Science Fiction and Fantasy books are my first love. They’re also the best escapism around, literally taking you to another world.
But maybe you don’t want to go to a new world with new rules. Concentrating right now is difficult (unless you’re fellow blogger Ms. Bean’s husband). Let me offer up my favorite historical mystery series, guaranteed to take you to a different time, multiple times.
As usual, I’m listing them by the first book in the series because starting in the middle is just wrong and the name of the series isn’t always helpful.
10. The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey. An Oxford educated Indian woman is one of the first female lawyers in Bombay. But to win her cases, she’s going to need to be a detective. She’ll also have to cope with her shitty ex-husband! Historical realism + multi-tasking = riveting read!
9. Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia Peabody casts off the Victorian leash, updates the parasol, and goes adventuring in Egypt. This decade-spanning series is packed with romance, intrigue, Egyptology, and tombs. It’s hilarious, but WARNING: it’s also sprinkled with nice white lady colonialism.
8. Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen. She might be Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, but she has no money, no maid, and nowhere to live. Oh, and there’s a dead body in the bathtub.
7. And Only to Deceive, by Tasha Alexander. Lady Emily got married and got widowed in short order. In Victorian England, this gives her 1) freedom, 2) guilt. While learning about her dead husband, Lady Emily becomes both an antiquities scholar and a tempting target for murder. (Or maybe a meddling busybody, I read this a decade ago and the details are fuzzy.)
6. A Curious Beginning, by Deanna Raybourn. Veronica Speedwell used to hunt butterflies. Then her benefactor was killed. Now she’s hunting murderers. Luckily, she’s got a hot, moody helper to serve as both backup muscle and love interest.
5. What Angels Fear, by C.S. Harris. I generally like my mysteries leavened with humor, but the darker tales of Viscount Devlin are well-researched. Less balls, limited banter, but engrossing all the same!
4. Cut to the Quick, by Kate Ross. Julian Kestrel is an enigmatic dandy in Regency England, not unused to finding women in his bed. Unfortunately, the latest one is dead. What cravat matches a blood stain like that?
3. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie King. Suppose Sherlock Holmes was real. Suppose he finally found a worthy apprentice. Of course it would be an American. Of course it would be a woman. And of course she’s gonna kick his ass.
2. A Free Man of Color, by Barbara Hambly. Benjamin January is a musician, a surgeon—and a Black man in New Orleans in 1833. Which means he’s sure to be scapegoated when a famous courtesan is murdered. This series has fascintaing characters in a past that most history books ignore; a time when ignorant white Americans flooding the formerly French city saw free Black men as walking cash. Hambly’s stakes are always high, and her historical details will transport you to old New Orleans. Yet not many readers know about the Benjamin January series. Which is soooo wrong because it’s soooo good.
1. After the Armistice Ball, by Catriona McPherson. Dandy Gilver and the rest of her aristocratic set are coping with life after WWI (i.e., Dandy is bored out of her mind). When diamonds disappear, Dandy decides to snoop. Events get deadly, Dandy gets a rep as an aristocratic sleuth. This mostly light-hearted series entertained me while my shattered finger healed a few years ago. Dandy will take you away from quarantine life without depressing the crap out of you.
Feel free to leave any of your favorite mysteries in the comments. Happy reading!