An Intriguing Tale Unfolds in “The Lost Ancestor”

Review by James Pylant

The Lost Ancestor. By Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Softcover (2014), 255 pp., $12.99.

Acclaimed British novelist Nathan Dylan Goodwin first introduced Morton Farrier, a forensic genealogist, in the pages of a mystery called Hiding the Past. Goodwin brings Farrier back with a new riddle to solve in The Lost Ancestor.

That Nathan Dylan Goodwin is a gifted storyteller is clear from the first few pages of his book. It begins by introducing Ray Mercer, whose affluence has afforded an elegant, gated home with a view of the English Channel. What it can’t buy is time; he is terminally ill. Morton Farrier is hired to solve the mysterious disappearance of Mercer’s great aunt—his beloved grandmother’s twin sister. While the ill man’s own genealogical delving has failed to answer the missing woman’s fate, Farrier—who made headlines when his genealogical detective skills led to the downfall of an aristocratic family—assures his new client that he’ll take on the case. “Don’t take too long about it,” Mercer cautions him.

The Lost Ancestor is fast-paced, not plodding, and does well building mystery as Morton Farrier delves into the enigmatic great aunt’s family history. His skills, however, are not limited to forensic genealogy. Farrier must also stay a step ahead of others who find his research threatening, and he must dodge deadly schemes that are preventing him from learning the truth.

The author’s depictions of scenes and places are vivid; the characters are interesting and intriguing. In toggling back and forth from past to present, Goodwin shows how the deeds of long-dead ancestors are haunting their descendants.

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