Some Favorite Historical Mysteries — Barbara Monajem

Did I already write about this subject? I know I’ve posted about favorite books here before – once about children’s stories and later about historical novels, but I don’t think I got to mysteries. (Although I’m pretty sure I promised a post about them.)

Ah, historical mysteries. I absolutely love them—so much so that sometimes I wonder why I’m writing historical romance. (In fact, I have a half-written Regency mystery languishing on my hard drive, but I have no time for it now, alas.)

Today I have the great pleasure of recommending some of my favorite historical mysteries. I will start far back in time and move forward.

The Silver PigsFirst of all are Lindsey Davis’s mysteries about Ancient Rome. Her hero, Marcus Didius Falco, is an informer, the Roman equivalent of a private eye. He is one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever read. I was only vaguely interested in Ancient Rome before reading The Silver Pigs, the first in the series. Now I can’t get enough. Some of the books are fast moving, some are slower, and all contain astonishing historical detail. (And there’s a continuing romance in the series. Yes, I love mysteries, but they’re even better if they contain some romance.) A Morbid Taste for Bones

In medieval mysteries, there is of course the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. The first is A Morbid Taste for Bones, and they’re all fabulous, I promise.

Forward to Elizabethan England and the Sir Robert Carey mysteries by P.F. Chisholm (which, just so you know, is a pseudonym of Patricia Finney). I wasn’t much into Elizabethan England before reading her books.

A Famine of HorsesI’m still not, to tell the truth—it’s just not a period that captures my imagination—but Patricia’s writing is so energetic, and her stories so exciting and enthralling, that I can’t resist them. They’re all wonderful, but my favorites are the ones that take place on the Scottish Borders. Oh, and one of her books (I forget which, but I wouldn’t tell you even if I remembered, because you really must read them all in sequence) has the most bittersweet romantic ending I have ever, ever read. The first in the series is A Famine of Horses. Still life with murder

In Victorian mysteries, my favorite so far is P.B. Ryan’s series which takes place in Boston. The heroine is Nell Sweeney, a governess with a past, and the hero is…hmm. I can’t think of what to say about him, so I won’t say anything. I’ve only read the first two, so I don’t know how the romance progresses…but I intend to read more and find out. The first in the series is Still Life With Murder.

Last of all, let’s go to even more recent history and the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. Her Royal SpynessThese take place in England in the 1930s. The heroine is the impoverished daughter of a duke, thirty-somethingth in line for the throne, and she’s always being sent on one mission or another by the queen. They’re very funny stories which at the same time give an illuminating picture of the history of the time. The first is Her Royal Spyness. Highly recommended!!

And now, please tell me about your favorite historical mysteries!

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Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

26 Responses

  1. Maggi Andersen

    Her Royal Spyness looks wonderful, something to look forward to, thanks Barbara. I like Ashley Gardner’s Captain Lacy series, and Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt.

  2. Barbara Monajem

    Hi, Maggi. I’ve read some of Anne Perry’s stories, but I don’t think I’ve tried Ashley Gardner. Thanks!

  3. KB Inglee

    I just finished a Charles Todd book myself. Couldn’t put it down. I also have had the good luck to be able to read two historicals in manuscript form. Loved both. They are about a Quaker midwife in the 1880s and are by Edith Maxwell. The first is called Delivering the Truth and will be out next year.
    I’ve also been reading a series by DB Jackson set in Boston minutes before the Revolution. It is sort of hard-boiled magic.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, KB. I will have to try something by Charles Todd–that’s the second recommendation today. I’ll put Edith Maxwell on my TBR list. Oooh, hard-boiled magic sounds like fun. 🙂

  4. Diane Eberly

    They all sound so good. I’ll have to see if the Library has them. What is the title of P.B. Ryan’s book I can’t read the title on picture and you didn’t mention the title in the paragraph about it. Thanks.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Diane. The first in P.B. Ryan’s series is Still Life with Murder. I’ll go back into the post and add that information. Thanks for alerting me to that omission. 🙂

    • Barbara Monajem

      Great, Tina. That’s my goal today — to spread the word about great books. 🙂

  5. elisabethhobbes

    I love the Falco series. Apart from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld they’re my favourite series of books. I read the first one when I came out and MDF set the standard which all other men have failed to meet.

  6. Barbara Monajem

    Hi, Elisabeth. Falco does set the bar very high. Sigh.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Ashley. I’m already compiling another list for next time. 🙂

  7. Julia Justiss

    I write an historical fiction column for Fresh Fiction and am thinking about doing one on historical mysteries, so I’m taking notes! One of my personal favs is Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series, set in WWII England and beginning with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary (now up to book 6) That one had the perfect premise to hook me: Maggie Hope is a gifted mathemetician and applies to be a codebreakers, but TPTB think women should be secretaries. She ends up working for Churchill (as a secretary at first) helps solve a murder and becomes a spy!

    • Barbara Monajem

      That sounds like a great series, Julia. I’m glad this post is proving useful for your column. 🙂

  8. Michelle Markey Butler

    My favorite medieval mystery series is Margaret Frazer’s Sister Frevisse and its spin-off about the actor Joliffe. Unfortunately, the author has passed away so there won’t be any more new ones. : (

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks for the recommendation, Michelle. The same applies to the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters, as she passed away some time ago.

  9. jdh2690

    Thanks so much for the recommendations to Lindsey Davis and Rhys Bowen, Barbara! I LOVE historical mysteries/intrigue…and if there’s romance in them so much the better (I’m an historical romance junkie too). Again…thanks!

    • Barbara Monajem

      A mystery lover after my own heart. 🙂 I hope you enjoy trying these authors! 🙂

  10. Alyssa Alexander

    You know, I have heard such wonderful things about the Brother Cadfael series. I think I’m going to have to pick it up!

  11. Christy Carlyle

    Great recommendations, Barbara. I highly recommend the Lady Darby mysteries by Anna Lee Huber. They’re set in Victorian Edinburgh and are absolutely fantastic. I’ve just read the fourth and now I’m going back and reading the first books in the series.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Christy. Now that you mention it, I remember reading the first Lady Darby mystery — The Anatomist’s Wife — and enjoying it very much. Thanks for reminding me–I’ll put the next one high on my TBR list.

  12. Barbara Bettis

    Some great new titles here for me to read. I enjoy the C. S. Harris Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries (Regency period). I also like Sharon K. Penman’s medieval mysteries. And, of course, Ellis Peters’ wonderful Brother Cadfael series. Does anyone recall the TV productions–BBC, probably–of Cadfael, with the fantastic Derek Jacobi as Cadfael? Loved those!!

  13. Barbara Monajem

    Hi, Barb. I will have to look for the BBC series–maybe it’s available to download or stream. I have read several of the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries. C.S. Harris does a wonderful job of evoking the atmosphere of Regency London, especially the darker side of it. I haven’t read Sharon K. Penman — thanks for the suggestion. 🙂