I’ve always loved reading mysteries and thrillers, but I’ve found lately that I’m really enjoying historical mysteries. I think a lot of the contemporary mysteries I’ve been reading have been relying heavily on the “shock” factor to hook readers. The problem is, you can only read so many books about serial killers eviscerating people before you start to get desensitized to the gore and horror.
Also, I’m finding fewer mysteries that rely on good old fashioned sleuthing–the kind where the reader can try and solve the mystery along with the protagonist–than I am mysteries that rely on some device or conceit to keep the story going. I don’t mind a heroine who can speak to the dead, I’d just prefer one who has especially sharp deductive reasoning skills.
Here’s a list of some of the historical mysteries currently gracing my e-reader:The Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood
She’s a fabulous heroine with fabulous clothes. She’s unapologetic about her sexuality and her independence, and the series is tremendous fun.
The first book in the series, A Test of Wills, introduces us to Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard.
Rutledge is suffering from PTSD or shell shock from his experiences in WWI which causes him to periodically hallucinate visits from a fallen comrade. The series also has a romance subplot over time.
Charles Todd (actually a mother-son writing team) also writes this series starring a WWI nurse, Bess Crawford.
The first book, A Duty to the Dead, involves a sunken ship and a dying solider.
This series is set in New York in the early 1900’s. Ziele is a detective who leaves New York for a small town north of the city after the tragic death of his fiancee.
Instead of getting away from grisly crimes, Ziele finds himself solving a brutal murder in In the Shadow of Gotham. Ziele also employs the “novel” forensic techniques of the time, like fingerprinting.
Set in the late 1880’s, the series follows the amateur sleuth Lady Julia Grey.
When Lady Julia’s husband is killed in the first book, Silent in the Grave, she takes it upon herself to solve his murder. This series is much loved by mystery readers and romance fans, too, and Raybourn has recently published a stand alone historical mystery, Night of a Thousand Stars as well.
This series follows a female Victorian undertaker named Violet Morgan.
The mystery is slow to build up in the first book, but the details about Victorian life and especially funerary rituals are fascinating (jewelry made of the deceased’s hair? ew). Also Violet is terribly good at her job–competence porn ahoy!
Molly Murphy is a plucky, Irish immigrant heroine and sleuth. Her first mystery, in Murphy’s Law, involves a murder on Ellis Island and gives the reader a tour of New York at the turn of the century.
Bowen also writes a series about Lady Victoria Georgianna Charlotte Eugenie, thirty-fourth in line to the throne. Georgie isn’t living the high life though–she’s broke– and this series follows her through a series of jobs and murders.
Those are just a few of the historical mysteries that I enjoy, and there are plenty more out there tempting my debit card.
Do you enjoy thrills and chills from the past? What are your favorite historical mysteries?