You’ve surely heard those “what was I thinking?” confessions from publishers: the agent who rejected Gone With the Wind, the editor who judged Harry Potter too derivative, etc. I have one of those stories, and I’m not even in the publishing biz.
Not long into my assignment as fiction selector, the (favorable) reviews for book #1 in British novelist Fay Sampson’s new mystery series appeared in the journals last year. Here are the facts as I saw them:
· RRPL patrons adore mysteries, whether cozy, hard-boiled, or procedural; set in exotic locales; featuring oddball investigators or starring dead celebrities; highlighting historical eras–you name it.
· Fay Sampson is an established author of both fiction and nonfiction, an editor, a writing teacher, and a prizewinner.
· The main character of In the Blood is a family history researcher who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation.
Seriously? Who exactly would be the audience for this story? Other genealogists?
The initial logic is there. Who better to appreciate what Publishers Weekly deemed “a cerebral yet exciting tale of guilt, innocence, and circumstance” than folks who spend months delving into historical details? But isn’t that the problem? Doesn’t all that tracking down of obscure records take up the time one would normally devote to reading?
Apparently not. Genealogists are the ultimate multi-taskers, somehow managing to raise families, develop careers, and traipse all over the country and the internet in search of esoteric facts. Working in a novel or two would just represent one more triumph of list-checking for them.
It’s also true that family history research relates to life today as much as to long-ago ancestors. Shifting fortunes, changing times, and misadventures either overwhelmed or elevated our forebears, and they still confront us today. Once you learn that your predecessors endured situations rivaling the most overblown soap opera plots, you’re hooked as a family history hobbyist. For those as yet not bitten by the genealogical research bug, In the Blood still presents a scenario of interest: Suzie Fewings uncovers evidence that the ancestor for whom she named her son committed a heinous act. Now, her teenaged child is drawing suspicion in a murder investigation.
Are the two crimes part of a hereditary pattern? How is it that Suzie suddenly realizes she is clueless about her teen’s sexual activity? How does that young, good-looking rector figure into Suzie’s life these days?
And aren’t you glad I went ahead and ordered In the Blood? The library also has Sampson’s next one, A Malignant House. Book #3, Those in Peril, has just been added to the library’s fiction order.