Thursday, November 6, 2008

Historical Mystery Fiction

Hello All!

I have recently figured out a trend in some of my mystery reading--much of my historical mystery reading takes place in England between the late 1700s to the end of the 1800s. You would have thought I might have caught on before this :).

One of my favorite time periods in British history is the Regency period, which I discovered first through Georgette Heyer first, then through Jane Austen. Madeleine Robins writes a series set in that time period of a woman whose reputation is ruined due to an affair. Instead of becoming a prostitute, she becomes a inquiry agent, which includes dressing as a man occasionally to move more easily around London. Unfortunately, there are only two titles in this series.

Another series set in the Regency period is C. S. Harris's featuring Sebastian St. Cyr. Sebastian is a Napoleon War veteran, during which he was an intelligence agent. Through circumstances, he ends up a murder suspect, and has to use his skills to prove his innocence in the first book in this series What Angels Fear. I've read two so far, and enjoyed them thoroughly.

Moving towards to the middle of the 19th century, Charles Finch's new series begins with A Beautiful Blue Death, where neighbors Charles Lenox and Lady Jane Grey investigate the murder of her maid. Charles is a bachelor of independent means, and he has followed an investigate path before, as a way to truly use his intellect. I look forward to the second in this series, to see how (or if) a relationship further develops between the neighbors, and to see Charles Lenox investigate another case.

Mid to late century, Deanna Raybourn's heroine, young widow Lady Julia Grey, has inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane looking into her husband's death, which she though was natural. Nicholas is a more blunt individual than Lady Grey is accustomed to, and as she gets to know him, and herself, she begins to grow and trust herself more. Secondary characters are important as Lady Grey is one of 10 siblings, and has an overprotective father, among other interesting people.

Last in this list is Tasha Alexander. Her series features Lady Emily Ashton, another young widow, whose husband was lost under mysterious circumstances. As she learns more about her husband, who lead a separate life from hers, she falls in love with him, and the history he loved so much. Emily also becomes very independent, befriending several other independent thinking women, and choosing to lead her own life in this process. Colin Hargreaves, her husband's best friend, and an investigator, looks into his death, and in the process, becomes close to Emily.

All of these characters are, no doubt, living somewhat outside the restrictions of society of their time, but that leads to characters who can have strong personalities and interesting adventures. All of the above main characters are intelligent, which I find to be important to me. These books were all written/published in the last five years or so, and I highly recommend them as good mysteries, and interesting views of their respective time periods in English history.

Here is a list of the authors I discussed above, and the books that I've read so far by each--some have more in their series than I've listed. Enjoy!

Tasha Alexander: 1) And Only to Deceive 2) A Poisoned Season & 3) A Fatal Waltz

Charles Finch: 1) A Beautiful Blue Death

C. S. Harris: 1) What Angels Fear 2) When Gods Die

Deanna Raybourn: 1) Silent in the Grave

Madeleine Robins: 1) Point of Honour & 2)Petty Treason

Happy Reading!


pattinase (abbott) said...

This is a real deficit in my reading. I steer away from books set in other times. They never seem real to me. I will try to pick one of these up and correct that.

Jen said...

Patti, when I was in college I ADORED the Romantic and Victorian periods in classic British literature. I still love historical fiction, but lately what I've read has been further back to the medieval period. I'm totally in love with Ariana Franklin's Adelia Aguilar series which takes place in the 12th century.