The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group discussion

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Book Hunting / Recommendations > Books that weave a historic crime into the story

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message 1: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Hi,
I'm hoping to get some recommendations for mystery/suspense novels that do a great job of weaving together a past crime (or mysterious event) with a present-day story.

My dilemma: I'm writing a mystery that includes a twenty-year-old crime. It's not the focus of the plot, but it does affect the current investigation's outcome, as well as character motivation (they will need to "solve" this old crime in order to continue their quest).

Recently, I've come across several mysteries that simply drop in paragraphs of backstory in italics to explain past events, but I'd love to study the work of authors who use more creative techniques for weaving together the past and present.

Any good books or authors to recommend? If you do, thank you in advance - I sincerely appreciate your help!


message 2: by David (last edited May 08, 2014 01:05PM) (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2248 comments Second Watch, the latest book in J. A. Jance's J. P. Beaumont series revolves in part around a 40 year old murder, the first Beau investigated as a detective.

I'm sure I've read others but that's the only one that comes to mind at the moment.


message 3: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Quillracer wrote: "Second Watch, the latest book in J. A. Jance's J. P. Beaumont series revolves in part around a 40 year old murder, the first Beau investigated as a detective."

Thank you, Quillracer! I've read several in the J.P. Beaumont series, but not this particular book -- will check it out.


message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael (micky74007) Christine wrote: "Hi,
I'm hoping to get some recommendations for mystery/suspense novels that do a great job of weaving together a past crime (or mysterious event) with a present-day story.

My dilemma: I'm writing..."


Try Andrew Greeley's Nuala Anne McGrail series, starting with Irish Gold

He mixes a current mystery with a historical one, with a delightful amateur sleuth and her husband.


message 5: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35297 comments Max Allan Collins has a series of "disaster" books where crimes occur peripheral to the disaster, usually.

Ace Atkins was doing a series for a while that involved famous crimes in various cities.

Laura Lippman has several stand alones that revolve on past crimes, generally in Baltimore. This would include Life Sentences and The Most Dangerous Thing Low Price CD. I think both were based on actual crimes.


message 6: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Michael and Jan, thanks so much for these great ideas! Lippman is a master at blending past and present and I'd forgotten about Life Sentences. I look forward to checking out Irish Gold as well.


message 7: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Surely mention must be made of the awesome, Killing Mister Watson


message 8: by Lmaness (new)

Lmaness | 3 comments Christine wrote: "Hi,
I'm hoping to get some recommendations for mystery/suspense novels that do a great job of weaving together a past crime (or mysterious event) with a present-day story.

My dilemma: I'm writing..."


Christine wrote: "Hi,
I'm hoping to get some recommendations for mystery/suspense novels that do a great job of weaving together a past crime (or mysterious event) with a present-day story.

My dilemma: I'm writing..."


Hi,
"Nantucket Revenge" weaves an old island mystery with a current crime. That may help.


message 9: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Thank you, Feliks and Lmanness. I'm really glad I posted this--everyone's recommendations have been helpful. Off to check out Nantucket Revenge... Thanks again. -- Christine


message 10: by Lmaness (new)

Lmaness | 3 comments You are quite welcome.


message 11: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Parks | 7 comments Although its release date is August, my novel, A Cry From the Dust, weaves the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre by Mormon fanatics (true event) into the present day. A forensic artist uncovers the resemblance between a clay reconstruction of one of the buried bodies to the death mask of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church.
A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks


message 12: by Charles (new)

Charles Ameringer (cda1) | 79 comments Hi Christine: You could check out THE OLD SPOOK; it provides a unique twist to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, plus the unsolved murders of the mafia dons, Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli. The Old Spook by Charles Ameringer


message 13: by Dolores (new)

Dolores Madden | 49 comments Carrie your book Sounds really interesting ,out in August you Say ?


message 14: by Dolores (new)

Dolores Madden | 49 comments Christine keep up the good work .


message 15: by Shereen (new)

Shereen Vedam | 303 comments I hear this one does a deep take on Jack the Ripper.
A Study in Darkness
A Study in Darkness (The Baskerville Affair, #2) by Emma Jane Holloway

I'm almost finished the 1st book in the series and will put up a short review soon. A great writer.


message 16: by Janice (new)

Janice (janiceb) | 25 comments Have you read "Devil in the White City" by Eric Larson about about the serial killer in Chicago who used the 1893 World's Fair as a cover for his evil doings. Wonderful book.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0375725...


message 17: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Parks | 7 comments Thank you, Deloris! It's my debut novel, and sold at auction between two of the big 5 publishers. I hope others will find it fascinating. I'm a forensic artist, so it's very accurate as to what we do. :-)


message 18: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Hi Carrie, Charles, Dolores, Shereen, and Janice -- thanks for your comments and all the great book recommendations! It's wonderful to have so many potential books to read/study, and I appreciate your input. Time for me to get reading!


message 19: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Dolores wrote: "Carrie your book Sounds really interesting ,out in August you Say ?"

I agree, it does sound interesting!


message 20: by William (new)

William Davis | 132 comments Janice wrote: "Have you read "Devil in the White City" by Eric Larson about about the serial killer in Chicago who used the 1893 World's Fair as a cover for his evil doings. Wonderful book.

http://www.amazon.co..."


I agree. It was a great book with a fascinating look at the past.


message 21: by Michele (new)

Michele You could try The Cabinet of Curiosities by Preston and Child. It combines a murder mystery from the 1890s with a modern day story. It's 3rd in a series but you can read it as a stand alone no problem.


message 22: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Thank you, Michele and William. I've added both to my reading list!


message 23: by Garrett (new)

Garrett Smith (garrettsmith) | 62 comments I just finished
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson .

It combines the story of the Chicago World's Fair, and the crimes of serial murderer Dr. H.H. Holmes.


message 24: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Does it need to be a true crime story ?
One of my favorite books is Laurie R. King's Folly. There is a mystery, but it's not really what the book is about, and the past and present are nicely woven together.


message 25: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Hayes wrote: "Does it need to be a true crime story ?
One of my favorite books is Laurie R. King's Folly. There is a mystery, but it's not really what the book is about, and the past and present ar..."


Thanks, Hayes. Fiction is what I'm looking for, and I added this one to my list. I also added The Devil in the White City (mentioned by Garrett and others), because it sounds like an interesting book. Thanks, everyone, for the reading suggestions!


message 26: by Gearoid (new)

Gearoid O'Neary Christine wrote: "Hayes wrote: "Does it need to be a true crime story ?
One of my favorite books is Laurie R. King's Folly. There is a mystery, but it's not really what the book is about, and the past ..."


Where's Merrill? a genealogical thriller is a lesson in how to write about a true story in a fictionalized way, viewed from the present day and the past (both in the present tense. mainly).


message 27: by Martyn (last edited May 26, 2014 05:39AM) (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 103 comments I don't know if this is something you're looking for, but the protagonist of Locked Room: A Katla KillFile kills someone using a method that has become a forensic landmark. Essentially she re-creates an updated version of a lethal puzzle that astounded forensic scientists since the original murders occurred at the start of the twentieth century.


message 28: by Ken (new)

Ken Pelham (kenpelham) | 88 comments William wrote: "Janice wrote: "Have you read "Devil in the White City" by Eric Larson about about the serial killer in Chicago who used the 1893 World's Fair as a cover for his evil doings. Wonderful book.

http:..."

Agreed, that's a great book.


message 29: by Ken (new)

Ken Pelham (kenpelham) | 88 comments My novel, BRIGANDS KEY, takes place in the present day, but hinges on a murder 70 years in the past.

I'll second the mention of CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, by Preston & Child. Great book. Their recent Pendergast story, WHITE FIRE, also springs from past crimes (not to mention an amusing exchange between Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle).


message 30: by Ken (new)

Ken Pelham (kenpelham) | 88 comments I'm not a big Agatha Christie fan, but MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is brilliant. At least the movie version is. The crime on the train revolves around a past crime, which was based on the actual kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby.


message 31: by Jacky (new)

Jacky (jackyann) | 12 comments Kate Ellis always weaves into her books a historical mystery that parallels the contemporary investigation. Her main detective is Wesley Peterson, and the historical note comes from his archaeologist friend Neil. It's a long series, and as usual, had a bit of a dip in the middle, but most are very good. The very best IMO is the 2nd, Armada Boy, which includes a mystery around the Slapton Sands debacle.


message 32: by Bob (new)

Bob Berry (sizeonehead) | 27 comments Christine wrote: "Hi,
I'm hoping to get some recommendations for mystery/suspense novels that do a great job of weaving together a past crime (or mysterious event) with a present-day story.

My dilemma: I'm writing..."

A very thought provoking post and I hope i can suggest something soon although the brain does not appear quite in gear yet this morning. Luck to you.


message 33: by Bob (new)

Bob Berry (sizeonehead) | 27 comments On second thought, it seems to me that at least one of Carol O'Connell's Mallory books uses past event aspects very well. I wish I could tell you which ones I'm thinking of but i can't. You'll just be forced to read them all. They are well worth it if you haven't read them. You're welcome.


message 34: by Thomas (last edited Aug 03, 2014 09:27AM) (new)

Thomas (tom471) | 1469 comments Try The Ballad of Tom Dooley (Ballad #9)
by Sharyn McCrumb. I wrote a review of it on Goodreads if you want more info


message 35: by Ken (new)

Ken Kuhlken (kenkuhlken) | 6 comments Thanks, Thomas. Sharon McCrumb is a good one whom I haven't read in a while.


message 36: by Afsana (new)

Afsana (afsanaz) | 179 comments i'm curious did you find a solution and right your book Christine?


message 37: by Christine (new)

Christine Finlayson | 15 comments Hi, thank you all so much for your help and book suggestions! I have added many new books to my reading list, read several of them, and still have more to add. Thank you!

Yes, Afsana, I did find a solution and my new book is coming along well. It's still complicated to plot, but I've figured out this piece of the changing timeline. Part of the problem was thinking in too linear a fashion (current crime--old crime--current crime). Then I read a blog post suggesting that authors should consider returning to the past only when the character (or reader) needed to know that information, it clicked for me.

Many thanks to all for the ideas -- I'm glad to have a full set of books to read and study.


message 38: by Afsana (new)

Afsana (afsanaz) | 179 comments that's a good advice it will stop confusion will help people remember the relevant points are the relevant time


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