- Nelda Mohr
"An Unpardonable Crime" by Andrew Taylor best fits into the category of literary mysteries in a historical setting. This is a genre that I personally enjoy reading, especially if a real person from history is featured in the story. Here are some other good titles in this genre.
The Dante Club: a Novel by Matthew Pearl
In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club - poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields; are finishing America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante’s remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor. The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell’s punishments from Dante’s Inferno. The Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and an outcast police officer named Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, must place their careers on the line to end the terror.
This book is good combination of literary history and Civil War era social history in a thrilling suspense novel.
The Club Dumas: A Novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte; translated from the Spanish by Sonia Soto.
Lucas Corso, middle-aged, tired, and cynical, is a book detective, a mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found hanged, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment. The task seems straightforward, but the unsuspecting Corso is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas's masterpiece. Aided by a mysterious beauty named for a Conan Doyle heroine, Corso travels from Madrid to Toledo to Paris in pursuit of a sinister and seemingly omniscient killer. Part mystery, part puzzle, part witty game, The Club Dumas is a wholly original intellectual thriller by the internationally bestselling author of The Flanders Panel and The Seville Communion
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
Set in England in the 1660s this mystery takes place when Charles II has been restored to the throne following years of civil war and Cromwell's short-lived republic. Oxford is the intellectual seat of the country, a place of great scientific, religious, and political ferment. A fellow of New College is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear the story of the death from four witnesses: an Italian physician intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; the son of an alleged Royalist traitor; a master cryptographer who has worked for both Cromwell and the king; and a renowned Oxford antiquarian. Each tells his own version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth.
This author also has several mysteries based on great works of art, including: The Portrait, Death and Restoration, The Immaculate Deception, and Giotto's Hand
Benjamin Franklin and a Case of Christmas Murder by Robert Lee Hall
In his second mystery convincingly featuring Benjamin Franklin as a sleuth, Californian author Hall ( Ben Franklin Takes the Case ) proves himself a dab hand at recreating the atmosphere of 18th-century London, with all of its harsh realities and fragile comforts. Here Franklin and his young companion Nicholas Handy, who records the adventures, visit the home of popular merchant Roddy Fairbrass, who is entertaining friends and family with a mummers' play on Christmas Eve. When Roddy suddenly drops dead, Benjamin Franklin is more than saddened at losing a friend. The perspicacious American--who has already been asked to investigate the sighting of a ``ghost'' on the Fairbrass premises--is certain that this is a case of murder most foul. A gambling son, distant relatives, exotic poison, an enigmatic black servant and a well-drawn sea captain all play their parts as Franklin applies his wit and powers of invention. Our hero, along with earnest Nicholas, sets out to lay a ghost, explain a murder and survive the scrutiny of some of London's most dangerous criminals. Franklin's aphorisms and joie de vivre serve as extra plums in a tale as delicious as Christmas pudding. This is one of a long series of novels featuring Benjamin Franklin.
The Murder of Edgar Allan Poe: a Novel by George Egon Hatvary
Just shy of the 150th anniversary of Poe's death, Hatvary (The Suitor) extrapolates from the facts to suggest that murder may have been the cause. Who better to investigate such a heinous crime than Poe's own creation, Auguste Dupin of Paris? After receiving a letter from Poe's fiancee intimating that Poe had serious enemies, and after reading a scurrilous obituary (anonymously sent to him) from a New York newspaper, Dupin vows to investigate and sails to Baltimore. Once there, he becomes besotted with and woos Poe's fiancee, Elmira Shelton. Nor does he waste time in his investigation. Dupin and Dr. Moran, the physician who was with Poe in his final hours, stage a "body-snatching," conduct a postmortem and discover ample traces of arsenic in the poet's body. Methodically, Dupin gathers evidence of Poe's enemies. Ultimately, he is captured by the man who most wanted Poe dead. The horror of Dupin's rat-infested imprisonment is as vivid as any torment created by Poe. Hatvary does a fair imitation, too, of Poe's emotional and melodramatic style, although the climactic end seems rushed. Happily, however, he never condescends to his reader while providing enough historical information to create solid context.
The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
"Tap-tapping the keys and out come the words on this little screen, and who will read them I hardly know. I could be dead by the time anyone actually gets to read them, as dead as, say, Tolstoy. Or Shakespeare. Does it matter, when you read, if the person who wrote still lives?" "These are the words of Jake Mishkin, whose seemingly innocent job as an intellectual property lawyer has put him at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer - or killers - unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began when a fire in an antiquarian bookstore revealed the hiding place of letters containing a shocking secret, concealed for four hundred years. In a frantic race from New York to England and Switzerland, Jake finds himself matching wits with a shadowy figure who seems to anticipate his every move. What at first seems like a thrilling puzzle waiting to be deciphered soon turns into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, where no one - not family, not friends, not lovers - is to be trusted." "Moving between twenty-first-century America and seventeenth-century England, The Book of Air and Shadows is a modern thriller that re-creates William Shakespeare's life at the turn of the seventeenth century and combines an intricately layered plot with a devastating portrait of a contemporary man on the brink of self-discovery ... or self-destruction."—
Nicholas Cooke: Actor, Soldier, Physician, Priest; A Novel by Stephanie Cowell
Into the age of Shakespeare and Marlowe, Elizabeth and Essex, the horrific plagues of London and the brutal war in Ireland, strides one Nicholas Cooke, the hero of one of the most engagingly brilliant historical novels to appear in years. A memorable portrait not just of a man, but of an entire world. This is the first of a trilogy.