I love great books, but I also love those books that I can wolf down and enjoy for all of their naughty empty calories, like a bag of Cheetos or potato chips. This is one of those salty snack books.
If you’re a Dan Brown fan, like I am, this book is fantastic. If you’re looking for something innovative, maybe not. Jefferson Tayte is an American genealogist in London for a conference and to see his friend, Marcus, a big-whig genealogist recently retired from the National Archives. Tayte does not wear tweed, but tan, suits. Marcus introduces him to Jean Summer, an attractive divorced historian specializing in the British royalty at the dinner that precedes Marcus’ murder and sets the plot in motion. What was Marcus working on about which he was so secretive at dinner and how was it connected to his being gunned down outside the restaurant? Got the formula?
The puzzle concerns the British family’s royal tree, particularly at the time that the dynasty changed from the Stuarts to the Protestant, but distantly related, Hanovers after Queen Anne’s death in the seventeenth century. Whatever Marcus had discovered seems to have caused his death, as well as the death of several others across the city, and the dead bodies start piling up as Tayte and Summer, assisted by the faithful loner DI, Fable, suss out the details.
In solid Dan Brown style, the duo traverse London and end up in familiar London sites as well as some less familiar. They discuss construction and re-construction dates and decode some ahnentafel, binary numbers that stand for places on a genealogical table. Because Tayte is a silly American, he requires history 101 lectures from Summer, who can then educate the reader on the Stuarts and Hanovers and the Jacobite rebellions of the seventeenth century. What she does not supply, some students of hers do, and this was the one cringe-worthy portion of the novel, where history geeks are presented as rebels for challenging the text books. That is what all good historians do, especially graduate students in history trying to carve their niche in the dialogue of interpretations that is history. No historian believes history is a set of facts to be memorized and canonized in anonymously handed down textbooks. Historians write those books.
That small irritation aside, the novel was a fun read in terms of pacing, likable protagonists, and fun travelogue descriptions. Jackson has a series of Jefferson Tayte novels that are probably worth a look if you enjoy this type of novel.