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FUG 10: Lost Treasure in the Hessia Triangle 6/3/08
Many of us have family artifacts with our ancestors handwriting on them-- a postcard, a picture or family bible. Sometimes the writing provides clues to the puzzling whereabouts or activities of our ancestors. None that I know of have turned out to be clues to buried treasure. In In Jay Osman's first genealogy mystery an ancestors note in an old bible lead us to buried revolutionary war.
In FUG 10 a present day murder causes the Rhone family to realize there is more in their family files than just dates, names and places. The story begins with the events surrounding Rhone family ancestors during the battle of Trenton in 1776. The treasure is hidden by soldiers, dug up and hidden again later on Rhone family land. After the war the treasure is of little value and reminds buried for years with out a trace except a cryptic notation in a family bible, referance to a family heirloom in an old will, a family letter and stories passed from one family member to another. As the years pass the treasure's value increases and the clues lead descendants of two Pennsylvania families to suspect the existence of something of value.
The Rhone family have been researching their ancestors for years and begin a genealogical search for the treasure. However, the family soon realizes it has competition that doesn't want to play fair. The competition uses murder, treats and surveillance to uncover the historic truth while the Rhone's use skill and creativity. As always skill and creativity take a little longer, but ultimately uncovers not only family history, but treasure of national significance.
FUG 10 is one of the best new genealogy mysteries I have read in the last several years. Osman's story is based on his experience of researching his own Pennsylvania ancestors. The story is suspenseful, historical, modern, emotional, and witty. These attributes make for any good mystery. What sets apart a great genealogy mystery for me are the methods of investigation. Do the methods of investigating the ancestors involve in the story make sense? Are they creative? Are they based in what is available to a real genealogist? Osman's experience shines through. His fictional Rhone family understands investigating the past requires not just collecting dates, names and places but understanding the events surrounding our ancestors lives and creating hypothesis that can be tested by uncovering not just one, but several pieces of evidence that confirm the hypothetical.
FUG 10 introduces us to the history of several Pennsylvania counties and paints a story of typical migration, marriage and family relationships right after the Revolution. The stories of these ancestors could be the stories of our ancestors. This fictional history creates the mystery for the Rhone family and ultimately the reader too. The Rhone's know what all genealogist know-genealogy is addictive. As a confirmed addict I was totally drawn into Osman's mystery. I tried to stay one step ahead of the Rhone's with my methods of historic investigation, but they opened my eyes to several new sources. The story had me reading about my own Pennsylvania ancestors as I read about the Rhone family. When fiction meets reality a reader not only enjoys a story, but also relates to a story. Osman has written such a believable and enjoyable mystery that I'm looking forward to the next brick wall his fictional genealogists break down.
FUG 10: Lost Treasure in the Hessian Triangle by Jay Osman Yellowback Mysteries ISBN 978-1-59663-782-5
A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A. Belomd 7/14/07
A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A. Belomd is a delightful new addition to genealogy fiction. Whenever the promotional material for a particular book includes the words "reading of a will, double lives, secret histories and a family tree" I am instantly drawn in. Mystery and adventure are sure to follow. Belmond sets the story of Penny Nichols an American abroad in Europe and takes the reader back to the twenties and thirties, through family photo graphs, here say and good solid historical investigation. Of course Penny comes by investigation naturally, she is a historical researcher. Belmond allows Penny to struggle with her employment by a film studio that makes cookie cutter historical biographies. However Penny may have a way out. Recently deceased Aunt Penelope provides an inheritance that just might let her break out of the occupation, and into something else. The inheritance, however, is threatened by other family members claiming various scenarios should deny both her and her life long friend and English cousin that which Aunt Penelope wanted them to receive. Discoveries in Aunt Penelopy's properties, strange happenings in the night, and family secrets about her cousins parentage push Penny to investigate Aunt Pennelopy's full life during the second world war and after. What Penny discovers is Aunt Penelope's life although appearing carefree and scandalous was really a life of giving to others from beginning to end.
A Rather Lovely Inheritance is about mystery, genealogy, love and living your passion. Belmond allows Penny to stumble through her family history much as a beginner would. Not knowing the existence of documents and records and genealogy sources (I would have gone for WWII records in Europe and the U.S.) that record ones family history Penny relies on family sources. However, her knowledge of history allows her to contact and art historian which provides the answers that bring Penny's inheritance into real focus. The plot also includes one of the most interesting cousin relationships I've ever read. With out being a plot spoiler, I've often wondered about the particular seniero proposed by Belmond. I consider it highly probable that many aspects of the cousins relationship in the story are possible in contemporary life. Belmonds characters are truly believable, fun and intriguing. I enjoyed jaunting across Europe chasing wills, French villas, art, elderly gentlemen and love. Here's hoping that Penny Nichols and her new love end up in another historical mystery adventure.
A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A. Belmond. New American Library. 2007. ISBN 13: 978-0-451-22052-3
Died in the Whool by Rett MacPhearson 6/10/07
History, history, history, know your history…..or higher an expert. Torie O'Shea solves another genealogical mystery in New Kassel steeped in WWI history. Torie's new found wealth has allowed her to build a new home and buy horses, but now it allows her to really induldge! With money as no object Torie buys history and genealogy! A historic home comes up for sale and Torie snatches it up for the museums use. One of the original residents was quilter of historic significance (a quilt of her's hangs in the Smithsonian) and Torie plans to open the home as a textiles museum. Excellent idea in my mind since home spun anything is a waning art. Anyway, the quilter and her two brother's all committed suicide in the 1920's and the horrible tragedy haunts Torie. As so often is the curse of the genealogist and historian Torie's mind can't rest until she gets answers to the questions. However, the graphic images of WWI in one of the brothers room's prove to be too challenging emotionally and historically for Torie. She delves into obituaries and newspaper articles and constructs a sequence of events long forgotten in New Kassel. Sylvia would have known, but the harsh and knowledgeable county historian has passed on leaving Torie the means to even consider the home as an addition to New Kassel's historic attractions. The deceased quilter's own handy work and the WWI art on the walls of the home end up providing not clear answers, but a very probable scenario to what really happened to the three siblings. Along the way an acquaintance almost ends up dead! Torie calls in all the experts, the new sheriff, who deals much better with her than her father-in-law, the ex-Sheriff, an art historian and a WWI expert. When you don't know you history, it pays to consult the experts.
Died in the Wool deals very much with what genealogists are faced with every day----What REALLY is the truth? More often than not we can not uncover the real truth but can only construct what we think happened in our ancestors lives with a significant amount of evidence. MacPhearson does a nice job of giving Torie evidence and Torie works every angle of the story creating hypothesis, in fact much of the last quarter of the book is Torie constructing hypothesis. A little tedious for the reader, however, when doing your own research consturcting what MIGHT have happened and trying to prove it is half the fun! Therefore, MacPherson has created a totally realistic story of how a genealogist works.
Died in the Wool is another good Torie O'Shea Mystery. Getting to know Mort Joachim the new sheriff was a real pleasure. I really like him and look forward to more of Torie's entanglements with him. Tobis and his gnomes had me in stitches and the O'Shea children are at it again giving Torie and Rudy fits, well Torie anyway, Rudy is so laid back I think he is the perfect husband. All these quirks plus a very original story make Died in the Wool another wonderful genealogical caper from Rett MacPherson.
Died in the Wool. Minotaur Books. 2007. ISBN: 978-0312-36221-8
Jackpot Blood by Jimmy Fox
Tired of the genealogy textbooks? Give your brain a rest and delve into some genealogy fiction with a sinister twist. Read Jackpot Blood and you just might learn a thing or two about genealogy research. In his newest Nick Herald Genealogical Mystery, Jimmy Fox weaves the essence of genealogy research seamlessly into the story with wonderfully long descriptions of real genealogy methods and existing records.
In Jackpot Blood, Nick Herald, professional genealogist, is hired to identify both ancestors and descendants of six core families in the recently recognized Katogoula Indian tribe. Someone, however, wants the tribe's past and present kept a secret. Tribe members are murdered one by one as non-Indians stake out a reservation and casino bosses wine and dine the tribal council. As Nick digs further into the tribe's history, old tribal beliefs resurface and Nick must determine if the killings are human, animal, or spiritual. As an author Fox does his job so well in this book I suspected everyone and everything of having a motive to kill.
Although few of us have the resources to pursue a genealogy to the extent Herald does, genealogists will be enthralled with the genealogical hunt as the story progresses. As Nick explores the tribe's history readers will experience the thrill of rooting out answers in long-forgotten sources and share his triumph when he breaks down a brick wall because he took good paper and pencil notes. Fox also has Nick deal with the everyday annoyances of researching in libraries and old courthouses. Anyone who has ever spent long hours looking at a census will chuckle at Fox's description of a squabble that takes place between Nick and another library patron concerning the use of a microfilm reader. These details make Jackpot Blood not just a great piece of fiction but an exciting genealogy experience.
This is the third in Jimmy Fox's Nick Herald Genealogical mysteries. I can't say I much liked Nick when I met him in Fox's first book, Deadly Pedigree, but Fox's writing flows so easily that my annoyance with Nick is easily forgotten with each book as I am drawn in to the story and the genealogy. I am eager to find out who Nick's next client is and what mystery their family tree will hold.
JACKPOT BLOOD by Jimmy Fox. 2004. iUniverse, Lincoln, NE. ISBN 0595308864
Haunted Ground by Erin Hart
Corpses missing body parts, two mysteries centuries apart, music, romance and a genealogy that ties everything together are found in Erin Hart's first novel Haunted Ground. Set in Ireland and highlighting the mystery inherent in all history, Haunted Ground has all the elements of a great history mystery. Nora Gavin an American pathologist and Irish archeologist Cormac Maquire become involved in trying to determine the identity of a red-haired woman while at the same time trying to find the whereabouts of a local Irish woman and her child missing for nearly two years. Irelands bogs, traditional music and tumultuous history play an interregnal part in the entire story. As the story progresses Nora and Cormac's attraction to one another intensifies.
Hart writes two wonderful mysteries that have separate story lines that intersect in peoples lives, time and place. The red-haired woman's head has been severed and dumped in to a centuries preserving bog, but the woman's body is nowhere to be found. Good pathology, historical research, and a bit of luck begin to piece together a possible identity for the body-less woman. While searching for these clues Gavin and Maquire search for and stumble on to clues to what happened to the missing woman and her child
Hart has a way of allowing Gavin and Maquire to be central to the story, while exploring the thoughts and feelings of the supporting characters as well. The story lines of these characters are as enjoyable as the relationships between the main characters and the two mysteries.
Hart has a wonderful feel for history and the pains-taking effort involved in historical research. Her characters have a feel for the pleasure a researcher gets from sifting through the everyday of history to find little details that sketch out a person or an event. Archeologist Maquire muses that "It's easy to get caught up in the methodology, in all the highly technical aspects of what we do....But that's just our way of seeking knowledge, it's not the essence of what we're about. Keep in mind that our main concern is people---we learn about ourselves by studying those who have come before." Later he comments on the mundane aspect of his research by saying "all those thousands of straightforward textbook cases before you get to the one really interesting anomaly. Isn't it this part, the sifting through the ordinary, that makes breakthrough moments all the more memorable?" If Hart hadn't let me know that Gavin was a pathologist and Maquire an archeologist I'd swear they were genealogists! If you love the mystery of the past and digging through the ordinary to find answers, Haunted Ground is a great read. Perhaps even the best of my reads in 2004.
Also by Erin Hart: Lake of Sorrows. 2004. The continuing story of Nora Gavin and Comic Mquire. ISBN 0743247963
Mary Anna Evans' first book Artifact is a multi-layerd mystery full of history and suspense. Faye Longcham begins illegally digging for artifacts and digs up more than bones, pots and old hair combs. After careful examination of artifacts found with a skeleton Faye determines she has stumbled on a 20th century murder. Her questions and research lead her to threaten everyone from local developers and politicians to restaurant owners. Everyone has their own motives for keeping their past a secret and Faye has her reasons for never fully explaining the cause of her questions. In revealing her find she would threaten her moonlighting in illegal artifacts and the location of her ancestral home on an nearby secluded island. Her questions and her secrecy bring her closer to not only solving one murder but several and threaten her life in several ways.
Evans carried this plot off without me discovering the killers identify and she had me significantly drawn into caring about the multiple plot lines. The story is seasoned with the environmental and racial concerns of South Florida and the characters are vivid. Evans brings history to life through the discussions of archeology, genealogy, the maintenance of her home, hurricane behavior and newspaper research. Several key pieces of the mystery come together using good modern genealogical techniques. Early in the book Faye's home maintenance leads her to discover a family journal that plays prominent in the book.
Generally, I don't like when authors use journals. Too often I have read authors who have conveniently used a journal to solve the genealogical or murder mystery. The use of journals are disappointing because in real life their completeness and availability is never quite as convient as in the story. Historical and genealogical research requires hours of digging through documents that often yield nothing to find the one document that reveals only part of the story. Evans, however, uses the journal not to solve mysteries but to fill out the story. The journal reads like a mini novel and is engrossing on it's own. It's characters are real and reveal parts of history through personal voice.
Evans's intricate story and attention to historical and regional detail made Artifact an enjoyable read. Evans will be on my list of authors to watch.
Murder at Monticello
Genealogy and history lovers get out your pencil and paper. Write down each and everything you learn about the living and dead in Murder at Monticello and perhaps you will solve this one. The clues are there, but they are just as hidden and are as hard to connect as if you were searching for your own ancestors.
Murder at Monticello is the third in the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mea Brown. For me it was my first Mrs. Murphy book and a fun treat. For those of you who haven't read the Mrs. Murphy series, Mrs. Murphy is a cat and has a hand in help the humans solve the crime.
Mrs. Murphy and her human companion Harry Hairsteen get involved with Thomas Jefferson's life and times when the remains of a young white man turn up during an archeological excavation of a slave cabin at Monticello. It's clear he has been murdered. The local sheriff is determined to pursue the centuries old crime. With little more evidence than the body itself the sheriff enlists the help of Monticello's archeologist, Harry and the local patrons of the excavation. The past, however, has upset more than one resident of Corezt Virginia and Monticello's archeologist ends up being murdered for something he has uncovered. In an attempt to retrace the research steps of the archeologists, Harry, her animals, and friends begin looking into the family trees and family papers of some of Corzet's most prominent citizens. They think they have uncovered the truth and confront the killer only to find the motive for murder was more complicated than it first appeared.
In the Mrs. Murphy series the animals have conversations among themselves. I wasn't as annoyed by this as I thought I might be. The mystery follows a traditional cozy format and several plot lines run simultaneously. Many plot lines converge and are resolved, but some are left to your imagination. The relationships of the characters and the bloodlines of their ancestors are complicated. Only paper and pencil will assist in keeping many of them strait. The complicated relationships gives much of the genealogy elements to the story authenticity. So much so as to keep me from my own research for several days. Murder at Monticello will be a nice addition to your pile of genealogy fiction to be read.
Thicker Than Water
Rett MacPherson's new book Thicker Than Water is wonderful. MacPherson has Torie O'Shea, a professional genealogist, tackle a number human emotions while telling a great story. Sylvia has died and Torie has inherited everything including Sylvia's secrets. As Torie begins to deal with the responsibility of going through Sylvia's estate she realizes that her position in the community has changed. Her interactions with the community members chang and both Torie and the people of New Kassel feel the strain. Community members try and undermine Tories efforts at the historical society. To add further stress in Torie's life her mother-in-law comes to visit which strains her relationship with her husband Rudy. Overwhelmed, Torie turns her back on her relationships and doggedly pursues the identity of a young girl in a post card addressed to Sylvia. The picture of the young girl is haunting and the message on the back is mysterious. Torie questions her knowledge of Sylvia and tries to reconcile the Sylvia she knew to the Sylvia she is uncovering. As Torie deals with her emotions and solves the identify of the young girl we learn even more about the history of Gaheimer House where the historical society is housed.
I have enjoyed each book in the O'Shea series because the genealogy elements have been so authentic. In this the eight Torie O'Shea mystery, Torie solves the mystery using genealogy, but genealogy fiction lovers may miss Torie going through archives, libraries and cemeteries in this book. MacPherson gives us genealogy, but it's not as important to the story this time. Don't let that stop you from turning the pages of Thicker Than Water. MacPherson writes a great book with Torie's domestic life and her ability to snoop out a crime continuing to be fodder for comedy.
The book has real meat. As Torie snoops her way through solving the mystery in this book, she also has to deal with grief, marriage and forgiveness---life! The first lady of genealogy fiction has done it again! Thicker Than Water is a mystery worth reading! Visit Rett MacPherson and learn more about her books at her new web site www.rettmacpherson.com.
All reviews copyright: Christine McCreedy. 2003-2007.introduces us to the history of several Pennsylvania counties and paints a story of typical migration, marriage and family relationships right after the Revolution. The stories of these ancestors could be the stories of our ancestors. This fictional history creates the mystery for the Rhone family and ultimately the reader too. The Rhone's know what all genealogist know-genealogy is addictive. As a confirmed addict I was totally drawn into Osman's mystery. I tried to stay one step ahead of the Rhone's with my methods of historic investigation, but they opened my eyes to several new sources. The story had me reading about my own Pennsylvania ancestors as I read about the Rhone family. When fiction meets reality a reader not only enjoys a story, but also relates to a story. Osman has written such a believable and enjoyable mystery that I'm looking forward to the next brick wall his fictional genealogists break down.
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