Best Historical Mystery
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1,018 books · 2,730 voters · list created June 26th, 2008 by Julie (votes) .
346 likes · like
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Julie 2061 books
119 friends
Jamie 1932 books
80 friends
Holly 1152 books
32 friends
MBP 4096 books
107 friends
Silverin 173 books
1 friend
Patricia 447 books
1 friend
R. 962 books
25 friends
Allison 2191 books
50 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-50 of 55) (55 new)


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Is this list for non-fiction as well? Because Devil in the White City is non-fiction. (Great book.)


message 2: by Kelly (new)

Kelly A lot of books on here that don't fit the criteria. Conan Doyle's books were modern when written, eg.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Ditto for Gaudy Night.


message 4: by Jan C (new)

Jan C I have to echo Susanna. All books here appear to be fiction except for Devil in the White City. That is the only true crime I see. I'll admit it is historical.

And, much as I love Gaudy Night, it was a contemporary mystery at the time it was written.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Julie, you created the list -- do you want it to be pruned back to books actually matching the description given above ("set in an era previous to the author's era")?


message 6: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl The Flanders Panel was set in the present too. I don't think there was actually any time travel back to the 15th century, although there is discussion of it.


message 7: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Also the Red Tent, while I liked the book, is not a mystery


message 8: by Abbey (new)

Abbey I've deleted a few more of the mysteries that I definitely know were set in then-current time periods for the author, even though that period is NOW historical (mysteries written Between the Wars i.e., ~1920-1940, are my particular interest). The generally accepted definition of an historical mystery is one set in a period that is not part of the author's own experience, or any mystery set at least twenty years past (some folks prefer thirty, or fifty years, though). My personal guideline is that if an author was not an adult during the timeperiod OR it is now at least thirty years later, then it's an historical. So a sixty-year-old writing about the 1970s they're remembering today would make the current book an historical, but not one written by that author IN the 1970s. And a late 1990s story written by anybody is not historical - yet.
***Also, stories like HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, although it has a very small amount of even then-history within the story (1600s curses and nasty squires) it's only a page or two, not the novel itself, which was set in the then-current time of circa 1900. I noticed a few that I wondered about but wasn't certain enough to change, like Flanders Panel, which I haven't personally read yet, which may have had bits of historical info IN them.


message 9: by Abbey (new)

Abbey whoops, sorry. This comment was meant to go onto another list, that I *did* delete mysteries from for the above reasons, as their criteria was only listed as "historical mysteries", not the nice definition given under the title (which I just now saw, alas...). I had browser tabs opened next to each other and got distracted (sigggh). mea culpa, friends. please ignore, thanks. Haven't touched THIS list.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Julie, do you want the A. non-fiction, or B. fiction that isn't historical fiction removed?


message 11: by Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) (last edited Sep 10, 2011 11:06AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Hmm. Doesn't look like Julie is monitoring this list anymore ...


message 12: by Mark (new)

Mark Lapointe Devil in the White City is historical fiction. It's based on fact and has many factual elements, but the story is a creation of the author.


message 13: by Julie (new)

Julie Sorry, I wasn't receiving notifications that there were comments. I think pruning would be excellent, since it's frustrating to read a list for ideas and discover upon reading that some books don't fit the category you were looking for.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Mark wrote: "Devil in the White City is historical fiction. It's based on fact and has many factual elements, but the story is a creation of the author."

The book's description and the way that GR's readers have categorized it, both by genre and shelf, would tend to disagree.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Julie, do you want the non-fiction removed, or the fiction that isn't historical removed, or both?

Know where you're coming from with the dropped notifications!


message 16: by Julie (new)

Julie I think both non-fiction and misplaced fiction should be booted, just to make the list make sense. But I don't think I really "own" this list, so I can be overruled.


message 17: by Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) (last edited Dec 25, 2011 10:29AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Removed: The Hound of the Baskervilles, Gaudy Night, The Flanders Panel, The Raphael Affair, The Modigliani Scandal, Gorky Park and the entries by Rex Stout and Maj Sjöwall/Per Wahlöö (all set in the respective author's OWN era, and therefore not historical fiction/mysteries).

Also removed The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America and Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders (primarily nonfiction), as well as The Late Mr. Shakespeare, Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works and I, Claudius (not mysteries).

On the grounds that they are not primarily mysteries, I also question The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, the entries by Philippa Gregory and Norah Lofts, and the Umberto Eco novels OTHER than The Name of the Rose ...


message 18: by Robin (new)

Robin Hi, I was wondering why 'the red tent' was on this list? It isn't a mystery-its a re-telling of a story from the bible, definitely not what most would consider historical mystery. Just curious.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I see The Sign of Four is still on, at #518.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Susanna wrote: "I see The Sign of Four is still on, at #518."

Not anymore. (Sigh.)

Robin (& all), I'm wondering about The Red Tent as well. Should it be removed ... or do we leave it, on the grounds that 30 voters can't be wrong?


message 21: by Robin (last edited Feb 18, 2012 10:46AM) (new)

Robin Themis-Athena,
But its not a fictional mystery. Its a bible story, or based on one I should say. I fail to see how the Red Tent is eligible but nothing written by Conan Doyle. I know CD's stories of Sherlock Holmes are ineligible due to it being set in the time of the author, but at least his works are mysteries!

If someone could legitimize why The Red Tent deserves to be on a list of Historical Mystery, I guess it wouldn't bother me so much.
Sorry.


message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim Horner McCoy Erik Larson's Thunderstruck is neither fiction, nor a mystery.


message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim Horner McCoy The Devil's Tickets is not fiction, either.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Alright. Since none of the 30 people who'd voted for it stepped forward to explain what makes The Red Tent a historical mystery, I've deleted that book, as well as Thunderstruck and The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age.

Which still leaves me wondering about the entries by Ken Follett, Philippa Gregory, Norah Lofts and Umberto Eco (minus Name of the Rose, obviously) ...


message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim Horner McCoy I only began reading Pillars of the Earth and was not compelled to keep reading. Although it is clearly an historical novel, nothing about the first chapters or the television miniseries based on the novel indicated it was a mystery. The Library Journal description of the book on Amazon calls it "a radical departure from Follett's novels of international suspense and intrigue." Hope this helps.


message 26: by Robin (new)

Robin I think people are somehow missing the "mystery" part of the title. I thought it was pretty simple to understand? A story based in history that has a big problem/who-dunnit to solve. Am I wrong?


message 27: by Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) (last edited Mar 20, 2012 04:36AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Well, there are mysteries that aren't "whodunnits" in the strict sense (i.e., the focus is on something other than determining who committed a given crime). But still, "mystery" seems to be a mandatory component of the list title as it exists.

When I said I'm wondering about The Pillars of the Earth, it's because I've read the book and in my opinion it's NOT a mystery -- nor is World Without End (which I've also read).

I am less familiar with the works of Norah Lofts and Philippa Gregory, but based on what I HAVE seen of their works, I would question whether they can be called mystery writers. Historical fiction, sure; romance, thrillers, if you will ... but mysteries?


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) See the definition of "mystery fiction" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystery_... :

Mystery fiction is a loosely-defined term.

1.It is often used as a synonym for detective fiction or crime fiction— in other words a novel or short story in which a detective (either professional or amateur) investigates and solves a crime mystery. Sometimes mystery books are nonfiction. The term "mystery fiction" may sometimes be limited to the subset of detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle/suspense element and its logical solution (cf. whodunit), as a contrast to hardboiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.

2.Although normally associated with the crime genre, the term "mystery fiction" may in certain situations refer to a completely different genre, where the focus is on supernatural or thriller mystery (the solution doesn't have to be logical, and even no crime is involved). This usage was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what at the time were described as "weird menace" stories – supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. This contrasted with parallel titles of the same names which contained conventional hardboiled crime fiction. The first use of "mystery" in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to "weird menace" during the latter part of 1933.

An early work of modern mystery fiction, Das Fräulein von Scuderi by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1819), was an influence on The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe (1841). Wilkie Collins' epistolary novel The Woman in White was published in 1860, while The Moonstone (1868), is often thought to be his masterpiece. In 1887 Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes, whose mysteries are said to have been singularly responsible for the huge popularity in this genre. The genre began to expand near the turn of century with the development of dime novels and pulp magazines. Books were especially helpful to the genre with many authors writing in the genre in the 1920s. An important contribution to mystery fiction in the 1920s was the development of the juvenile mystery by Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer originally developed and wrote the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries written under the Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene pseudonyms respectively (and were later written by his daughter, Harriet Adams, and other authors). The 1920s also gave rise to one of the most popular mystery authors of all time, Agatha Christie, whose works include Murder on the Orient Express (1934), Death on the Nile (1937), and the world's best-selling mystery And Then There Were None (1939).

The massive popularity of pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s increased interest in mystery fiction. Pulp magazines decreased in popularity in the 1950s with the rise of television so much that the numerous titles available then are reduced to two today: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. The detective fiction author Ellery Queen (pseudonym of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) is also credited with continuing interest in mystery fiction.

Interest in mystery fiction continues to this day because of various television shows which have used mystery themes and the many juvenile and adult novels which continue to be published. There is some overlap with "thriller" or "suspense" novels and like authors in those genres may consider themselves mystery novelists. Comic books and like graphic novels have carried on the tradition, and film adaptations have helped to re-popularize the genre in recent times.

Mystery fiction can be divided into numerous categories, among them the "traditional mystery", "legal thriller", " medical thriller", "cozy mystery", "police procedural", and "hardboiled" (for instance, Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon's main detective, Sam Spade).


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) In Wikipedia's list of mystery writers (which includes writers of historical mysteries), neither Ken Follett nor Philippa Gregory nor Norah Lofts are included: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...

Nor does the official Mystery Writers of America website list either of them as mystery writers: http://www.mysterywriters.org/?q=user...

... nor is there any mention of their names on the website of the British Crime Writers Association: www.thecwa.co.uk/ ...

So, since at least Follett and Gregory (who are still among the living) don't seem to have applied for membership in either organization, and neither organization feels compelled, for its part, to make reference to their works -- nor to those of Norah Lofts -- I'm going to start deleting any and all Follett, Gregory and Lofts entries unless someone makes a very specific case why any of those books should be classified as a historical MYSTERY.


message 30: by Robin (new)

Robin Themis-Athena I adore you LOL!


message 32: by ☯Bettie☯ (new)

☯Bettie☯ Robin wrote: "Themis-Athena I adore you LOL!"

TWSS xx

[image error]


message 33: by Robin (new)

Robin HAHAHAHAHA! Those are awesome! where did you get them?


message 34: by Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) (last edited Mar 20, 2012 06:44AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Tee hee, Bettie really is the undisputed queen when it comes to finding appropriate imagery on the web ... :)

http://www.hugagrump.com/about%20us.htm

"This isn't just a shirt, this is a message. This is a daily reminder that this world isn't about you, it's about us. When you start that engine every morning, you are driving into a place where bitterness, loneliness, and aggravation thrive amongst the positive thinkers and do-ers. Hug a Grump® isn't about just hugging (though it is highly encouraged*), but reaching out beyond your normal day and helping someone else into theirs. Be a messenger of the good news, be that silver lining, and be an example of positive energy!

*Hugging strangers is not recommended."

[image error]
"Name : Flower Girl

Age : Young

She'll brighten the darkest room with a single lock of her golden hair. She's the silver lining your parents kept telling you about. She's an inspiration, a living muse, a dream-sparker. She's a poet, a writer, an actress. She'll see the good inside your soul and gently ask it to play. Her smile is the most infectious virus since the common cold. She loves music, art, and dancing, and doing all three at the same time! She loves to talk, almost as much as she loves to listen. Take her hand, and let her walk you through the best day of your life."


message 35: by Robin (new)

Robin That is fabulous!!!! Thank you for sharing!!!! Must pass this on!!!


message 36: by ☯Bettie☯ (new)

☯Bettie☯ It's a bit twee but you get the drift
:O))


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) So. I deleted Follett's The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, as well as the entries by Philippa Gregory and Norah Lofts, and Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum (present-day conspiracy theory novel that merely uses pseudo-historical conspiracy theories as its background, but where the book's own action -- even to the extent it contains flashbacks -- only reaches as far back as the 1970s, i.e., a decade most definitely within the author's own lifetime) and The Island of the Day Before (historical novel of ideas).

I'd be willing to let Baudolino stay on the list for the time being as it arguably contains at least a fig-leaf sized play on locked room mysteries in the sequence involving the death of emperor Frederick Barbarossa (which really IS remaining a bit of a mystery, even from the point of view of historical research, so Eco took just about as much poetic license there as any other novelist might have done). But this is, of course, merely one episode in a very long book that, all in all, is just about as much a play on the medieval "quest" tales, modern adventure novels, and Eco's trademark exploration of semiotics in fiction (i.e., any- and everything that can be used to tell a lie and thus, simultaneously, to tell a story in the first place) ...


message 39: by ☯Bettie☯ (new)

☯Bettie☯ Themis-Athena wrote: "So. I deleted Follett's The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, as well as the entries by Philippa Gregory and Norah Lofts, and Umberto Eco's [book:Foucault's Pendul..."

Woot - you have been busy, and backing up every argument with evidence too. brilliant


message 40: by Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) (last edited Mar 21, 2012 10:29AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Well ... gotta keep busy ...




message 41: by ☯Bettie☯ (new)

☯Bettie☯ haha - good picture selection
:O))


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) :)

Mystery to be solved from among the books on this list: What's hiding behind the 20th (if I've counted correctly) entry under no. 330 (p. 4 of the list)? It's shelved, inter alia, as "historical fiction," and the top review describes it as containing "beautiful and accurate descriptions of another era." So it would seem to be a historical novel. But which one ... and by whom? (Almost even more intriguing is the fact that the mystery author in question seems to have written, or be about to write, several other books, one of which is not due to be published until 2013.) So who and what is hiding behind those mysterious dots?


message 43: by ☯Bettie☯ (last edited Mar 21, 2012 10:52AM) (new)

☯Bettie☯ I have directly asked those reviewers so we'll sit back and see what happens

:O)

ETA - looks like a kindle publication


message 44: by Kim (new)

Kim Horner McCoy Hm. That's a particularly enticing description of Baudolino. I believe I'll try to squeeze it onto my "to read" list.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I guess we'd have to ask Sherlynn, who added it.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Well, at least her comments here reinforce the idea that it's a book set at some point in the past (that of the U.S., more specifically): "Loved it! Totally immersed in another era in San Francisco and Chicago."

Hers is also the top review on the book page, btw. The edition she added is a 2011 paperback -- though there does seem to be a kindle edition as well.

In any event, with Bettie's comment on her review, she now ought to be alerted to this discussion, so maybe she'll chime in! :)


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Kim wrote: "Hm. That's a particularly enticing description of Baudolino. I believe I'll try to squeeze it onto my "to read" list."

Think I ought to ask Eco for a minute split of the royalties if you like it? :) (Though if you don't ... don't kill the messenger! Um. Or some such thing.)


message 49: by Breda (new)

Breda Lynch Kim wrote: "I only began reading Pillars of the Earth and was not compelled to keep reading. Although it is clearly an historical novel, nothing about the first chapters or the television miniseries based on t..."
Keep reading it! Pillars of the Earth is a great book but the tv series is not a very good adaptation in my opinion, I didn't think the characters carried through to the screen from the book. Only my opinion obviously.


message 50: by Liza (new)

Liza Perrat I agree, Breda, also, there was so little time in the TV series to pack all the events/characters from the book, that I felt a bit shortchanged.


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