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.

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The books I picked & why

Hiding the Past

By Nathan Dylan Goodwin,

Book cover of Hiding the Past

Why did I love 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.

By Nathan Dylan Goodwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hiding the Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Peter Coldrick had no past; that was the conclusion drawn by years of personal and professional research. Then he employed the services of one Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist – a stubborn, determined man who uses whatever means necessary to uncover the past. With the Coldrick Case, Morton faces his toughest and most dangerous assignment yet, where all of his investigative and genealogical skills are put to the test. However, others are also interested in the Coldrick family, people who will stop at nothing, including murder, to hide the past. As Morton begins to unearth his client’s mysterious past, he is…


Blood-Tied

By Wendy Percival,

Book cover of Blood-Tied

Why did I love 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.

By Wendy Percival,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blood-Tied as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A desperate crime, kept secret for 60 years...but time has a way of exposing the truth...Esme Quentin is devastated when her sister Elizabeth is beaten unconscious, miles from her home. Two days later Esme discovers that Elizabeth has a secret past. Desperate for answers which the comatose Elizabeth cannot give, Esme enlists the help of her friend Lucy to search for the truth, unaware of the dangerous path she is treading. Together they unravel a tangle of bitterness, blackmail and dubious inheritance, and as the harrowing story is finally revealed, Esme stumbles upon evidence of a pitiful crime. Realising too…


The Cost of Silence

By John Nixon,

Book cover of The Cost of Silence

Why did I love 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?

By John Nixon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cost of Silence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the day of the General Election in 1992, a man is stabbed to death in a country church. The murderer is caught quickly, confesses and is convicted. He dies in prison shortly afterwards, having never disclosed the reasons behind his actions. Twenty-three years later, a recently retired crime reporter decides to write a book about the murder, hoping to uncover the motive. He establishes that the murdered man was a genealogist researching parish records held in the church, and he suspects that therein lies the answer. Being unfamiliar with the ins and outs of family history research, he calls…


The Last Queen of England

By Steve Robinson,

Book cover of The Last Queen of England

Why did I love 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?

By Steve Robinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Queen of England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While on a visit to London, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte's old friend and colleague dies in his arms. Before long, Tayte and a truth-seeking historian, Professor Jean Summer, find themselves following a corpse-ridden trail that takes them to the Royal Society of London, circa 1708.

What to make of the story of five men of science, colleagues of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren, who were mysteriously hanged for high treason?

As they edge closer to the truth, Tayte and the professor find that death is once again in season. A new killer, bent on restoring what he sees as the…


File Under Fear

By Geraldine Wall,

Book cover of File Under Fear

Why did I love 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.

By Geraldine Wall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked File Under Fear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anna Ames is not pleased to be asked by her boss to write a profile of a wealthy local family instead of continuing with her usual probate research but the conventional, dull-seeming Draycott family turn out to be seething with secrets. As she discovers more about each one she is at first amused and then alarmed and finally horrified and saddened as she realises the true nature of her task. But when her own family are drawn into a scenario of crime and violence that she had never suspected existed on the streets of Birmingham and the quiet fields and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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