Disclosure: While I was given this book for free in exchange for a review, I was under no obligation to like it. The opinions expressed are my honest views. I will not receive any commission on sales of books by this author. There are no affiliate links in this post.
I was honored when Nathan Dylan Goodwin contacted me several weeks ago offering a copy of his latest genealogical crime mystery The Wicked Trade, number 7 in the Morton Farrier series. Heck yeah! I love everything about these books. There is a crime and there is genealogy, two of my favorite topics. The books are a “series” in that each one is a story of the latest research project undertaken by Morton Farrier, a professional genealogist, but they can stand alone, so if you haven’t read any of the others, you will not miss a beat starting with the latest one.
Just like the other novels, it is a story within a story with chapters alternating between the past and present. Always in the “present” chapters is the story of Morton researching the question he has been hired to answer along with the backstory of his journey tracing his own family history as an adoptee. In the “past” chapters is THE MAIN MYSTERY unfolding just as Morton learns it by following clues to cemeteries, archives, museums, libraries, historical societies, and significant sites.
In The Wicked Trade Morton is hired by the great-grandson of Ann Fothergill to learn more of her life, how she went from being a drunk and a vagrant with a criminal record to an educated business woman in seven years. A secondary request was to learn if the family legend about barrels of gold guineas being hidden were true, and if the barrels might still be there, wherever “there” was in the 1820s.
Morton’s challenge would be finding genealogical records as the 1820s pre-dated census records and civil registration. If you have done any family research, you can feel his pain. But Morton is truly the man for the job, and he gives us amateur genealogists hope that we can solve our difficult puzzles too. With only a letter, a newspaper clipping dated 1820, and names gathered from later census records, Morton sets about following the bread crumbs that lead him to suspect Ann Fothergill had been involved with the Aldington Gang, a notorious band of smugglers along the Kent and Sussex borders of England. Possibly she was involved in a murder as well.
The social history that Nathan weaves into this story makes heroes of “the bad guys” and villains of the ones upholding the law. Those of us who have a horse thief, a bootlegger, or some other “black sheep” in the family can appreciate how the legal system of the times could make a man feel so defeated that resorting to a life of crime might be the only way to keep food on the table and his family out of the workhouse.
I am always sad when the story ends, but at the same time I look forward to the historical notes that Nathan includes at the back of the book. As he so often does, he inserts his fictional characters into real events and allows them to interact with real people documented in the very sorts of records that Morton Farrier uses in his research. Like a magician revealing his secrets, Nathan takes the reader behind the scenes to show how the book came together.
Now the wait is on for another Morton Farrier mystery to solve. And I want to know how he will get on with his half-brother.
Related Review: The Spyglass File
© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.