, cousin Gertrude puts on her eyeglasses which “magnify her grey eyes like two tadpoles in a jar”.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#FamilyHistory #Mystery FRED’S FUNERAL by Sandy Day https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6h via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Genealogy #Mystery ‘Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin @NathanDGoodwin 

An unusual hybrid of genealogy and record checking plus amateur detective stuff makes Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodwin a worthy page turner for a holiday week. Anyone who loves family tree research, and a good crime novel, will like this with its narrative stretching from World War Two to present-day politicians.Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Within days of taking on a new client, genealogist Morton Farrier knows this case is different: one, his client pays a fee of £50,000 straight into his bank account; two, the client shoots himself in the head. Or does he? Helped by his girlfriend Police Community Support Officer Juliette, Farrier studies the background of his, now dead, client, Peter Coldrick, a study which leads him to two key years: 1944 and 1987. Official records for Coldrick’s descendants have mysteriously disappeared, Morton is being followed by a glossy black 4×4, and it may be his imagination but a usually helpful archives officer is proving difficult to pin down.

Morton is an interesting character, adopted, rubbing along awkwardly with his widowed adoptive father and soldier brother, quick with a sharp word whilst knowing he should be kinder and hating himself for it. I also liked the clear drawing of his setting around the Kent & Sussex towns and villages of Sedelscombe, Rye, Tenterden and Lewes, an area I lived in and loved, Goodwin makes them feel real on the page. This is the first of, at the time of writing, four Morton Farrier novels, so expect to read more about Morton’s own adoption story in future books.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley
The Storm Sister’ by Lucinda Riley
The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #Mystery HIDING THE PAST by @NathanDGoodwin https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5i via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh

One day Grace Chalk sees her boyfriend standing at the other side of the street. Except Alex is dead. And so starts Deerleap by Sarah Walsh, a combination of love story [Grace and Alex], detective story [is Alex really alive, if so where is he?] and the nature of blame [marriage breakdown] and grief. Walsh has written an assured story, handling the emotional complexities with a gentle touch making the twists and turns even more surprising when they arrive. Sarah Walsh

When the story opens, seven years have passed since the car accident in which Grace’s father and her stepmother Polly were killed, her sister Rita seriously injured, and her boyfriend Alex disappeared. Alex’s body was never found. Rita has never talked about what happened, she is emotionally vulnerable, spiky and prone to hitting her sister. Grace’s mother still resents being deserted by her husband and Grace worries that her anger will turn into depression and suicide. At the centre of the story stands Deerleap, the remote country house where Alex grew up and where Grace visits her father as he sets up his new home with Polly. It all sounds idyllic, except seven years later, Deerleap stands empty awaiting the legal deadline when Alex can be declared legally dead and the house sold. This is the catalyst which sparks this chain of events.

The emotional vulnerability in Grace’s family made me at times question her own reporting of events, we are told the story entirely through her eyes. She is an artist, painting portraits of from her studio in Bristol. She looks into people’s faces and sees the truth. Can she find out the truth of what happened to Alex?

The Somerset countryside sounds marvellous, a stark contrast to the streets of Bristol where Grace’s troubled mother and sister live. The family ties, responsibilities and lies create a web of mystery through which you glimpse the answer. And then there is a twist at the end that I didn’t expect. This is a quiet book which really grew on me. A psychological mystery, rather than a psychological thriller, it explores the nature of grief, depression, guilt and love.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A #familyhistory #mystery DEERLEAP by Sarah Walsh https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5e via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell @danwaddell

A fascinating mixture of modern crime novel and family history research, Blood Atonement takes Nigel Barnes from London to the USA as he races against time to find answers for Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster.Dan Waddell

Foster’s first case after returning to work following injuries sustained in The Blood Detective [first in this genealogical crime series] is a dead actress and her missing daughter. Links to the actress’s past, mystery about her family and unanswered questions, lead Foster to call in the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes. Both men are strong characters who walk off the page, both loners of a kind, both lonely in love.

This is a fast-moving mystery revolving around what happened to Horton and Sarah Rowley, who we know from flashbacks were teenage sweethearts planning to run away, but who only appear in records in the UK from 1891. Before that, they cease to exist. Where did they come from, and why were they running? Simply because their parents disapproved of the marriage, or something more sinister? And what has this to do with the dead actress found lying face down on her lawn in London? As he searches for the missing 14-year old, Foster finds chilling parallels with Leonie, another 14-year old who disappeared three years earlier and has never been found. As links to a cult are uncovered, attention focuses back on Sarah and Horton.

A satisfying well-written plot which manages to slip in a little history too.
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Read my review of the first in the series, The Blood Detective.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#FamilyHistory #Mystery BLOOD ATONEMENT by @danwaddell https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4E via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival @wendy_percival

When the key character of a novel goes on holiday or visits a picturesque place, you know something is going to happen. Genealogist Esme Quentin in The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival goes to Devon to help a friend archive the records of a local charity for underprivileged children. Second in the Esme Quentin genealogical mysteries, this is an enjoyable story of convict history set in a beautiful Devon location. But beneath that beauty lurk fraud, lies and revenge. Hatred and bitterness reach from the past to the current day. genealogy

Up early on her first morning, Esme takes a walk on the wild beach and finds a body. The woman, just alive, seems to have fallen from the cliffs. Her last words, spoken to Esme, are key to the mystery which follows. “I lied,” she says. Beside her body is an old sepia photograph. The police don’t take seriously Esme’s concerns that the woman’s last words combined with the mystery photograph indicate foul play, so Esme decides to identify the family in the photograph.

Meanwhile, Neave Shaw is worrying about her mother who has disappeared after sending a confused, possibly drunken, email. Worried and not understanding her grandmother’s dismissive attitude to Bella’s disappearance, Neave presses for answers but is interrupted by a knock on the door. It is the police. Neave arrives in Warren Quay and asks Esme for help in understanding why her mother died. Esme quickly puts a name to one of the people in the sepia photograph: Sarah Baker, a thief who was transported as a convict in 1837. Sarah’s story adds a fascinating layer of history to this whodunnit and whydunnit mystery. But what is Sarah’s link to Neave’s dead mother? And did Bella fall or was she pushed? Esme’s research into Sarah’s convict history is helped by the presence of the Mary Ann, a restored nineteenth-century sailing ship with an on-board museum about the history of convict transportation.

The last few pages move at top speed as Esme discovers hidden identities and double-crossings and races to find Neave to warn her of danger. She knows that whoever killed Bella to protect the secret will not hesitate to kill again. I would have liked to read more about Sarah Baker’s journey on a convict ship to Australia and her life there, showing some of the facts rather than having Esme discover them in a dry record search. So much tantalising history lies beneath the surface of this story. I found some elements confusing at times as the story moves so fast and also because of the number of aliases and marriages; this might have been eased by merging or dropping some minor characters, for example Ruth/Maddy, Dan/Felix. But Percival’s characterisation of some minor characters was spot on; I particularly liked retired schoolteacher Miss Hodge and Neave’s irascible grandmother Gwen.

This is a well-paced genealogical thriller enriched by its Australian and Irish links and demonstrating how the resentment of wrongdoing can persevere across the generations.
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Read my review of Blood-Tied, the first Esme Quentin book.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #mystery THE INDELIBLE STAIN by @wendy_percival https://wp.me/paZ3MX-44 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Pale as the Dead’ by @FionaMountain

This is an unusual mix of genealogy mystery and history, centred on the glamorous Pre-Raphaelite artists and Lizzie Siddal, the girl in the famous ‘Ophelia’ painting. Ancestry detective Natasha Blake meets a mysterious, beautiful young woman, Bethany, who is re-enacting the Lizzie Siddal scene for a photographer. Bethany confides in Natasha her fear that her family is cursed following the deaths of her sister and mother. After asking Natasha to research her family tree, Bethany goes missing. Has she run from a failing love affair, committed suicide, or has she been murdered?

Fiona Mountain

The trail is cold. Natasha must turn detective in two senses: she searches the birth, marriage and death records, census returns and wills, to find Natasha’s ancestors; at the same time, she is being followed by someone driving a red Celica. Adam, the photographer, is also Bethany’s boyfriend but Natasha feels there is more to his story than he is telling.

The narrative wandered rather from the central story, complicated unnecessarily by Natasha’s own history and love life which added little. Perhaps this could have been avoided by telling part of the story from Lizzie Siddal’s point of view. There were so many peripheral characters, both in the present time and the historical story, that at times I lost my way. I was also unconvinced by the threat to Natasha – the red car, the break-in. These jarred, almost as if added as an afterthought to appeal to lovers of crime fiction which I think was unnecessary. The kernel of the story about Bethany and Lizzie is fascinating in its own right.

Pale as the Dead is the first of two Natasha Blake novels.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
PALE AS THE DEAD by @FionaMountain#FamilyHistory #Mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3z via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival @wendy_percival

A mysterious beginning with an invalid, threatened by a stranger. Just who is this woman and what is her connection to Esme Quentin? BloodTied by Wendy Percival is the first of the Esme Quentin series of genealogical mysteries.

Esme’s older sister Elizabeth is attacked and in hospital in a coma. Why was she in a town forty miles from home? Did she fall, or was she pushed? And who are the two people in photographs hidden in Elizabeth’s treasured locket? At the start of this story, Esme knows who her family is but once she starts to dig into Elizabeth’s odd accident/attack she uncovers a complicated family history that had me confused at times. This genealogical mystery involves a long-ago family argument, a derelict canal and a feisty elderly lady in a residential home. Esme is a bit like a dog with a bone, she won’t give up despite getting the jitters in the dark of the night.

Two things would have made my reading experience easier. Esme’s history – scar, widow, background as investigative journalist – was thinly drawn so it felt as if I was reading part two of a two-book series. The family twists and turns were such that I was often lost, perhaps because so much was told as Esme discovered paperwork, rather than seeing the action on the page by the characters concerned. That said, the menace builds nicely though I read to the end to find out what happened to Polly, the feisty lady.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
‘The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley
‘The Storm Sister’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BLOOD-TIED by @wendy_percival #genealogy #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-38 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell @danwaddell

I raced through The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell, a hybrid mixture of crime and genealogy mystery. Waddell is also a journalist and genealogist, having written Who Do You Think You Are?: The Genealogy Handbook accompanying the Who Do You Think You Are? television series. So, he knows his stuff and it shows. Usually a crime novel features a lead detective and team, here we have two lead characters: Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster, and genealogist Nigel Barnes.

Dan Waddell

Waddell’s plotting is ingenious. The past really does come back to haunt the present. There is a serial killer in West London who leaves a clue carved into the skin of his victims. This clue prompts DCI Foster to call on the specialist help of researcher Barnes. The murder hunt takes parallel paths: Foster chases living suspects, Barnes searches the archives for the true 1879 story of a serial killer, his victims and their descendants. What is the link? The final chapters are a thrilling race against time.

I really enjoyed this. The linking of historical and present-day crime was clever, and the characterization was convincing and not of the stereotypical detective form. An enjoyable mixture of fast-moving crime novel with genealogical research and historical gems about this particular part of London, its transformation from Victorian times to the 21stcentury, and its dark history of crime. There is a second novel featuring the same characters, Blood Atonement.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE BLOOD DETECTIVE by @danwaddell #FamilyHistory #Mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-2P via #AdoptionStoriesBlog