A Trip Through English History

Southeast LibraryStaff Picks

A Trip Through English History

Historical mysteries

Take a trip through England and history by reading historical mysteries set in various eras of Britain’s past. Explore the dawn of British common law in the Plantagenet era, religious upheaval in the Tudor era, the beginnings of formal police services and investigation in the Victorian era, and social change in the Edwardian era, all while trying to figure out 'whodunnit' with citizens turned sleuths.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Arianna Franklin
(Plantagenet England)
Mistress of the Art of Death introduces Adelia Aguilar, a Salerno trained doctor, who is sent to England and must assist King Henry II when children in Cambridge are murdered and the locals begin to blame the local Jews. Set in the Plantagenet era at the dawn of secular legal codes, Adelia must figure out who she can trust when everyone around her seems to be guilty and her gender gives the locals pause in answering her questions.

Already read it? Franklin wrote three more books featuring Adelia: The Serpent’s Tale, Grave Goods, and A Murderous Procession, also published as The Assassin’s Prayer
Dissolution by CJ Sansom
(Tudor England)
Dissolution is the first in the Matthew Shardlake series set during the reign of Henry VIII as Cromwell takes down the Catholic monasteries. Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer and religious reformer, is called upon to investigate the murder of one of Cromwell’s agents at a monastery along with his assistant, Mark Poer. Shardlake quickly uncovers far more going on in and around the monastery, including two other murders, and must solve the murders before the killer can strike again.

Enjoy the Tudor Era? There are five additional books featuring Shardlake: Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation, Heartstone, and Lamentation.
The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas
(Revolutionary England)
In the midst of civil war, midwife Bridget Hodgson must attempt to clear the name of her friend Esther before she is hanged for murdering her husband. Aided by Martha, a new servant with a mysterious past and a sacrilegious attitude, Bridget investigates Esther’s husband while evading the rebel army’s siege and seeking answers from the drawing rooms of the gentry to the poorest families’ houses.

Want to know what England was like after the revolution? Check out A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins set during the Restoration era.
What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
(Regency England)
What Angels Fear is the first mystery featuring Sebastian St. Cyr, heir to an earldom, who is accused falsely of murder and must find the culprit to prove his own innocence. Surrounded by his father’s lies, his mistress’s secrets, and Lord Jarvis’s machinations, Sebastian moves deftly between the personal and political, between aristocratic gentleman’s clubs and criminal-filled pubs. Harris portrays both seedy and stately Regency London vividly and writes a cast of interesting secondary characters at a time of great change in England. 

Want to know more about Sebastian? The series is ongoing with eight more books to read: When Gods Die, Why Mermaids Sing, Where Serpents Sleep, What Remains of Heaven, Where Shadows Dance, When Maidens Mourn, What Darkness Brings, Why Kings Confess, and Who Buries the Dead.
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell
(Victorian England)
Murder as a Fine Art is the first book featuring Thomas de Quincey, a real historical figure, and his daughter, Emily, as amateur sleuths aiding the fledgling London police department in solving a series of copycat murders based on the real-life Ratcliffe Highway murders. Originally suspecting de Quincey of the murders, based on an essay he published, Detective Inspector Sean Ryan of the newly formed detective bureau quickly realizes the necessity of the de Quincey’s assistance. Set in vibrantly depicted Victorian London, de Quincey battles not only a murderer but his own inner demons and addiction to laudanum.

The sequel, Inspector of the Dead, was released this year.
The Anatomy of Death by Felicity Young
(Edwardian England)
Previously called The Dissection of Murder, The Anatomy of Death is the first novel in the Dr. Dody McCleland series, set in Edwardian London and featuring the first female autopsy surgeon in England. Surrounded by the turmoil of social and political change, Dody must help Chief Inspector Pike find the killer of a friend who is deep in the suffragette movement while avoiding being the next murder victim.

Want more? While DC Public Library doesn’t have the other two books in this series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King is set in the same era and features Mary Russell as a new sidekick for an aging Sherlock Holmes.