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Topic: Historical mystery suggestions

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Subject: Historical mystery suggestions
Date Posted: 10/28/2008 12:40 AM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 1,906
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I don't read many mysteries set before 1900 and was wondering if anyone had any historical mysteries that they would reccomend. I am thinking about starting Anne Perry's Thomas Pitt series and was wanting to know if they are any good.


Date Posted: 10/28/2008 8:49 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
Posts: 310
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I haven't read her Thomas Pitt series, but I did read her William Monk series and loved it!  It is about a police detective who loses his memory but tries not to let it show while he does his job.  The detail in Perry's writing is execptional and I enjoyed every book in the series. 


Another series I have read actually takes place in the 1920's England.  Yes, it is after 1900, but still worth noting.  It is the 'Masie Dobb's' books by Jacqueline Winspear.  Also- great details, strong stories and a likeable leading character. 

Both are more historical myteries than cozies.  That's my two-cents!



Date Posted: 10/28/2008 9:33 AM ET
Member Since: 8/11/2006
Posts: 6,597
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Aubree, go to http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/ and then click on Historical Index in the far left column. This will take you to a number of links that feature mystery books whose settings range from ancient to modern day times.

Kim (Mistry) -
Date Posted: 10/28/2008 12:19 PM ET
Member Since: 6/23/2006
Posts: 4,118
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  I heartily suggest Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mystery series.  It features a mid-wife who solves crimes with the help of a NYC detective. It's a fascinating look into late 19th century NYC and the classes, the changes going on and every day life.  I love this series and it's a keeper for me!

Date Posted: 10/28/2008 1:56 PM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2005
Posts: 5,238
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I am collecting the books in all of the series that have been recommended to you so far, but haven't started reading them yet myself.  I have heard good reports on each of those series.

The primary historical mystery series that I AM reading now is the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters.  Amelia and her husband are Victorian Egyptologists, and most of the books are set in Egypt.  If you are even mildly interested in Egyptology, these books are wonderful.

Another series that I just started - and am so far enjoying - is the Owen Archer series by Candace Robb.  This series is set in medieval York (England).

I think a lot is going to depend on what period and locations of history you are interested in.  Do you have a preference?

Date Posted: 10/28/2008 8:46 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 1,906
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I love the Amelia Peabody books. I've just started getting a few of her Vicky Bliss books but haven't started them yet.

I really don't have a preference on period or location, just trying to broaden my  horizons a bit.

Thanks for everyone's help!


Kat (polbio) -
Subject: Historical Mysteries
Date Posted: 11/2/2008 12:30 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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there is a book called Time for the Death of a King by AnnDukthas which is really good. Set in Medieval Scotland the detective is an imortal monk who is placed in a real life mystery from History. It was really worth reading. There are suppose to be other books in that series as well.

I really enjoyed Dante's Club by Michael Pearl and the Historian by Elizabeth Kostov also.

Date Posted: 11/2/2008 4:39 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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I love Barbara Hambly's mysteries about Benjamin January, who is a free black man living in 1830's New Orleans. She brings that world to life so well. The first one is A Free Man of Color.

Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge mysteries are also very evocative of their period, which is England immediately after World War I. The author really makes you feel the devastating effect the war had on British society, esp. the small towns, which is where most of the crimes take place. And the hero/detective is a veteran who is literally haunted by his war experiences. I believe the first book is A Test of Wills...I ended up reading them out of order by necessity and that didn't affect the flow too much at all. They do take place after 1900, I know, but they are a great look at the world as it entered the 20th century.

P.B.  Ryan has written a series about an Irish governess in upper-crust Boston in the 1870's (the "Gilded Age")--they're not quite as complex as the previous two series, but still well-written with engaging characters. These really should be read in order. The first book is Still Life With Murder.

I also have enjoyed the Anne Perry/William Monk and Victoria Thompson "Gaslight" books that Deborah and Kim mentioned.

Last Edited on: 11/2/08 4:40 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/3/2008 9:31 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,603
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Historical mysteries are my favorite sub-genre, but it's hard to know what to recommend if you don't have a favorite time period or type of book. I myself prefer the medieval time frame. Once I get started with recommendations, it is very hard to stop! LOL

I tried a couple of Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt books, read one and DNF'd the second. Set in approximately that same time frame, I find I do enjoy Victoria Thompson's "gaslight" mysteries featuring widowed midwife Sarah Brandt and Det. Sgt. Frank Malloy of the NY Police. Also enjoy Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy series.

Favorites of mine: Susanna Gregory (Matthew Bartholomew series, set in 1350's Cambridge, UK), Peter Tremayne (Sister Fidelma, set in 7th-centure Ireland), Sharan Newman (Catherine LeVendeur, medieval France), Bernard Knight (Crowner John, medieval Devon, UK), and of course Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series about the medieval monk in Shrewsbury. There are so many others....

I read two of the Amelia Peabody books and couldn't possibly have stomached another. Ugh!


Date Posted: 11/13/2008 10:47 AM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
Posts: 5,752
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I second the Gaslight Series, and also recommend Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy series.  I love both of these.

Date Posted: 12/19/2008 9:21 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
Posts: 310
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Okay, this is another example why I love this website....

I like Anne Perry's 'William Monk' series and reading this thread led me to enjoy the first book Rhys Bowen's 'Molly Murphy' series.  Janelle, you convinced me to try P.B. Ryan and I am glad I did (had to find them at the library in the town next to mine, as they are now out of print but it is worth the drive.) 

I have not tried the 'Gaslight' series but hopefully Santa will bring me the first in the series next week....

I just want to say thanks again to all those who particpate in these discussion groups-it is nice to meet so many other mystery fans who enjoy books!


Date Posted: 12/19/2008 2:48 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2008
Posts: 53
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Nobody has mentioned Deanna Raybourn's books: Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary. I think they are Victorian period and I absolutely loved them. I am anxiously awaiting the third book in the series which comes out around March 09.

I also recently read a couple books by Tasha Alexander. I think the series is: And Only to Deceive, A Poisoned Season, and A Fatal Waltz. I've read the first two and just found out my library has the third on the shelf so I need to get over there. :)

I also liked the William Monk books (better than Thomas Pitt) and the Molly Murphy books. I've seen the "Gaslight" books but never tried to read one. I guess I'll have to see if my library has them or put them on my list of new authors to try.


Date Posted: 12/22/2008 3:58 PM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
Posts: 310
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I asked for the Deanna Raybourn books for Christmas-I think my MIL bought them for me (all I know is my hubby told me not to buy them the last time we were at Border's.)  Glad to read a good report on this author!


Date Posted: 12/26/2008 1:02 PM ET
Member Since: 7/14/2007
Posts: 8,942
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Mistress of the Art of Death was excellent!  It takes place in the 1200's in England, and is about the forensic investigator sent to assist the investigation of some horrible murders.  It has a bit of the church/state politics of the time, some medical forensic aspects, and the attitudes towards returned crusaders, Jews, the clergy, etc.

Date Posted: 12/26/2008 8:14 PM ET
Member Since: 5/20/2008
Posts: 2,161
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Emily Brightwell's "Mrs. Jeffries" series is set in Victorian England and they are police procedural mysteries about  a housemaid who helps a Scotland Yard Inspector solve mysteries. These are *very* vozy and even a little predictable (not the murderer, but the way the staff works is nearly always the same). They are so cozy I love them on rainy days and when I feel blue!

I also love Susan Wittig Alberts "Cottage Tales" which feature Beatrix Potter as the sleuth. These are also highly cozy. Very nice if you like things like "Anne of Green Gables", too. Sweet books!

I am wanting to try Carole Nelson Douglas' "Irene Adler" mysteries, but haven't had an opportunity.

Date Posted: 12/28/2008 9:54 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2008
Posts: 53
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I hope you got your books. I envy you reading them for the first time. I got my mom and sister hooked on them too. :)


Date Posted: 12/31/2008 11:41 AM ET
Member Since: 12/30/2006
Posts: 929
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I really like the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy series by Carrie Bebris.  You don't have to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy them, but I think it is helpful in understanding the background.  They are light, cozy mysteries with Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy as the main characters.

Date Posted: 12/31/2008 2:19 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
Posts: 6,362
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As mentioned, it depends a great deal on both your interest in a time period and the type of mystery you prefer. 

I guess I should apologize for this (but I won't).  Anne Perry is quite popular and I read a couple of her books a few years ago and didn't feel the need to ever read another one.  I recently read one as part of a group read and found myself muttering under my breath <Anne *****ing Perry>.  She did write a dandy, if implausible, "digging up a body in a churchyard at midnight" scene though.  She's not terrible but I believe she has some recurring themes that I find wearisome.  YMMV.

OTOH, I enjoyed the Amelia Peabody books for a long time, but I think they have run their course for me.  I don't know if I would like them as much if they were new to me now or not.  Elizabeth Peters does manage to describe Egypt very well while the plots of some books could be plopped into almost any setting with only a few changes. 

I've been reading Lindsey Davis's Didius Falco series for a long time.  There are several historical series set in ancient Rome if that interests you.  Stephen Saylor writes one which I haven't tried yet.  I don't mind that Falco and his Helena are not a very realistic pairing.  If I want reality, I'd live there.

I enjoyed Deanna Raybourn's books too.   And I liked Laurie King's books with a revisioned Sherlock Holmes but these are a bit controversial.  Honestly, you'd have thought King had messed with St. Francis or something, lol.  Well, maybe that would have caused less of a reaction?

Another series I've enjoyed is Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series.  I've had most of them on audio but I don't want Jane to die and her health is failing...  These incorporate some history and also the customs of the day into the story.

ETA:  At this point, can we almost consider older books like some of the Nero Wolfe's as close to HF?  I was reading an English mystery and had read quite a bit of it before I realized that "pin control" meant exactly that - regular pins because of the war and the metal shortage.  I had been thinking it must be some other kind of pins, lol.  I guess these wouldn't meet your criteria though - sorry.

Last Edited on: 12/31/08 2:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 2