Thursday, February 13, 2014

Family History and Murder, A Match Made In Heaven: The Jefferson Tayte Mysteries


Jefferson Tayte, the creation of author Steve Robinson, is a mild-mannered professional genealogist. As his clients can afford to to pay him to fly to the United Kingdom to conduct research in person, he must be very good and his clients must be very rich. Unfortunately, Jefferson Tayte also has bad luck. Every time he travels to England for a client, people end up dead. Lots of people. Jefferson's life is threatened and in order to solve the murders he must also solve a genealogical puzzle.

Genealogists always warned about skeleton's in thee closets and unhappy family secrets. But apparently the skeletons in the closets of Jefferson Tayte's clients comes with unhappy descendants who hire assassins. It makes for a gripping yarn, but luckily real-world genealogy usually comes without assassins. Personally, I think the plots in all the books a little "gothic" and far-fetched in their conception and way too many people die. But they are imaginative and it's fun to see genealogists save the day.

In the Blood was the first book in the series (first edition, new edition). Jefferson Tayte "competes" against a younger genealogist to find information required by a client. For those of you familiar with movers in shakers in the American genealogical world, I couldn't help but picture Jefferson Tayte as J. Mark Lowe and the younger genealogist as Josh Taylor. The family skeleton in question in this book springs from an early 19th century murder.

The second book, To The Grave, (first edition, new edition) features a skeleton which has it's origins in the Second World War. I thought the ending of this one particularly sad.

The skeleton in The Last Queen of England (first edition, new edition) has it's roots in the Jacobite movement during the reign of Queen Anne. A group of history doctoral students tell Jefferson that they prefer to investigate the past on their own and form their own opinions, as if that's not what historians actually do in the first place. One of them even says "history books can't be challenged." Well, of course they can. Needless to say, I found this entire exchange irritating, but since the students help solve the mystery, I tried not to fret too much.

The books, first issued in the UK several years ago, have been quite successful and will be reissued on 18 March 2014 in new Kindle Editions, in addition to paperback and audio versions. The first editions are still available for purchase and are currently available to borrow in the Kindle Owner's Library. I do not know what will happen to them after 18 March.

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