Friday, August 6, 2010

What Would You Recommend? - Historical Mysteries

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

Historical mysteries are an interesting subcategory, and one I got asked about last week. I have to admit that I know of a couple, but they're really only the best known ones, and I haven't read any of them: Peter Tremayne's series, the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters and the books by Sharon Kay Penman. These ones are all placed in medieval settings. There's only one Roman set one that I know of: the series by Lindsey Davis.

The Cadfael series of books is perhaps the most well known, having been made into a T.V. series that, if my memory's not playing tricks, starred Derek Jacobi. In terms of the other books and authors I've listed here, I've seen some comments about the Sharon Kay Penman books that say her regular historical fiction is better, but I really can't say for myself. I've not seen anything for the other two authors I've mentioned.

Does anyone know of any other mysteries set in various historical settings? And, for those of you that read them, which ones are your favorites? Which ones are historically accurate is another good question too. One that I'd find particularly key.

So, what would you recommend?


Harvee said...

Try the Devlin Diary, historical mystery set in England. I have a review of it plus an interview with the author, if you are interested.

Anassa said...

I've got three series, two of which I've read at least one book of. Caveat: I don't know my history nearly as well as you do, so you might find glaring errors I don't notice. :)

Mistress of the Art of Death series, Ariana Franklin - A woman trained at the Salerno medical school is sent to Cambridge c. 1200 to help catch a serial killer, then is talked/trapped into staying in England and sent on other missions by Henry II. Religion, the role of women, and marriage laws all feature at various times. There are some nice details, esp. with the period forensics. Four books so far.

Medicus, Ruth Downie - A much lighter mystery, involving a Roman doctor newly arrived in Britannia, who not only has to deal with substandard housing and stupid, injured soldiers, but also the disappearances and murders of a group of local prostitutes. Not the best book to ever be published, but certainly good for light reading. There's at least one sequel, but I haven't picked it up.

The Detective Murdoch series, Maureen Jennings - Haven't read this one, but have heard good things and plan to read some day. It follows a clever detective in Victorian Toronto.

Anassa said...

Oh, and forgot to mention: Franklin does admit to changing a few dates and such for the sake of the story. So if you're likely to be upset that Event X happens in the books five years before it did in reality, this might not be a series for you.

Marg said...

There are a few more set in Rome. Steven Saylor and John Roberts Maddox come to mind.

If you want Victorian mysteries try Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander. The Amelia Peabody series by Barbara Peters is about archaelogists working in Egypt starting in Victorian times too.

I enjoy the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood which are set in Australia in the 1930s, and have heard good things about the Maisie Dobbs series as well.

If you want mysteries in the Elizabethan era then there are two series - Fiona Buckley's Ursula Blanchard series and Karen Harper's Elizabeth series.

As for Sharon Penman's mysteries, by the time the last book in the series was released it was very good, but I can see why people would say that about the earlier books.

Elena said...

Book Bird Dog, I would definitely be interested in that. Going to have to go poke around looking for it.

Anassa, Those sound really good. Definitely going to have to check them out, especially that first one you mentioned.

Thanks for the suggestions as well Marg. You lot are terrible for increasing the list of books I want to buy :)

Anassa said...

Elena, you should know better than to ask dedicated readers for suggestions. Of course we're going to hook you!

Elena said...

Which is exactly the way I like it. Thanks, Anassa.

Lorin said...

For more medieval mysteries, I recommend the two series by Margaret Frazer: the Dame Frevisse series (The Novice's Tale, Servant's Tale, etc) and the Joliffe series, which is a spin-off (A Play of Isaac, etc). I also really liked a medieval mystery I read earlier this year, A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel by Mel Starr. It is the 2nd in a series, though I haven't read the 1st.

Elena said...

Those sound interesting Lorin. I'll definitely have to take a peek. Thanks for the suggestions.


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