Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Spyglass File. UK: CreateSpace, 2016.
With his most recent book, Goodwin has more than surpassed himself in the Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist, series. In fact, Spyglass was so absorbing, so well-crafted ― and I don't say that frequently about any crime book ― I'm convinced it's an equally compelling read for a non-genealogist. Morton's new client Barbara is an adoptee who tracked down her now-deceased biological mother, Elsie, but wants to fill in the missing war years around her birth. Our hero dives into an impressive number of record sources with ease ― some familiar, some esoteric, including many relating to the Second World War. He's putting together pieces of Elsie's wartime life but the larger picture eludes him.
Goodwin uses cleverly paced flashbacks for Elsie to tell her own story that never quite answers the consuming questions: who is Barbara's father and what happened to him? Elsie's soldier husband Laurie is a prisoner of war. She joins the WAAF to work in the Wireless Service because of her German language skills ― long days and nights listening to aircraft transmissions, translating, reporting. The daily grind of service women and pilots, the bombing raids, the contemporary clothing, habits, entertainment, and real-life locales are meticulously brought alive. But it's much more complicated than that.
Morton would not be Morton if he were not attracting a sinister element. Someone does not want him delving into Elsie's life. His mind is partly occupied by his impending wedding to police officer Juliette as he labours over the often strange or surprising documents he uncovers. And he's painfully aware of his own unsolved adoption secrets; sensitive information hidden by family members is much harder to come by.
Readers will seldom find a better or more challenging plot. Only one small paragraph appeared corny to me (to use the 1940s vernacular), out of place in the overall feeling. Just as his protagonist did, the author undertook a huge amount of research preparation. In particular, it was a fascinating treat to learn so much about special WAAF contributions to the war effort.
My apologies to the author for a delayed review; delighted to see colleagues reviewing and fans being acquired. Please bring Morton and Juliette back again!
© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman