Shut down the computer, set aside those census records, sit back and relax. It’s time to indulge in a little pleasure reading that just happens to be related to family history.
Recently I learned about an intriguing book that’s shot to the top of my “to be read” pile which is mounting on the end table next to the couch. I heard about it from my new friend Nancy, who just happens to share my maiden name—Desmond—though we’ve yet to prove we’re related. It’s called The Gaelic Letters: A Novel of the Almost Perfect Crime by R. Thomas Roe.
There are plenty of historical novels and thrillers out there to capture the imagination, but one reason this book appeals to both Nancy and me is because the fictitious ancestor being traced by the main character, an amateur genealogist, is named “Desmond”—Jeremiah Desmond to be precise. That also happens to be the exact name of my own great-grandfather who, like the one referred to in this novel, was born in Ireland in the early 1800s, fled his homeland during the famine, and began a new life in America.
But I digress—this book is fiction. It’s not about my great-grandfather or anyone related to my new found friend. It is the kind of genre I enjoy though (suspense), and about some topics very close to my heart (ancestor hunting, Ireland, and the Great Potato Famine). And it’s all served up by R. Thomas Roe with a present day genealogical twist.
Here’s an abbreviated synopsis of this enticing novel as provided by Amazon.com:
“Quinn Parker, a retired attorney, begins a family history project to learn about family members that his grandfather, Jeremiah Desmond, may have left behind in Ireland when he fled during the Famine… Quinn’s family history project takes a turn he regrets when he discovers a packet of old, yellowed letters written in Gaelic stored in his mother’s basement…
He receives more than he bargains for when he reads the translations… His search for answers takes him to genealogy libraries in three states and eventually to Ireland where he finds himself embroiled in far more than he ever expected… forged documents, the fraudulent conversion of massive family wealth and eventually murder…”
Full disclosure at this point: Though it does sound intriguing, I haven’t actually read this book yet, so I rely on story summaries and recommendations by others to determine how I’ll spend my literary time and money.
How do I do it? I seek out book summaries (like the one above) provided by publishers and booksellers. I read reviews by librarians and professional book reviewers. And most importantly, I consider comments made by everyday readers like myself who’ve actually read the book.
Based on the reader comments below (also obtained from the Amazon website) I decided that for me, “Gaelic Letters” is one book that may very well be worth investing my time and money in. Here are a few comments from those who’ve already read it:
From John McClure:
“…R. Thomas Roe delves into the dusty world of genealogy research with his debut novel … which follows retired attorney Quinn Parker as he traces his Irish roots… Quinn’s curiosity is piqued when he… realizes there’s a whole side of his family that’s remained in Ireland…This family drama reaches its height as Quinn unravels the layers, exposing secrets that had been viciously protected for over a century.
Roe’s novel is a first-class drama… built on a century of deception that’s about to crumble with deadly results. Roe is clearly an expert in the field of family research and, with a mastery of dialog, he is able to weave together a story which will entertain as well as disturb.”
“…An historical “who done it” that has repercussions for those following an audit trail into the 21st century.”
And from David Hoffman:
“The author obviously knows the field of genealogy… Mr. Roe has done the unexpected… (The Gaelic Letters) is a great mystery novel.”
Now, if you’ll please excuse me while I shut down this computer, pour myself a cup of tea, and settle in on the couch.
I need to investigate the mystery of that other Jeremiah Desmond (no relation) who can be found within the pages of “The Gaelic Letters: A Novel of the Almost Perfect Crime.”
Copyright © 2012 Patricia Desmond Biallas