Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Latest Genealogical Mystery, “The America Ground”

Review by James Pylant

The title of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s latest novel comes from a real place and moment in English history—The America Ground—a stretch of land outside of Hastings, Sussex, in the 1820s. “Ever since I heard about the true story of The America Ground, I was fascinated by it and felt there was certainly a story waiting to be written!” the author explains. This is the setting for a mystery to be solved by genealogical sleuth Morton Farrier, a character Goodwin has featured in two other books and a novella. The America Ground, however, is a stand-alone book.

“It was the perfect night to kill her: a flat, overcast sky with only the barest sliver of a moon,” the author begins. It was on that night in 1827 that an unseen man plunges a knife into the back of a sleeping woman. More than 180 years later, a painting surfaces of the murder victim, Eliza Lovekin. The owner wants to sell it, but first she needs Morton Farrier’s skills as a forensic genealogist to uncover the portrait’s provenance. Distracted by a longing to solve a mystery in his own life—the identity of his American father—Farrier reluctantly accepts the assignment. He quickly becomes absorbed in researching Eliza Lovekin while investigating an old document concealed within the painting’s frame which comes to threaten Farrier.

The America Ground alternates in chapters between past and present, seamlessly sewn and authentic. In depicting the early 19th century characters, Goodwin crafts dialogue with phrasing drawn from a now-fading Sussex dialect, including the colorful exclamation “Butter my wig!”

The America Ground (The Forensic Genealogist). By Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Softcover, 2015, 250 pp., $12.24. Available from

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