Genealogical Thrillers

I'm on my summer holidays at the moment. Its a time to catch up with all forms of relaxation, including reading for entertainment. So forgive me, if just this once, I make a departure from talking about non-fiction and reference books in this family history blog. 

Before I went on holiday, there was a conversation in the Research Centre which involved our colleague Maureen talking about genealogical thrillers/mysteries. I was intrigued. 

My favourite genre when reading fiction, is historical fiction. I do also read a lot of thrillers and mysteries too. 

Family history research itself gives the researcher such satisfaction when a mystery is resolved. So the idea of bundling all these subjects together to create a fictional genre delighted me. 

I resolved that my summer reading list would be based on genealogical fiction. 

My Twitter friend Alex (@wychwoodnz) gave me a few titles to add to the ones that Maureen had already suggested.  

The blood detective by Dan Waddell
When the naked, mutilated body of a man is found in a Notting Hill graveyard and the police investigation led by Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his colleague Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins yields few results, a closer look at the corpse reveals that what looked at first glance like superficial knife wounds on the victim’s chest is actually a string of carved letters and numbers, an index number referring to a file in city archives containing birth and death certificates and marriage licenses. Family historian Nigel Barnes is put on the case. As one after another victim is found in various locations all over London, each with a different mutilation but the same index number carved into their skin, Barnes and the police work frantically to figure out how the corresponding files are connected. With no clues to be found in the present, Barnes must now search the archives of the past to solve the mystery behind a string of 100-year-old murders. Only then will it be possible to stop the present series of gruesome killings, but will they be able to do so before the killer ensnares his next victim? Barnes, Foster, and Jenkins enter a race against time and before the end of the investigation, one of them will get much too close for comfort. 

Blood atonement by Dan Waddell
Genealogist Nigel Barnes's second case leads him into the dark heart of the Mormon church and a gruesome, century-old secret. Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster is called to a homicide at the home of a single mother in Queens Park, London. Her throat has been cut from ear to ear and her body dumped in the garden. Her daughter and only child, Naomi, who has just turned fourteen that day, is missing. As the hours tick by, the feeling grows among Foster's colleagues that this is most likely becoming a double-murder inquiry. With nothing in the present to indicate a motive, Foster decides to delve into the dead woman's past only to find out she does not have one. He calls on genealogist Nigel Barnes. The trail takes Barnes back to late Victorian England where it abruptly ends with a young couple who came from the United States to England. Nigel's quest takes him on trip through the violent history of the Mormon church as he and Foster race to solve a shameful, long-kept secret that is about to have bloody repercussions in the present, and for which someone is seeking vengeance. 

In the blood by Fay Sampson
Suzie Fewings is a keen family history researcher. She's delighted when she discovers an ancestor with the same name as her teenage son. But what she finds out about the seventeenth-century Thomas casts a darker shadow than she expected. When her own Tom's girlfriend is found dead in mysterious circumstances, Suzie finds it hard to suppress her growing fears that Tom has inherited more than a name from his predecessor. 

Pale as the dead by Fiona Mountain
Natasha Blake is a genealogist or "ancestor" detective. Her investigations are literally a matter of life and death, involving her in secrets, scandals and supernatural happenings; forgotten tragedies and buried crimes. This time she delves into the pre-Raphaelite past in search of a missing girl. 

Bloodline by Fiona Mountain
An old man who had commissioned a family tree of his granddaughter's boyfriend, is shot dead at his isolated farm in the Cotswolds, just as shocking facts about the past are brought to light. Is there a link? Seemingly unconnected yet haunting stories begin to emerge - two young soldiers - one German, one British - playing football in no man's land on Christmas Day 1914; a young couple's future ruined; Second World War land girls, inseparable friends torn apart; and the eerie echo of a child in an English country house Natasha's investigation must solve a cold-blooded, blue-blooded crime, hidden for generations in the bluebell woods at Poacher's Dell.

The blood ballad by Rett MacPherson
Genealogist and mother of three Torie O’Shea is out birding on the cliffs of the Mississippi River as part of New Kassell, Missouri’s first ever bird-watching Olympics, when someone starts shooting at her and her partner. Disoriented and running for their lives, they stumble over an antique trunk and discover a badly beaten dead body stuffed inside. Soon after this disturbing event, musicologist Glen Morgan shows up at the Kendall House, Torie’s new textile museum, claiming to be Torie’s cousin and to have proof that Torie’s grandfather secretly may have written a number of popular songs for the Morgan Family Players, who were famous country music singers. Being a genealogist and the head of the local historical society, Torie doesn’t appreciate anyone shaking up a family tree that she has spent years putting together, but Glen’s old recordings are more than she can resist. After a little digging in the library and some serious snooping into the shooting, Torie starts to uncover secrets about her family and the town that even she didn’t know. 

All books were fun to read. I enjoyed reading about the main character using everyday genealogical tools and research methods to solve their mysteries. 

The author I have enjoyed the most so far is Dan Waddell. Although Alex has recommended I also read Steve Robinson's In the Blood - so I must be off to make a suggestion for purchase, as we don't have that title in as yet. 

Can you recommend any other genealogical fiction books to read? 

Happy reading! 

This entry was posted on Thursday, 19 January 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

2 Responses to “Genealogical Thrillers”

  1. Thrillers
    When the victim of a corporate scam finds himself deep in hostile Africa, his discovery of a rare-earth mineral sparks a chase for evil riches; greed and lust must be overcome to keep an arcane tribal secret from revelation.

    The catalyst is a corporate fraud. An innocent man on the run where danger of every kind lurks – and where brutal love joins a pair of fugitives in a quest to hide a shocking discovery from being exposed to corruption and greed.
    An exciting thriller with lots of twists and turns in a forbidding landscape.

  2. "Where's Merrill?" by Irish genealogist Gearoid O'Neary is a fascinating ancestry research novel based upon a true genealogy project, available for Kindle at Amazon. It is a uniquely crafted mystery thriller based upon real life historical events. In fact, it is two inter-related stories in one novel set in different timeframes, namely the past and the present. An Irish genealogist called Jed is commissioned by Tim, an American client, who needs to understand more about his mysterious maternal ancestry. Fate had dictated that Tim never got the chance to meet his grandparents, and he didn’t even know the name of his mother’s father. She refused to tell Tim, even on her death bed. Why? That was a question which troubled Tim as he witnessed his mother's melancholy throughout his adult life, and after her death he resolved to find some answers - and some peace of mind.
    It was also a question which intrigued Jed after he learned that Tim’s grandfather simply “disappeared”. No death record, no burial - nothing. Jed identifies the “missing” grandfather to be Merrill Harrison. Within weeks, Jed becomes obsessed with Merrill’s life, as he embarks on a personal crusade to find Merrill’s resting place on Tim's behalf. More fundamentally, Jed needs to fully understand the complex twists and turns linked to Merrill’s existence and eventual disappearance which take the Irish researcher on a fascinating trail stretching back to the pioneering immigrants of Midwest America all the way to the White House during WWII.
    A web of worrying deceit woven by Tim’s ancestors is gradually unraveled. Once hidden family secrets are exposed. Jed turns from genealogist into cold case detective as he comes to the conclusion that multiple criminal misdeeds have been covered up … but where is Merrill?


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