After we closed the store and my reading was slightly less proscribed by authors visiting or the latest new thing, I realized that one of the genres I truly love is historical mysteries. The range is so wide – in story telling style, in time period, in characters, and the armchair history lessons always, always add to my reading enjoyment. The fact that the books are set in the past makes the detective rely much more on old fashioned, golden age style sleuthing methods, another attraction, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks to Mystery Scene Magazine as well as my own reading, I find I read pretty widely in this subgenre. Here are my 10 favorites this year. One of them I liked so much it’s on my all around top 10 list (stay tuned!)
The sparkling fourth installment to Dianne Freeman’s insanely enjoyable Frances, Lady Harleigh series finds the intrepid Frances on the verge of marriage to her beloved George, only to discover, practically on the eve of her wedding, that George’s wife has appeared. Of course, it’s a misunderstanding, but the social damage is done. Irena, the woman making the claim, appears not only demented but in danger, as she’s been receiving threatening letters.
This delightful series continues to enchant. The first book introduced the widowed Frances, Lady Harleigh, rich and on the loose in 1890’s London for the first time. By this third installment, she’s engaged, is busy with her daughter, Rose, and is supervising the wedding plans for her sister Lily, who is inconveniently pregnant.
Frances is nothing if not practical, and she and her fiancée George quickly arrange for Lily to be married from George’s family seat while George’s brother is abroad. The wedding party is smallish, but for a house party – and a pool of murder suspects – plenty big enough. Combining the classic British house party whodunnit with a lighter, funnier version of an historical cozy, Freeman is a deft hand with both narrative and character, and she keeps things percolating.
What does an American-born aristocrat do when she becomes a young widow? Why, introduce her heiress niece to London society, start playing match-maker for other young American heiresses, and solve murders, of course.
In this lighthearted second installment in the Countess of Harleigh series, Frances has a serious problem. When her cousin Charles decides it’s time to look for a wife, Frances introduces him to her acquaintance Mary Archer. The romance doesn’t work out and soon after Charles and Mary part company, Mary is found dead, and Frances is determined to keep Charles from being accused of murder.
Black and White Ball, Loren D. Estleman, Deep into a now 80 book and counting career, and 27 in to his iconic Amos Walker series, what is Loren Estleman going to come up with that might be new? You might be surprised. In this novel Walker crosses paths with one of Estleman’s other characters, Peter Macklin, who hires Walker to look after his ex-wife. The meet up of these two classic characters delivers true energy and snap to this tight, well written novel. Paced perfectly, set in a gritty yet realistic Detroit, and sporting the truly lovely prose and incredible dialogue that are an Estleman trademark, this is a great addition to a classic series by the greatest private eye writer at work at the moment.