“In The Blood” by Steve Robinson – clever plot, accurate setting, dull main character

In the blood by Steve Robinson“In The Blood” is the first Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery.

Yes, that term made me pause too. It sounds like something sponsored by ancestry.com to make looking up family records sound more exciting than stamp collecting.

Tayte is an American who tracks down the family trees of rich American clients who want to know about their roots back in the old country. This sounds about as dull and routine as life can get yet Steve Robinson manages to craft a thriller/mystery from it.

The main strength of the book is that Robinson has created two twisty and connected plots, one set at the turn of the nineteenth century and one in the modern-day, which centre around a secret people are willing to kill to keep.

He does an excellent job of revealing the two plots in parallel and has enough action in the present day for our intrepid genealogist to be in plausible peril.

Most of the action in both timelines is set in Cornwall. This is a clever choice as a lot of Cornwall is still much as it was two hundred years ago. Robinson has either done his research or knows Cornwall reasonably well as the settings are real and their descriptions sound authentic. Tayte’s relationship with the police stretch credibility a little but no more so than many TV crime shows. Perhaps the least realistic thing in the book was that Tayte could spend the night in his car in a field in the middle of Cornwall and be connected to the Internet.

Simon Vance does an excellent job as the narrator, delivering all of the accents and adding a rich tone that goes beyond the value of the text.

“In The Blood” would make an excellent TV program: it mixes contemporary crime and period costume drama in a “Midsomer Murders” meets “Poldark” kind of way; it’s set in dramatic countryside; it has horses and boats and shipwrecks and classic cars; it has an American hero to ease sales in the US market and it links to a hobby that more and more people are taking part in.

Unfortunately, it works much less well as a book. Despite the appeal of Simon Vance’s voice, I listened to the second half of the book at double speed. The good news is that the plot was interesting enough to make me stick with the book and find out what happened. The bad news is, I couldn’t have cared less about any of the people, who all seemed to me to be devices necessary to moving the plot along rather than people caught up in events.

Sometimes, at the end of a book, I have a strong picture of which actors should be playing which characters. I couldn’t answer this question about Jefferson Tayte because I couldn’t think of an actor dull enough – even Tom Hanks in “The Da Vinci Code” had more charisma than Tayte.

Yet, Steve Robinson (referred to on his website as an “ancestry author”) has had success with  Jonathon Tayte. There are already three more books in the series. Personally, I’m going to pass on them and wait for the TV series to come out.

If you’d like to listen to an extract from “In The Blood”, click on the SoundCloud link below:

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