I was recently asked by a colleague for historical crime fiction recommendations for her book club. Of course, as is usually the case when anyone asks me for recommendations, the name of any book I have ever read vanished from my memory. So I did the only sensible thing, I asked Twitter. Turns out there are many historical crime fiction fans, of which I am one. And I was innunadated with replies, including a few people saying they were making notes on the recommended titles. So I thought the only sensible thing to do was dedicate a few posts to the sub-genre.
Here’s what was suggested. Thanks to everyone who suggested a title or two.
Many of us love the enduring appeal of a series, and quite a few were suggested. So if you fancy settling down for the long haul with welcome repeated visits to the same characters you could try one of these.
Andrew Taylor proved to be popular, with many people saying they would recommend anything by him. His books include The Ashes of London, The Fire Court and The King’s Evil.
Anne Perry has a few series, the Thomas Pitt series, the Daniel Pitt series, the William Monk series and the Elena Standish series, so plenty to be getting on with!
The Alexei Korolev series by William Ryan, starting with The Holy Thief.
Philip Kerr and the Bernie Gunther books
The Giordano Bruno series by SJ Parris.
John Lawton’s Troy novels.
Gregor Reinhardt series by Luke McCallin starting with The Man From Berlin.
The Falco series from Lindsey Davis. Titles include The Silver Pigs and Shadows in Bronze. Her Flavia Albia series was also highly recommended, the first of which is The Ides of April.
Abir Mukherjee’s Captain Sam Wyndham’s series, set in early 20th Century India. You can read my review of the first in the series, A Rising Man, by clicking on the link.
Antonia Hodgson’s Thomas Hawkins novels. The first in the series is The Devil and the Marshalsea. Click on the title to read my review.
The Jem Flockart novels by E.S. Thomson were mentioned a number of times.
The Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom was one of the most suggested series, the first in the series is entitled Dissolution. I’ve read most of this series and loved each book. The thread reminded me I need to catch up!
The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeves. The next book in the series, The Anarchists Club, has just been published.
The Alexander Seaton series starting with The Redemption of Alexander Seaton and the Seeker series, starting with The Seeker by SG Maclean.
Robin Blake’s 18th century mysteries featuring Cragg and Fedelis were recommended. The first book in the series including A Dark Anatomy and Dark Waters.
The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. Book 15, The American Agent has just been published but if you like to start at the beginning the first in the series is Maise Dobbs. You can read a Q&A with Jacqueline Winspear here.
M J Lee’s Inspector Danilov Series, starting with Death in Shanghai.
The Kitty Peck series by Kate Griffin.
The Mrs Hudson books by Michelle Birkby.
E. M. Powell’s Stanton and Barling mysteries, including The Kings Justice and The Monastery Murders.
Stephen Saylor Roma sub Rosa series.
Oscar de Muriel’s Frey and McGray novels starting with The String of Murders.
Elly Griffiths Stephens and Mephisto series. The first book in the series is The Zig Zag Girl, set in 1950s Brighton.
The Cornish Mysteries series by Katherine Stansfield. The first in the series is Falling Creatures.
The Crowther and Westerman series by Imogen Robertson, starting with Instruments of Darkness.
Edward Marston and his railway series.
Ariana Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar series, starting with Mistress of the Art of Death. (This series is one of my favourites in the genre).
Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series.
The Hudson and Lawes trilogy by Helen Maskew.
Fans of Roman crime may love David Wishart and his protagonist Marcus Corvinus.
Rosemary Rowe’s Libertus mystery series covers Roman Britain. The first one is The Germanicus Mosaic.
Rory Clements Tom Wilde books set in Cambridge pre WW2 – Corpus, Nucleus and Nemesis and his John Shakespeare series.
PB Ryan – The Nell Sweeney Mysteries.
Paul Dohery’s books including the Brother Athelstan series.
There were of course suggestions for individual books or authors rather than series.
David Liss’s historical crime novels, whose books include The Day of Atonement and The Devil’s Company.
John Maddox Roberts an American author who writes historical crime novels. Sadly not published in the UK.
Gillespie & I, Sugar Money and The Observations by Jane Harris.
The Long Drop by Denise Mina.
Circe by Madeline Miller
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The Girl in the Pink Raincoat by Alrene Hughes
The Burning Chamber by Kate Mosse
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Mister Timothy – Louis Bayard (Dickensian London).
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – Iceland , 1820s.
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney.
Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwartz.
The North Water by Ian McGuire
Jane Steen’s Lady Helena Investigates.
Wayland’s Revenge by Lesley Lodge.
The Leaden Heart by Chris Nickson.
Katherine Clements, The Coffin Path
The Conjurer’s Bird by Martin Davies
Natasha Pulley’s The Bedlam Stacks or Watchmaker of Filigree Street.
Soot by Andrew Martin
One Enchanted Evening by Anton Du Beke.
Walls of Silence by Ruth Wade
Foul Trade by B.K. Duncan
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
Wolf Winter by Cecila Ekback
Stone and Water by David James Buckley
True Crime Japan by Paul Murphy (true crime).
Painted Ladies by Lynn Bushell.
The Shining girls Lauren Beukes.
Peter Lovesy’s Wobble To Death.
Bring up the Bodies and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (true crime)
Midnight in Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (1830s Istanbul).
Money in the Morgue by Stella Duffy.
The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza
The Missing by Tim Gautreaux (’20s Louisiana).
Robert Lautner’s ‘The Road to Reckoning’ (1830s PA).
Liam McIlvanney’s The Quaker (’60s Glasgow).
Dan Leno and the Limeshouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd.
Fingersmith and The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. (I read this many years ago and can remember thoroughly enjoying this so I would second this recommendation).
The Music of the Spheres by Elizabeth Redfern
The Quincunx by Charles Palliser
Death and the Harlot by Georgina Clarke
The Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch.
An Appetite For Violets or The Penny Heart by Martine Bailey.
The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl translated Don Bartlett. You can read an extract here.
The Body on the Doorstep by A.J. MacKenzie
The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt Och Dag
Last English King by Julian Rathbone
The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
Arrowood and The Murder Pit by Mick Finlay.
Joseph Knight by James Robertson
Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (true crime).
Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose was also suggested a couple of times as was The Murder of Harriett Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes. Morality Play by Barry Unsworth cropped up more than once as did The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry. His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet was mentioned a few times, with much enthusiasim. Elizabeth Fremantle was described as an amazing writer. Her novel, The Poison Bed was mentioned more than a few times. The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby was suggested to me twice, as was Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace and None So Blind by Alis Hawkins.
Here are a few that I’ve read and reviewed too. Click on the title to read the reviews.
The Confesstions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans
The Doctor’s Wife is Dead by Andew Tierney (true crime)
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah
The Secrets of Wishtides by Kate Saunders
The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds
The Blood Dimmed Tide by Anthony Quinn
The Reckoning by Rennie Airth
Winter Seige by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman
The Devil and the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin
The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee
Although they were contemporary when written Agatha Christie novels decidedly fall into the genre.
There are a whole series of once contemporary crime classics from the British Library. Here are a few I’ve reviewed.
The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson
Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull
Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon
Foreign Bodies edited by Martin Edwards
Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate
Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith
Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton
Others that I came across on my shelves that I’ve not read or managed to review yet included Things In Jars by Jess Kidd (review is imminent), The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson, The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester, The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown, The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea, Death Descends on Saturn Villa by M.R.C. Kasasian, An Appetite for Murder by Linda Stratmann, The Devil’s Feast by M.J. Carter, Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds, An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson, A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson, Mad Blood Stiring by Simon Mayo, Gallows Court by Martin Edwards and The Canary Keeper by Clare Carson.
Of course this list is not exhaustive. There are countless options should one of these fail to appeal. I hope you discover something to love amongst the list. And do let me know if you have any recommendations. As for the title that was picked. Well it was one of my suggestions, The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh.