Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Chester Creek Murders. Self-published, nathandylangoodwin.com, 2021. Also available on Amazon.com.
Goodwin’s opus grows by leaps and bounds—he’s introducing Venator, a Salt Lake City company that applies genetic genealogy techniques to criminal cold cases. Madison “Maddie” Scott-Barnhart is the company’s hands-on founder, employing a small, dedicated team. Police departments requesting Venator’s specialized service must be able to provide DNA evidence for a suspect in an old unsolved case. Upon testing that DNA, Venator’s work begins, tracing matches back to a common ancestor, then tracing families forward to candidates who might be the actual perpetrator. Simple in theory, extremely time-consuming and complex in every instance. So it goes, with the case of three murdered women whose bodies were dumped in Chester Creek, Pennsylvania.
Goodwin not only constructs an absorbing example of genealogical methods but brings to life the Venator team individuals. Kenyatta is in custody limbo regarding her sons; she befriends a homeless man who alerts her to the approaching pandemic (it’s March 2020!). Hudson is the computer geek who secretly undertakes a well-paying but unethical side job. Becky is energetic and athletic, daughter of a wealthy local businessman; she dabbles in online dating sites. Ross holds the office together as receptionist, also being Becky’s roommate. Maddie’s home life includes two teenagers and an increasingly demented mother. Thoughts of her husband Michael, who disappeared five years ago, are never far away but less painful now. If one is at all familiar with Goodwin, any one of those characters will spin off a future mystery angle.
As the team spends hundreds of hours painstakingly building family charts, we get glimpses of the killer’s past actions and victims. It’s crucial that Venator determine the specific man, by all measures at their disposal, who matches the original police DNA sample. With that information, and if the man is matched on the national crime index, it’s game over. In this case he was not on the index, but police managed to obtain a DNA sample from the man without his knowledge. And voilà.
Venator is a welcome addition to Chez Goodwin, with more to come (please!). If you don’t already love the Morton Farrier mysteries set in southeast England, you can see and buy all the titles on Goodwin’s website as above. The Chester Creek Murders and others are also sold on Amazon.
© 2021 Brenda Dougall Merriman