01 May 2017

Book: The Missing Man

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Missing Man. UK: Self-published,* 2017.

Forcing yourself away from your sticky, stubborn, intensive family history research, what could be better than curling up with Nathan Goodwin and Morton Farrier? Ahhh. One is the creature of the other: Morton has become well established as a fictional forensic genealogist in England. Author Goodwin can be assured his man fills the bill for the kind of detective work relaxation real genealogists enjoy☺. But Goodwin's mysteries are well-crafted to appeal to a broad spectrum of fans.

Anyone who has followed Goodwin's previous books in the Forensic Genealogist series1 will know Morton's biggest personal brick wall has been his "lost" American biological father ― the missing man. His mother never knew that her father withheld letters from her erstwhile lover, letters that Morton uncovered long after the fact (in the previous The Spyglass File). He found them both curious and troubling. But now he has enough clues for some serious research and interviews. His good-natured bride, Juliette, agrees to spend their honeymoon in Massachusetts.

Each new document Morton finds only deepens the mystery about his father Jack and his father. Hoping that some of the older generation will still be alive, he moves from one resource location to another in the Cape Cod area as the records lead him. Local landmarks such as caf├ęs and restaurants are sprinkled throughout. Without being a spoiler, I can say he does find a living relative. Family historians will recognize the methodology he uses for tracking backward, and sometimes forward, in time. One question: why did he trust a family tree drawn by an unknown genealogist?

Alternating perspective is a device Goodwin has used before to great effect; here, Morton's activities contrast with those of his father forty years earlier. It's a deft suspense-builder. The old saw "You can choose your friends but not your family" applies as Morton discovers one unhappy fact or individual after another. Will he ever know the truth behind the actions of his ancestors?

Some one-liners might spice your interest:
● The shocked gasp of her neighbours and the stricken cries of the firefighters on the lawn were lost to the appalling cacophony of metal, brick, wood and glass crumbling together, crescendo-ing into the night sky. (1)
● "I'm afraid you're not listed here as family." (59)
● It might have happened to someone at some point, but not to his grandparents in Boston in 1946. (36)
● She had absolutely no dealings in her husband's business and couldn't understand why knowing her maiden name was a necessity on his investment paperwork. (106)

Beginning with a devastating house fire, ending at an airport, The Missing Man is a novella, a quick read. It's one you won't want to interrupt and will wish it would continue. No worries; I'm sure Goodwin has further Morton Farrier adventures up his sleeve or in his hard drive as we speak.

* Available at various Amazon sites; links on the author's website nathandylangoodwin.com.

1. For example see reviews: https://brendadougallmerriman.blogspot.ca/2015/10/book-america-ground.html and https://brendadougallmerriman.blogspot.ca/2016/10/book-spyglass-file.html.

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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