Cankered Roots by G.G. Vandagriff

I was invited to join the Gala Nurture Blog Tour for G.G. Vandagriff and received a copy of her first book Cankered Roots. The book was originally published in 1993 but has been re-issued this year.

Alexandra Campbell, a spunky young widow, partnered with Brighamina Poulson, an even spunkier, rifle-toting grandmother thinks that as they have begun a genealogy business (RootSearch, Inc.), it is high time she finds out her family secret. Something went wrong in her family during her adolescence, changing her mother from a Chicago North Shore matron into an alcoholic and a doting father into a workaholic. The moment she graduated from High School, she was sent to the Sorbonne in Paris with a generous bank account and instructions not to return. 
It is now fifteen years since she has seen her parents, and she intends to lay the ghost that has separated her family for good. However, as usual in Alex’s unpredictable life, things do not go as planned. After an acrimonious fight with her once beloved father, she leaves with only a wallet-sized photograph of a woman she knows nothing about. 
That night, Alex’s father is killed. Bewildered and grieved that her family can never be whole again, she soon finds out that she is the chief suspect in the murder. With the unflappable Briggie at her side, she uses all her new genealogical skills, and (with the help of Briggie’s deer rifle) discovers a secret so bizarre that she finally understands why her parents wanted her far away and safe. 
Join Alex and Briggie in the first of their hair-raising adventures!
This book is great for mystery lovers and history lovers. To solve the mystery you need to go into the past to learn the truth behind it.  The characters are lovable and very real; by the end of the book I felt I was part of the team! The story is fast paced and keeps you guessing and when you get to the end you want more! Lucky that this is just the first in the series (at the moment there are 5 Alex and Briggie mysteries)! I really enjoyed this book and I like that it is a very well written story that keeps you wanting to read without the need for any explicit scenes.

I highly recommend this book and I can honestly say that I have a new series that I must complete!!!!

Cankered Roots is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions.

G.G. Vandagriff was kind enough to prepare a guest post to tell how the idea of Cankered Roots came to be ...

How Did the Idea of Cankered Roots Come to Be?
By GG Vandagriff
I am a big fan of writing exercises, as anyone knows who asks me for writing advice.  One of my writing exercises turned out to be the first page of Cankered Roots.  I don’t even remember what the trigger was that led me down that path, but once I was on it, I was hooked.  The book promised to be a combination of all the things I liked best at that time—genealogical puzzles, mysteries, quirky characters (Briggie and Richard), and angst-driven characters like me (Alex).  I was deeply involved in researching my own family history as part of my therapy.  I come from a dysfunctional family (though not as bad as Alex’s!), and we were doing genograms (psychological family trees). 
I knew that for Alex to be truly healed, she had to find out the reason why her family sent her away when she was eighteen and never contacted her.  I am a “discovery” writer (sometimes known as a “pantzer,” i.e. “flying by the seat of your pants), so there was a little plotting involved, but not much.  I basically just told the story that already seemed to be inside of me.
Some parts have a connection to my real life. 1.) We used squirt guns in therapy to loosen up, and 2.) Briggie is named after my maternal great grandmother: Johanna Brighamina Poulson, a noted fisherwoman whom I never met.  I have a picture of her, cut from some newspaper, where she is holding up some kind of fish that is bigger than she is!  She caught it.  That was the genesis of “Briggie,” one of my most popular characters.  Of course, she had to be a Mormon grandmother with nine children, a Kansas City Royals baseball fan (at the time I was really, really into baseball, and the Royals had just won the World Series.), a hunter with her favorite deer rifle that she carried on a gunrack in her Bronco.  She wore Royals’ sweats in the winter, and white polyester pants with a Royals’ tee-shirt in the summer.  Oh, and let’s not forget her Royals’ nightie that she was wearing the night she shot her deer rifle at Cousin Bob, the fry cook. 3.)Richard Grinnell (with whom Briggie has a love-hate relationship) is actually based on my father.  I had a great time fictionalizing his outrageous quirks and his hubris. 4.) His son Daniel (the therapist) was loosely based on my husband.  5.)Alex was probably a braver version of me, but only if I were in her situation.  I think I must have put her character in her situation and then acted it out as I would have done.
With such characters, it’s no wonder I didn’t plot.  They took over the story and ran with it, while I held on for dear life.  Cankered ended up being the first in a series of five books that are in the process of being republished under my own imprint.  I wrote four more over the years and thought I was done. Not so!  Next year will bring Renaissance Roots, where the gang goes to Florence to investigate Richard’s Italian ancestry.

Great book, great author, and many books to enjoy.
Check out her website at


  1. Great post! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks for the terrific post! I always love it when people appreciate my quirky characters and stories. Of Deadly Descent, the second volume in series, is now up under our own imprint, and Tangled Roots just needs its new cover. All 5 will be up by December, and e-books are only 3.99! Previous publications are all up if you can't wait for the cheap ones! BTW tomorrow on my blog I will be introducing my Alex and Briggie Christmas store, with humorous, customized items for Briggie and Alex fans, or any genealogist on your Christmas List! Be sure to visit!!

  3. What a unique concept! I haven't heard of any other book about genealogy. Sounds interesting!



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