Book Review and Giveaway: The Desk from Hoboken by ML Condike

THE DESK FROM HOBOKEN
A Genealogy Mystery, #1
by
ML Condike
Mystery / Women Sleuths / Forensic Genealogy
Publisher: Harbor Lane Books, LLC
Date of Publication: March 5, 2024
Number of Pages: 446 pages
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After a personal loss, forensic genealogist RaeJean Hunter accepts what she believes is a straightforward case to ease back into the game: a student at Connecticut College has found human remains on the school campus. The College hires RaeJean to confirm their tentative identification that it’s a woman named Mary Rogers, whose cause of death has never been determined.
Unfortunately, it becomes downright dangerous. Someone thwarts her investigation of the same case that inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.” Still, she meets relatives, some helpful and others not, amid escalating threats. Using her skills, including DNA analysis, historical records research, genealogy mapping, and guidance from a mystical antique desk, she follows every clue.
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RaeJean Hunter is a forensic genealogist who’s been taking a break from her work due to a personal loss. When she’s contacted to verify the identity of 180-year-old remains found on a college campus, she thinks this will be a nice, low-key way to ease back into her work routine. Turns out, it’s anything but.

Trying to determine if the remains are those of Mary Rogers, supposedly a descendant of both the Mather and Rogers families, leads RaeJean all over New England. She digs through records in libraries (it’s said she never could pass up a library – I can relate!), museums, and Mather relatives’ personal collections. Lillian is the pushiest relative she meets, by turns aloof and overly involved in RaeJean’s investigation (and always seemingly a step ahead), and RaeJean can’t quite figure out her motivation. Her quest leads her into unexpected danger, and her friend Claire, who was previously working on the same case, begs her to drop the matter. RaeJean suspects this is about more than just the identity of the remains and whether Mary Rogers died from a botched abortion. No, someone is trying to protect a much bigger secret than that.

ML Condike gives us a beautifully flawed protagonist in RaeJean. She’s working through her own issues, trying to get back to her normal routine. I think we can all relate to that. She and Sam are a good team, and their occupations sometimes intersect, allowing them to work together. But their relationship isn’t picture perfect, and they have to sort through some things in the middle of work and life, just like we all do. Sometimes RaeJean is too focused on her pursuit of answers for her own good, and as the reader looking in, I wanted to holler at her not to do what she was about to do, because it wasn’t going to go well! That made for some tense moments as I read and kept the pages turning.

I loved the inclusion of the titular “desk from Hoboken” in the story. RaeJean saw it in her client’s office and requested it as part of her compensation for her work. It may or may not be haunted (you read and decide for yourself), and it includes a puzzle box that plays a vital role in solving the mystery.

All told, The Desk from Hoboken is an intelligent, well-written, compelling mystery that fans of mystery and history alike will enjoy. And since Mary Rogers is the person on whose story Edgar Allan Poe based his short story The Murder of Marie Rogêt, literary lovers might like it, too. I can’t wait to read more in the series! Five stars from me.

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ML Condike’s novel, The Desk from Hoboken, is the first in a genealogy mystery three-book series. She also has short stories published in five anthologies. ML Condike completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path in Dallas in 2019 and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime North Dallas, Granbury Writers’ Bloc, and Key West Writers Guild.

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THREE WINNERS: 1st: signed paperback and Corgi plush toy; 2nd: signed paperback and $25 Amazon gift card; 3rd: choice of $25 gift card or signed paperback. (US only; ends midnight, CDT, 03/29/24)

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3 Responses to Book Review and Giveaway: The Desk from Hoboken by ML Condike

  1. The Marie Rogêt angle is definitely an enticing one for me, but in reading your review, there is SO much more to entice this reader. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Fabulous.

  2. Tracie M Cooper says:

    What kind of stories did you write when you first started out?

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