With all the modern technology we have to solve crime, fingerprint matching, DNA, not to mention video surveillance wherever you go, the sleuths of old had to rely solely on their intellect. Historical mysteries offer a chance to see good old-fashioned detective work from ancient Egypt to Victorian London and everything in between. Historical mysteries cover a wide range of times and places, so why not take a step back in time and see how you fare against the criminals of old.
One good deed
It's 1949. When war veteran Aloysius Archer is released from Carderock Prison, he is sent to Poca City on parole with a short list of do 's and a much longer list of don't s: do report regularly to his parole officer, don't go to bars, certainly don't drink alcohol, do get a job--and don't ever associate with loose women. The small town quickly proves more complicated and dangerous than Archer's years serving in the war or his time in jail. Within a single night, his search for gainful employment--and a stiff drink--leads him to a local bar, where he is hired for what seems like a simple job: to collect a debt owed to a powerful local businessman, Hank Pittleman. Soon Archer discovers that recovering the debt won't be so easy. The indebted man has a furious grudge against Hank and refuses to pay; Hank's clever mistress has her own designs on Archer; and both Hank and Archer's stern parole officer, Miss Crabtree, are keeping a sharp eye on him. When a murder takes place right under Archer's nose, police suspicions rise against the ex-convict, and Archer realizes that the crime could send him right back to prison . . . if he doesn't use every skill in his arsenal to track down the real killer.
Natt och Dag, Niklas
The wolf and the watchman
When a mutilated corpse is discovered in a local swamp, watchman Mikel Cardell and lawyer Cecil Winge comb the underworld of eighteenth-century Stockholm to unmask a murderer before a young workhouse laborer becomes the next victim.
The Satapur moonstone
India, 1922: It is rainy season in the lush, remote Satara mountains southeast of Bombay, where the kingdom of Satapur is tucked away. A curse seems to have fallen upon Satapur's royal family, whose maharaja died of a sudden illness shortly before his teenage son was struck down in a tragic accident. The kingdom is now ruled by an agent of the British Raj on behalf of Satapur's two maharanis, the dowager queen and the maharaja's widow. The royal ladies are in dispute over the education of the young crown prince, and a lawyer's council is required--but the maharanis live in purdah and do not speak to men. Just one person can help them: Perveen Mistry, India's only female lawyer. Perveen is determined to bring peace to the royal house and make a sound recommendation for the young prince's future, but knows she is breaking a rule by traveling alone as a woman into the remote countryside. And she arrives to find that the Satapur palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realizes she has walked into a trap. But whose? And how can she protect the royal children from the palace's deadly curse? This is the second in the series, start with the first The Widows of Malabar Hill.
Harris, C. S.
Who slays the wicked
When the handsome but dissolute young gentleman Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is called in by Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy to help catch the killer. Just seven months before, Sebastian had suspected Ashworth of aiding one of his longtime friends and companions in the kidnapping and murder of a string of vulnerable street children. But Sebastian was never able to prove Ashworth's complicity. Nor was he able to prevent his troubled, headstrong young niece Stephanie from entering into a disastrous marriage with the dangerous nobleman. Stephanie has survived the difficult birth of twin sons. But Sebastian soon discovers that her marriage has quickly degenerated into a sham. Ashworth abandoned his pregnant bride at his father's Park Street mansion and has continued living an essentially bachelor existence. And mounting evidence--ranging from a small bloody handprint to a woman's silk stocking--suggests that Ashworth's killer was a woman. Sebastian is tasked with unraveling the shocking nest of secrets surrounding Ashworth's life to keep Stephanie from being punished for his death. This is the latest in the series, you can start at the beginning with What Angels Fear.
The devil aspect
A novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates--the country's most depraved murderers--while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum.
A murderous marriage
When her sister Julia's new--and much older--husband is found dead the morning after their hasty marriage, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady's maid, Eva, must discover the killer before the Renshaws' social standing is irreparably damaged by a murder charge.
Toronto is under a record-breaking heat wave in July of 1936. Charlotte Frayne is part of a two-person private investigation firm, owned by T. Gilmore. An anti-Semitic hate letter is delivered to Gilmore which Charlotte is left to deal with, and Hilliard Taylor, a veteran of the First World War requests the firm's assistance in uncovering what he suspects is systematic embezzlement of the Paradise Café, which he owns and operates with three other men, all of whom were prisoners of war.
A dangerous collaboration
Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favour. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancee - much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind. As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund. This is the fourth in the series featuring Veronica Speedwell, be sure to read them all, starting with A Curious Beginning.
The vanishing man
London, 1853: Having earned some renown by solving a case that baffled Scotland Yard, young Charles Lenox is called upon by the Duke of Dorset, one of England's most revered noblemen, for help. A painting of the Duke's great-grandfather has been stolen from his private study. But the Duke's concern is not for his ancestor's portrait; hiding in plain sight nearby is another painting of infinitely more value, one that holds the key to one of the country's most famous and best-kept secrets. Dorset believes the thieves took the wrong painting and may return when they realize their error--and when his fears result in murder, Lenox must act quickly to unravel the mystery behind both paintings before tragedy can strike again. In this intricately plotted prequel to the Charles Lenox mysteries, the young detective risks his potential career--and his reputation in high society--as he hunts for a criminal mastermind.
The Black Ascot
An astonishing tip from a grateful ex-convict seems implausible--but Inspector Ian Rutledge is intrigued and brings it to his superior at Scotland Yard. Alan Barrington, who has evaded capture for ten years, is the suspect in an appalling murder during Black Ascot, the famous 1910 royal horse race meet honoring the late King Edward VII. His disappearance began a manhunt that consumed Britain for a decade. Now it appears that Barrington has returned to England, giving the Yard a last chance to retrieve its reputation and see justice done. Rutledge is put in charge of a quiet search under cover of a routine review of a cold case. Meticulously retracing the original inquiry, Rutledge begins to know Alan Barrington well, delving into relationships and secrets that hadn't surfaced in 1910. But is he too close to finding his man? His sanity is suddenly brought into question by a shocking turn of events. This is the latest book to feature Inspector Ian Rutledge, be sure to read them all, starting with A Test of Wills.
The Paragon Hotel
The year is 1921, and "Nobody" Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line. She befriends Max, a black Pullman porter who reminds her achingly of Harlem, who leads Alice to the Paragon Hotel upon arrival in Portland. Her unlikely sanctuary turns out to be the only all-black hotel in the city, and its lodgers seem unduly terrified of a white woman on the premises. But as she meets the churlish Dr. Pendleton, the stately Mavereen, and the unforgettable club chanteuse Blossom Fontaine, she begins to understand the reason for their dread. The Ku Klux Klan has arrived in Portland in fearful numbers--burning crosses, inciting violence, electing officials, and brutalizing blacks. And only Alice, along with her new "family" of Paragon residents, are willing to search for a missing mulatto child who has mysteriously vanished into the Oregon woods.
Mycroft and Sherlock
It is 1872, and a series of gruesome murders is the talk of London. Mycroft Holmes--now twenty-six and a force to be reckoned with at the War Office--has no interest in the killings; however, his brother Sherlock has developed a distasteful fascination for the macabre to the detriment of his studies, much to Mycroft's frustration. When a ship carrying cargo belonging to Mycroft's best friend Cyrus Douglas runs aground, Mycroft persuades Sherlock to serve as a tutor at the orphanage that Douglas runs as a charity, so that Douglas might travel to see what can be salvaged. Sherlock finds himself at home among the street urchins, and when a boy dies of a suspected drug overdose, he decides to investigate, following a trail of strange subterranean symbols to the squalid opium dens of the London docks. Meanwhile a meeting with a beautiful Chinese woman leads Mycroft to the very same mystery, one that forces him to examine the underbelly of the opium trade that is enriching his beloved Britain's coffers. As the stakes rise, the brothers find that they need one another's assistance and counsel. But a lifetime of keeping secrets from each other may have catastrophic consequences. This is the second book in the series be sure to start with Mycroft Holmes.
Murder on Union Square
Frank and Sarah Malloy are enjoying married life and looking to make their family official by adopting Catherine, the child Sarah rescued and has been raising as her daughter. The newlyweds soon discover, Parnell Vaughn, an actor and Catherine's legal father, is looking to fatten his pockets by insisting on a financial settlement to relinquish his parental rights. Even though exchanging money for a child is illegal, Frank and Sarah's love for Catherine drives them to take a chance. When Frank returns with the money and finds Vaughn beaten to death, all evidence points to Frank as the culprit. A relatively unsuccessful actor with no money and little promise, Vaughn seems at first to be an unlikely candidate for murder--particularly such a violent crime of passion--but Frank soon uncovers backstage intrigue as dramatic as any that appears on stage. Sarah and Frank must use all of their resources to investigate Vaughn's death as Frank's own life hangs in the balance. This is the latest book in the series, be sure to read them all!
The last hours
For most, the Black Death is the end. For a brave few, it heralds a new beginning. Widowed by her husband's death from the pestilence, Lady Anne assumes control of his people's future--200 bonded serfs without rights of ownership to land. Lady Anne decides to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside a defendable moat and sharing the available food amongst all. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflict arises when they're given a voice. They fear starvation when their food runs out but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the safety of the demesne in search of supplies and news? And how safe is anyone in Develish when an unexplained murder threatens the uneasy status quo?
Murder on Black Swan Lane
The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. He does not suffer fools gladly. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London's most popular satirical cartoonist, A.J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church--his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear--and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect. An artist in her own right, Charlotte Sloane has secretly slipped into the persona of her late husband, using his nom de plume A.J. Quill. When Wrexford discovers her true identity, she fears it will be her undoing. But he has a proposal--use her sources to unveil the clergyman's clandestine involvement in questionable scientific practices, and unmask the real murderer. Soon Lord Wrexford and the mysterious Mrs. Sloane plunge into a dangerous shadow world hidden among London's intellectual enclaves to trap a cunning adversary--before they fall victim to the next experiment in villainy. This is the first in the series. Be sure to read the next volume, Murder at Half Moon Gate!
Death in the stars
France Brody captures the atmosphere and language of 1920s England while delivering a captivating plot in the ninth book of this traditional cozy mystery series featuring private investigator Kate Shackleton. Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party on the grounds of Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive. During the eclipse, Selina's friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can't help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths -and whether there is a murderer in the company. This is latest in the series, start from the beginning with Dying in the Wool!
Death in St. Petersburg
After the final curtain of Swan Lake, an animated crowd exits the Mariinsky theatre brimming with excitement from the night's performance. But outside the scene is somber. A ballerina's body lies face down in the snow, blood splattered like rose petals over the costume of the Swan Queen. The crowd is silenced by a single cry-- "Nemetseva is dead!" Amongst the theatergoers is Lady Emily, accompanying her dashing husband Colin in Russia on assignment from the Crown. But it soon becomes clear that Colin isn't the only one with work to do. When the dead ballerina's aristocratic lover comes begging for justice, Emily must apply her own set of skills to discover the rising star's murderer. Her investigation takes her on a dance across the stage of Tsarist Russia, from the opulence of the Winter Palace, to the modest flats of ex-ballerinas and the locked attics of political radicals. This is the latest in the series, be sure to read them all.
Let darkness bury the dead
In November 1917, the Great War continues. William Murdoch is a widower and senior detective who spends his time tracking down bootleggers and tipplers. His wife, Amy, died giving birth to their second child, a girl who died as well. Murdoch, racked by grief, withdrew from his other child Jack, which he comes to regret. Jack, now twenty-one, returns from France after being wounded in battle. The night after Jack and his comrade McKinnon arrive home, a young man is found beaten to death in an impoverished area of Toronto known as the Ward. Soon after, Murdoch has to deal with the tragic suicide of a young man. Two more attacks follow in quick succession. The only common denominator is that all of the men were exempted from conscription. Increasingly worried that Jack knows more than he says, Murdoch must solve these crimes before more innocent lives are lost. Read the series that inspired the television show!
MacNeal, Susan Elia.
The Paris spy
Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she's working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she's disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can't help longing for home. But her missions come first. Maggie's half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her--that is, if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite. This is the latest in the series, start at the beginning with Mr. Churchill's Secretary.
Wolf on a string
Christian Stern, an ambitious young scholar and alchemist, arrives in Prague in the bitter winter of 1599, intent on making his fortune at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, the eccentric Rudolf II. The night of his arrival, drunk and lost, Christian stumbles upon the body of a young woman in Golden Lane, an alley hard by Rudolf's great castle. Dressed in a velvet gown, wearing a large gold medallion around her neck, the woman is clearly well-born--or was, for her throat has been slashed. A lesser man would smell danger, but Christian is determined to follow his fortunes wherever they may lead. He quickly finds himself entangled in the machinations of several ruthless courtiers, and before long he comes to the attention of the Emperor himself. Rudolf, deciding that Christian is that rare thing--a person he can trust--sets him the task of solving the mystery of the woman's murder. But Christian soon realizes that he has blundered into the midst of a power struggle that threatens to subvert the throne itself. And as he gets ever nearer to the truth of what happened that night in Golden Lane, he finally sees that his own life is in grave danger.