Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Report: "Death on the Family Tree"

I like murder mysteries, and when the book "Death on the Family Tree" by Patricia Sprinkle fell off the paperback book shelf at the library and I picked it up, I was hooked.

The cover says "These family ties don't bind ... they kill!"

The back cover says "If you dig around the roots of your family tree, you might find a few bodies."

The book summary (from the back cover) reads:

"With grown-up kids and a husband always on the road, Katharine Murray's nest would be empty if it weren't for her Aunt Lucy -- until the elderly woman dies. Now Katharine's saddled with her Aunt's worldly belongings - mostly knickknacks destined for the dumpster. But there's a priceless Celtic necklace among the dross - and a diary written in German, neither of which Katharine's ever seen before.

"Determined to find out where these objects came from, Katharine unwittingly discovers a branch of her family tree she never knew existed - namely Aunt Lucy's brother Carter, murdered more than fifty years ago after a mysterious trip to Austria. And when Lucy's artifacts are stolen, and the main suspect turns up dead, Katharine realizes she must solve a burglary and two unsolved homicides separated by a half-century ... before more than her family secrets end up dead and buried."

I really enjoyed this book because of the genealogy angle and the twists and turns of the murder stories. The setting is in Atlanta. One of the characters, Uncle Dutch, has done genealogy research and knows the family secrets but doesn't give them up. Katharine gets help at a "history center" and checks the 1930 census (using Soundex and microfilm) and later uses Ancestry.com on her uncle's computer to find the same record. The family relationships are believable and familiar - how many of us don't know about the personal life of our mother's sister's husband's brother?

I read these types of books while watching the Padres games during the endless baseball season, so I'm always on the lookout for works like this. Does anyone else have a recommendation for family tree or genealogy mystery novels?

8 comments:

Shannon said...

Thanks for the review!! I just finished my stack of library books and was looking for something new...I will see if mine has it

Sharon said...

The best one I've found is Killing Cousins by Gene Stratton (a real genealogist). He also has Cornish Conundrum. Then there are several by Rhett Mac Pherson which are quick afternoon reads.

Shannon said...

In looking online at my library, I see she has written a 2nd one using the same main charachter Sins of the Father. Book Description: Always ready to help a friend, Katharine Murray has made her way to Bayard Island off the coast of Georgia with Dr. Flo Gadney, to attend to an unsavory errand. Burch Bayard, local patriarch and greedy landowner, has a nefarious plan to build McMansions up and down the island—and over graves that may belong to Dr. Flo's ancestors!

The friends set to work to make sure that Dr. Flo's family tree has its roots in the old cemetery, a task made very difficult by the lack of Southern hospitality from the island's inhabitants. One old woman even tries to shoot them! But when that woman later turns up dead, Katharine and Flo realize there's more than bodies buried on that land. And if they keep unearthing the island's secrets, they might be digging their own graves.

Amanda said...

It's not a mystery, but check out "Family Tree" by Barbara Delinsky.

Amazon.com listing:
http://tinyurl.com/5gfx4s

Lori Thornton said...

Rett MacPherson's series is one of my favorites.

I'm reading a novel right now with a genealogy angle in it called A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C. A. Belmond. The person is going to have to decipher a pretty complex family tree, it would appear. I'm about 150 pages into it, having read that much from the Detroit airport to Boston. I also suspect this one may lean a little toward the romance side. It's one of those oversized paperbacks though--the kind they sell for $12-$15 instead of $7.

Graham Landrum wrote a couple of books a long time ago that are good reads. One is a DAR murder mystery.

Sarah Stewart Taylor's isn't a genealogist, but she is a funerary art expert so she spends lots of time in cemeteries on most of hers. I just finished her latest "Still As Death" on the first part of the flight this morning. It involved a piece in a museum rather than gravestones. I liked her cemetery tombstone ones better, but they are all good reads!

mcwieser said...

Lee Martin's Deb Ralston mysteries are also great. Deb is real police detective, and member of the LDS church and an active genealogist. All have some genealogical component, at least features Deb's only family skeletons. I love them.
Heather

KMMofLA said...

Most of mine already mentioned: P. Sprinkle's new book,Barbara Delinsky, Rett McPherson and Sarah Stewart Taylor. Also look for Jimmy Fox (Louisiana Author) Deadly Pedigree and Lineages & Lies. Thanks to other posters for other authors to look for.

Shannon said...

I finished this one this weekend....I enjoyed it...but I really shouldnt have read it 3 days after my home was broken into and ransacked, I was already having problems sleeping!!! I have her 2nd family tree mystery on request and the library, and found another one I have requested as well called Mrs. Malory and a death in the family: Sheila Malory is less than thrilled when her loathsome cousin Bernard comes to Taviscombe looking for information to complete his family tree. After all, she's got better things to do than listen to Bernard's pompous genealogical lectures and watch him berate his mousy wife. But when Bernard dies suddenly in his rented cottage, it's more than family obligation that keeps Mrs. Malory on the case. Someone wanted Bernard out of the way, and with all the dirt her was digging up on the family, the killer could be more than kin..and less than kind.