The best genealogical mystery novels

Who am I?

I inhabit the past. You may find me lurking in my four-hundred-year-old Devon cottage, or spot me thinly disguised as the formidable Mistress Agnes, a good wife of a certain age who leads a somewhat chaotic life during the mid-seventeenth century. I write, I read, I research, I share my passion, I write some more. My life revolves around reading, writing and researching history. Having spent the past forty-five years unravelling my own family’s story and loving both historical and crime novels, what could be better than a book that combines all these elements. I have to say that if genealogy was as dangerous a career as some of these books imply, no one would be advised to take it up!


I wrote...

Sins as Red as Scarlet: a Devon Town in Turmoil

By Janet Few,

Book cover of Sins as Red as Scarlet: a Devon Town in Turmoil

What is my book about?

Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war, and of religious dissent. The novel sheds new light on the true story of three impoverished women who were condemned to death in 1682 for the crime of witchcraft.

I particularly wanted to draw modern parallels, so in the novel, we also meet Martha, who is living in a slightly alternative version of 2020. Sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth-century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

The books I picked & why

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Hiding the Past

By Nathan Dylan Goodwin,

Book cover of Hiding the Past

Why this book?

Peter Coldrick is a man without a past, that is until he hires forensic genealogist, Morton Farrier. There are those who will go to any lengths to ensure that Coldrick’s origins remain hidden. Morton’s investigations lead him into danger and make him realise that he needs to begin the quest to uncover the story of his own hidden past.


Blood-Tied

By Wendy Percival,

Book cover of Blood-Tied

Why this book?

When Esme Quentin’s sister, Elizabeth, is assaulted, Esme discovers that her sister has a secret. Who is the elderly, Mrs Roberts and what is her connection to Elizabeth? Esme’s attempt to unravels the sixty-year-old family mystery becomes a hazardous mission and she has to reassess her perception of blood ties.


The Cost of Silence

By John Nixon,

Book cover of The Cost of Silence

Why this book?

The Cost of Silence begins with the murder of a genealogist. Have they been silenced before they could uncover something inconvenient? Twenty-three years later, can genealogist Madeline Porter retrace the research of the dead genealogist and uncover a motive for his murder? More to the point, will she put herself in danger if she does?


The Last Queen of England

By Steve Robinson,

Book cover of The Last Queen of England

Why this book?

In The Last Queen of England, fact, and fiction are intertwined as genealogist Jefferson Tayte races against time to solve a puzzle, set by members of The Royal Society, relating to the rightful heir to the throne. Can Tayte crack the code and solve the mystery before there is yet another murder? Can he avoid becoming yet another victim of the conspiracy?


File Under Fear (Anna Ames Mysteries)

By Geraldine Wall,

Book cover of File Under Fear (Anna Ames Mysteries)

Why this book?

Probate genealogist, Anna Ames, is given the task of researching the history of the Draycott family. As she does so, she is drawn into the lives of this dysfunctional family, who are not as conventional as they seem. Her research unfolds against a background of the warm portrayal of Anna’s own family life with her husband, who has early-onset dementia, her teenage children, her poetry-loving father, and Bobble the dog.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in genealogy, family secrets, and murders?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about genealogy, family secrets, and murders.

Genealogy Explore 14 books about genealogy
Family Secrets Explore 71 books about family secrets
Murders Explore 292 books about murders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Summer of Lost Letters, The Inheritance, and Common People: The History of an English Family if you like this list.