Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Merchant's Daughter by M.J. Lee

 

First Lines: July 5, 1842. Wickham Hall, Cheshire. Last night, Emily Roylance dreamt she was in Barbados again.
 
Actress Rachel Marlowe agreed to a DNA test in order to appear on a new television program. She'd been told that it was good publicity for her career. Her family had long been proud of its unbroken line of male heirs that went back for centuries-- all the way to the time of William the Conqueror. What Rachel did not expect from that DNA test was the fact that she has an African ancestor. She wants to know who that ancestor is both to escape typecasting in the acting roles she's given and to be prepared for the media storm when the program airs. Who does she turn to? Jayne Sinclair, of course.
 
But Jayne soon finds that the short period of time she's been given to solve the mystery may not be enough. There are too many dead ends. Too many missing documents. Too many people determined to keep her from learning the truth. But the more roadblocks Jayne encounters makes her that much more determined to learn the identity of Rachel Marlowe's African ancestor.

~

M.J. Lee's Jayne Sinclair series has to be my favorite mystery series that focuses on genealogy. He's created a strong female lead in investigator Jayne Sinclair. A former police officer, she doesn't stumble into dangerous situations blindly. She knows how to take care of herself, and she still has plenty of friends on the force if the need arises. She's also a first-rate investigator, and readers can actually learn about the resources available to those who want to work on their family trees.

Lee also does an excellent job of weaving together two different timelines in these books. The older timeline which concerns the ancestor that Jayne is trying to find usually ties into a fascinating (if sometimes painful) historic event. In The Merchant's Daughter, readers learn about the treatment of women in 1840s England and the importance of the slave trade to Liverpool, England-- a topic that may come as a surprise to many. I was aware of Liverpool's role in the slave trade, but I was unaware of how slave traders were eventually persuaded to put an end to it all. 

The mystery in The Merchant's Daughter isn't the strongest in this series. It was relatively easy to deduce, and what little violence there was seemed tacked on and not really necessary. I also wasn't shocked at the lengths that some people will go to in order to cover up "blemishes" on their family trees. After all, my own grandmother refused to do any further research on our Mudd ancestors on the off chance that she'd find out we were related to Dr. Samuel Mudd who was implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

So... if I thought the mystery was easy to deduce, why did I enjoy The Merchant's Daughter so much? Because of the characters. Jayne is one of my favorites-- smart, determined, intuitive, and full of common sense. However, the character who shone the brightest in this book was the merchant's daughter herself, Emily Roylance. Her voice as she told me her story and what she had to endure kept me hooked, kept me firmly in her corner, and kept me hoping that things would turn out all right for her.
 
Do they? You'll have to find out for yourself. Is this a series that you have to begin at the beginning and read in order? Not really. The Merchant's Daughter works well as a standalone. Just don't be surprised if you read this book and find yourself wanting to read more of Jayne's investigations. 

The Merchant's Daughter by M.J. Lee
ASIN: B07ZVWWDDY
M.J. Lee © 2019
eBook, 289 pages
 
Private Investigator, #7 Jayne Sinclair Genealogy mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

12 comments:

  1. This does sound intriguing, Cathy! Genealogy is an interesting study, and I can see how it might be behind a lot of different mysteries, so it's a good match for a mystery novel. And I do like strong female characters who are also, well, human. Glad you enjoyed this.

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  2. I do like mysteries involving genealogy. My mom has been working on ours since the 1980's, so it has always intrigued me. And Jayne sounds like the type of character I enjoy. Thanks for the review!

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    1. You're welcome, Gretchen. I hope you get a chance to sample this series.

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  3. I like the sound of this series! Combining genealogy with mystery is always fun, especially when the author knows how to write really great characters.

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    1. I agree, Lark. Genealogical mysteries are one of those subgenres that I always keep my eye on .

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  4. I don't think I've ever read a "genealogical mystery" before, but the idea of one is pretty appealing. I'm not surprised at the lengths some would go in order to "protect" their family tree. Can't say I've ever had that come up in mine, nor have we ever uncovered a "name" anyone ever heard of. Closest was a direct link to one of Daniel Boone's brothers...close but no cigar on that one.

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    1. One branch of our family seemed to follow Dan'l Boone around for awhile. Could be your family knew my family 'way back then.

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  5. This is really interesting. It's difficult looking for family history. Long ago, it must have really been hard. She finds a surprise in her DNA. Again, interesting.

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    1. I would imagine that most privileged, titled families want to believe that their family trees are pure and unspoiled. Personally, I'm fairly certain that no one's family tree is "pure"-- and we're stronger as a species because of it.

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  6. Oooh, I love genealogy and I love mysteries. I'm definitely going to check this series out. Thanks for the rec!

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Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!