The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin: A Book Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.

The Lost Ancestor

Well, what can I say except that he’s done it again?:

Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Photo Used with Permission

Nathan Dylan Goodwin has written another genealogical mystery story with twists and turns and another surprise ending.

And what else can I say except that I’ve done it again, too?

I, in turn, sat down, as I did with Hiding the Past, and read the entire book on one day.

If you missed my review of Hiding the Past and haven’t yet been lucky enough to come across any of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s works, you are missing some terrific, fun reading, genealogical novels.

The Lost Ancestor is the second in the Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist series and opens with a tantalizing mystery waiting to be solved. Of course, the mystery isn’t one that happened recently – it’s one hundred years old.

Ray Mercer hires Morton Farrier to determine exactly what happened to his grand aunt Mary, twin sister to his grandmother, Edith, in April 1911. Mary was secretly engaged to cousin Edward Mercer when she went missing without a trace in April 1911.

There is a definite plot structure to these stories – and I am not meaning that as a criticism in any way. That structure instead lends a familiarity to the setting and characters, which makes it feel like you’ve settled in for a good read with old friends.

The mystery begins when Morton meets Ray and decides to take on this century-old mystery. Author Nathan Dylan Goodwin develops another well-constructed plot with the present day and 1911 stories intermingled. Together, they guide us through the tragic story of Edith and Mary Mercer.

Edith Mercer is on her way to a better life, as she and twin Mary, along for support, make their way to the Blackfriars mansion and Edith’s interview for the job of third housemaid in January 1911. The first surprise, which sets the stage for the entire story, is that Mary is instead hired, although she lacks any real domestic skills. The first wedge is driven between the twins and it is one that affects each for the remainder of their lives.

Why did Edith, highly qualified for the post, lose the position to Mary? The answer to that question will unravel the mystery of Mary’s sudden disappearance three months later.

Even more so than with Hiding the Past, I had the conclusion all figured out – or so I thought. The author actually comes out and “reveals” the ending for the reader. The only problem with the conclusion reached is that there are still several vitally important pieces of information that haven’t yet been discovered by Morton. Therefore, the conclusion a reader draws near to the end of the story isn’t quite right.

I love all the historical details in these stories. As an aside, I learned a lot about the “help” living in those mansions. A day from 6:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. with one half day off per week was a grueling life and their jobs were never done.

I also really love all the genealogical details, too. Morton makes trips to local libraries and archives, sends off for vital records and uses FindMyPast and genealogy message forums, just like all the rest of us.

Lastly, the skill with which the author ties up all the loose ends to reveal the full story makes for a definite AHA moment. I get the same feeling reading the end of Morton’s current adventure as when I uncover tidbits that help solve my own genealogical mysteries.

I highly recommend that you check out both Hiding the Past and The Lost Ancestor if you are a genealogy nut or just of a fan of mysteries, in general. Morton Farrier leads a fascinating, fast-paced life and you won’t be sorry you went along for the ride.

Nathan Dylan Goodwin – you really must come to the Festival of Books 2019 at the University of Arizona here in Tucson. I think many more enthusiastic readers will love Morton Farrier!

Visit the author’s website for further details on The Lost Ancestor and his other books and to make a purchase.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.