26 March 2020

Morton's Back!

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Sterling Affair. 2019. Available through or Amazon.

This latest novel in the Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist series, is a humdinger. Clarissa Duggan hires Morton to discover why a recently deceased (suicide by defenestration) old stranger was masquerading as her brother Maurice; her true brother had died at the age of sixteen. Clarissa wants her inheritance as this man’s “sister” to go to the rightful heirs. No one could have predicted Morton’s subsequent wild path ‒ into Cold War espionage. Was “Maurice Duggan” really Egyptian-born journalist Alexander Emmett? The investigation takes on another dark twist with Emmett’s wife Ellen Ingram. Morton leads us into a potpourri of detailed archival research as he puzzles out identities ‒ the genealogist’s bedrock – while we also follow the separate stories of Alexander and Ellen.

On the home front, Morton’s little family is delightful: wife Juliette and daughter Grace. They provide necessary breaks from the tension that builds according to the best thriller plotting. But Morton’s own family history is a labyrinth and now his DNA results are producing urgent messages from mysterious matches. In all ways, this is Goodwin’s weightiest novel; it tracks back and forth between London and Middle East cities. Ellen is searching for the spy code-named Jericho; Alexander does covert work to undermine President Nasser, developing a lifelong taste for pink gin. Wild card Flora Sterling appears now and then to add spice.

Goodwin is better than ever at handling complex elements and plots. Congratulations on a growing body of work! Your fans grow by leaps and bounds too.

Teasers (The Present):
Yet Morton could not reconcile the fact that this imposter had returned to a small village where his namesake had died just thirty years before. (73)
Juliette stood up and paced her hand on his shoulder. “This is strictly from a non-police perspective now, but do you need to do anything more? He is dead, after all, so no conviction can be brought against him.” (120)
What was he going to say to Grace or Baby Farrier when they asked him about his grandparents? (246)
Or was Morton trying too hard to connect two unrelated things? (249)

Teasers (The Past):
▪ “I woke up in the morning, came downstairs and there she was, stone cold with her wrists slit, in my old grandmother’s chair.” (43)
▪ “This is the city’s trading post, where informationquid pro quoflows as fast as the Lebanese wine, between diplomats, ambassadors, journalists and politicians.” (144)
In the open case was a file, containing several documents marked SUEZ on the front. (180)
▪ “What do you mean manpower and resources ...?” Alexander questioned. “You want me to sabotage the plane?” (235)
▪ “We wouldn’t be where we are, with Jericho facing a lengthy prison sentence were it not for Miss Ingram.” He turned in her directions, smiled and nodded his head. “Well done.” (269)

© 2020 Brenda Dougall Merriman