Steve Robinson taps into the genealogy craze in the first book of his Jefferson Tayte series, called In the Blood. The tracking of family trees is an inherently nerdy hobby. But, especially with the advent of DNA testing, more people are investigating than ever. And Jefferson Tayte makes his living solving the most difficult family mysteries. And in this story, there are even bigger stakes at play.

Tayte attempts to explain the disappearance of any records about an entire family—back in the late 1700s or early 1800s. Their American descendants found some information but hit a brick wall. That’s what genealogists call it when the trail of typical documentation dries up.

Since the family is originally from Cornwall, England, Tayte travels there to unravel the mystery. Instead of clarity, he finds confusing documents and stonewalling family members. More importantly, someone wants him to stop. They threaten him and soon things get even dicier. This all just proves the point that family secrets are often hard to unearth. In this case, they could get people killed.

My conclusions

We are genealogy buffs at Casa Bibliophage, so this is a perfect series for me. Robinson does a good job of building suspense around letters, gravestones, and birth records. Trust me, this is no mean feat. It helps that Robinson occasionally transports us back a few centuries, which adds real characters and drama to those documents.

He also crafts a unique character in Jefferson Tayte, who’s basically a behind-the-laptop dude. When he gets to Cornwall, the action level suits his basic personality. Robinson never expects him to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But Tayte does have an analytical mind, sharp wit, and a bit of bravery. That combination fits for someone in his profession.

Like any good family tree, this story has its share of twists and turns. The supporting characters are interesting, and Cornwall’s coastal setting is perfect for some intrigue.

I recommend this for genealogy fans or readers in the mood for a lighter mystery that’s not cozy or romantic.

Pair with Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro, a memoir about family secrets. Or try another family history memoir, Paula, by Isabel Allende.