Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Mysteries

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is Genre Freebie and I’ve chosen Historical Mysteries, a combination of two of my favourite genres Historical Fiction and Crime Fiction. I’ve read lots of historical mysteries, so these ten are just a selection – and just see how people coped in the past with the ‘plague’ and new diseases in the 19th century:

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – based on the true story of the murder of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper in Canada in 1843. Grace and fellow servant James are found guilty of the murders. James was hanged and Grace imprisoned for life. The question, never answered to my satisfaction, all through the book is, was Grace guilty?

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry, a combination of historical fact and fiction; the social scene, historical and medical facts slotting perfectly into an intricate murder mystery.  It is mainly set in 1850 in Edinburgh, when a mysterious illness baffles doctors, who are unable to identify the disease, let alone cure their patients. When Dr Simpson is blamed for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances, Dr Will Raven attempts to clear his name and in doing so uncovers more unexplained deaths.

Arthur and George by Julian Barnes – based on the true story of Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji, a solicitor from Birmingham. In 1903, George was found guilty of a terrible crime and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. Desperate to prove his innocence, he recruited Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, to help solve his mysterious case and win him a pardon.

Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine,  published as Anna’s Book in the USA. It begins in 1905. There’s a murder, a missing child, a question of identity and overarching it all are the stories of two families – the Westerbys and the Ropers and all the people connected to them.

The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland, a fascinating medieval tale full of atmosphere and superstition, set in Porlock Weir in 1361 where a village is isolated by the plague when the Black Death spreads once more across England. It’s a complex story, told from different characters’ perspectives, following the lives of Will, a ‘fake’ dwarf, Sara, a packhorse man’s wife and her family, Matilda, a religious zealot, and Christina at nearby Porlock Manor amongst others. It’s also a tale of murder and of love.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. He determines to find out, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard III really was and who killed the Princes in the Tower.

Dissolution by C J Sansom – the first in his Tudor murder mystery series featuring lawyer Matthew Shardlake. This is set in 1537 – Shardlake investigates the death of a Commissioner during the dissolution of the monasteries.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, a novel split into two time zones, 1924 and 1999. The novel opens in 1999 with Grace’s dream of the night in 1924 when Robbie Hunter, a poet, committed suicide at Riverton Manor. Grace’s memories are revived after Ursula, an American film director who is making a film of the suicide had asked for her help as the only person involved who was still alive.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, set in Cambridge in 1170 during the reign of Henry II. A child has been murdered and others have disappeared (also found murdered). Adelia is a female doctor, who specialises in studying corpses. Running the risk of being accused of witchcraft, she cannot openly carry out her investigations in England in the 12th century and has to pretend that Mansur, a Muslim eunuch (her bodyguard) is the doctor.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, set in 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate.When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

 

13 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Mysteries

  1. Some fabulous recommendations here, a few of which I’ve read and some more that are on my wishlist. Great to see The Daughter of Time included. The Wench Is Dead by Colin Dexter has a similar premise – Inspector Morse is laid up in hospital and investigates a historical case, The Oxford Canal Murder.

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  2. I like historical mysteries, too, Margaret, so I’m very glad that you chose that category. And you’ve chosen some really talented authors, too! Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series is excellent, isn’t it? And so is the Ariana Franklin series. And, of course, Ruth Rendell. Some very fine reading there…

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  3. Alias Grace was amazing. I read it not too long ago. I’ve also read The Name of the Rose, but such long, long time ago (long before the movie, I believe), but I wasn’t that thrilled with it, if I recall correctly.

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  4. This is a Top Ten Tuesday I wish I had done. I have never participated in that meme because I just did not have time, while I was working. Now that I am retired I hope to find a way to do it occasionally. I love historical mysteries and am doing a Historical Fiction Challenge this year again (after many years). I just read Dissolution in 2019 and have more of the books in that series to read.

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