Lofty Ideals and Genealogical Mystery Writing

So yesterday I am up early, assisted by my partner in crime, ready to empty the second half of the loft in preparation for the arrival of the loft insulating men the following day. We are just about to open the loft hatch when the phone rings. It is the loft insulating men who are parked nearby looking for the house. I can verify that a nearly seventy year old and a not much younger female with a heart condition can empty half a very full loft in less than an hour. What they feel like afterwards is another story.

I have promised to meet my friend to check a local graveyard for new memorials that have been erected since we indexed the churchyard a few years ago. The loft insulating van is parked right next to my front gate and insulating material is being pumped from it into my loft. I cannot get out of the gate. I do not have a back gate. In fact my house doesn’t have a back at all. Well, that is nonsense of course, it does have a back, I just can’t access it. Hmmm. My only method of escape is to clamber over a wall that divides my garden from my neighbours’ drive. I heave myself on to the top of the wall. Inevitably it has been raining. Sitting on a wet wall is not the most comfortable thing I have ever done. I leap into the unknown before the dampness can penetrate too far. I have had help getting on to the wall, I haven’t worked out how to accomplish the return journey.

After a day of ‘Why on earth am I keeping that?’ my evening was spent talking to a small but perfectly formed local history group. I always like December slots as they usually involve festive fare and sure enough there was restorative mulled wine on offer. I was talking about Remember Then: memories of 1946-1969 and the audience had brought in a lovely array of period toys for display. I also managed to sell books to 40% of the audience, even better!

Another genealogical mystery writer out of the advent box today. Again of course the books are set in the present but hark back to the past. So, let me introduce Steve Robinson. His anti-hero is American genealogist Jefferson Tayte, whose bumbling attempts at relationships echo through the series of books. I have to say that if genealogy was as dangerous a career as these books imply no one would be advised to take it up. Almost every one of Tayte’s cases results in threats to his life. Mind you, the phenomenal sums he seems to be paid may make up for this. Although there are unrealistic aspects to Tayte’s working life, this doesn’t matter. A ‘true’ account would not make good fiction. The first book In the Blood is set in Cornwall; Tayte’s enviable casebook takes him all over the world. A centuries old murder is solved thanks to his efforts. To the Grave sees Tayte in England again, unraveling a secret that has been kept since the days of World War II. In The Last Queen of England, fact and fiction are intertwined as Tayte solves a puzzle, set by members of The Royal Society, relating to the rightful heir to the throne. Then another change of time period, as, in The Lost Empress, he focuses on a 1914 shipwreck that has remained relatively unknown in the shadow of the Titanic and Lusitania. Kindred returns to a World War II backdrop and here we learn more of Tayte’s own search for his family, a thread that runs through all the books. I am eagerly awaiting the sixth book in the series, which is due out in May.

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