Genealogists Sophreena McClure and Esme Sabatier trace family histories and create heritage scrapbooks. Sophreena is first-rate at unearthing secrets, and if she ever has a problem, Esme might be able to help out. You see, Esme is a gifted medium.
Their latest huge project has been for Morningside, North Carolina's leading citizen, Dorothy Pritchett Porter. Dorothy is so thrilled with their work that she's given the go-ahead on the scrapbooks, which she wants to show off on Founders' Day. Unfortunately the demanding lady is murdered before she can show off her family history. Since Sophreena and Esme are two of the last people to have seen her alive, they're high on the suspect list, so they have to turn their investigative skills from the dead to the living in order to find the real killer.
Having grown up with two rabid genealogists and having benefited from their investigative skills, I'm always on the lookout for crime fiction that uses family history to solve murders. I was not disappointed with Paging the Dead.
Brynn Bonner has created a smart, funny, and relentless investigator in Sophreena McClure, and her business partner, Esme Sabatier, seems to be a good match for her, although the older woman didn't play as big a part in the book as I would've liked. Since she didn't, her skills as a medium were very lightly used, which is a good thing for all of you who do not care for paranormal elements in your mysteries. I can also see the members of the scrapbooking club being featured more prominently in future books, and I look forward to that.
The uninitiated can get a glimpse of real genealogical work throughout the book, as the victim's family history contains some of the clues to the identity of the killer. The only tiny blight on the mystery for me was that I spotted the killer very early on, but there is so much to enjoy while reading the book that it didn't really matter.
Besides the characters, the setting, and the insights into genealogy, I appreciated learning how those heritage scrapbooks are put together, and several of Sophreena's observations of tracing family history in the age of the internet made me smile, like this one: "Though in years to come Facebook is going to be a treasure trove of way too personal info for future genealogists. I hope I'm out of the business by then."
There is so much to like in this first book in the Family History cozy mystery series, and I'm really looking forward to the next book!
Paging the Dead by Brynn Bonner
Gallery Books © 2013
Paperback, 304 pages
Cozy Mystery, #1 Family History mystery
Source: Purchased from Book Outlet