Historical Fiction

The Testimony of Two Men by Taylor Caldwell

Enter a brilliant surgeon who says exactly what he thinks, no matter whom it offends. He’s almost always right on his controversial diagnoses and drives his fellow doctors mad with his insistence that things be done the right way. He drinks too much sometimes, has few friends, and never, ever suffers fools. But this is not Dr. Gregory House. This is Dr. Jonathan Ferrier, a beleaguered genius who, though acquitted of his pretty wife’s grisly death, is still held accountable for it by many of Hambledon’s citizens in Taylor Caldwell’s A Testimony of Two Men.

Hambledon, Pennsylvania, in 1901 is a small town full of fine, upstanding people and a veritable matrix of malice. Dr. Ferrier has had enough of the place and is packing his bags to light out for the territories—or a big city, or anywhere, really, as long as it isn’t Hambledon. Enter Dr. Robert Morgan, as well-meaning and wet-behind-the-ears as any of House’s famous team. He’s the chosen man, the replacement who’s to buy out Dr. Ferrier’s practice. Is it because he, too, is a budding genius who has impressed Ferrier with his surgical wizardry and diagnostic discoveries? No, in Dr. Ferrier’s words, it is simply because he is the least likely of the candidates to do harm.

The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

Charlotte Ellison lives a outwardly beatific and genuinely boring existence at her home in the London suburbs. To her mind, her most vexing problems are her father’s refusal to allow her to read his newspapers—a common enough attitude in Victorian England—and her unresolved, unadmitted crush on her brother-in-law Dominic. Anne Perry’s Cater Street Hangman portrays Charlotte’s extremely circumscribed position as one that might have yawningly gone on for years, filled with good works and a suitable marriage, were it not for the gruesome murders of young girls in the environs of her Cater Street home.

The Great Stink by Clare Clark

Clare Clark's The Great Stink brings to life the literal dank and dismal underbelly of Victorian London.

During the summer of 1858 a heat wave gripped London. The water level in the Thames sank from the accompanying drought. Raw sewage flowed into the Thames, spilled over the banks, and caused a stench that filled the city. The powerful machinery of the House of Commons ground to a halt as a hot, fetid miasma enveloped the chambers. Curtains soaked in a solution of chloride of lime did nothing to block the foul air. The Great Stink had arrived.

An outbreak of cholera rapidly followed. Members of Parliament, sick and dizzy from the heat and smell, finally passed legislation to fund a new sanitary sewage system for the city of London. The newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works got busy. Engineers and surveyors were hired. Massive contracts for bricks and supplies and construction were awarded. The potential for profits - and corruption - was enormous.

If you like "Shalimar" by Rebecca Ryman

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.  Available for adults, teens, and kids.

Shalimar by Rebecca Ryman is a historical novel, set in India. If you want some titles that are either set in India (modern, or historical) or just have the same "feel" of a good story, you might try the following titles:

The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly.
In the 1920s, a serial killer targets the wives of Britons attached to the military Bengal Greys near Calcutta. Disguised as accidents, the murders go undetected until the latest, the purported suicide of a young wife, finally attracts the attention of investigator Joseph Sandilands.
(from Library Journal)

The Case of the Missing Servant : From the Files of Vish Puri, India's "Most Private Investigator" by Tarquin Hall.
Portly, persistent, and unmistakably Punjabi, (Vish Puri) cuts a determined swath through modern India's swindlers, cheats, and murderers. (description)

The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James

She killed his mother and kept him on a cheap allowance for decades, but James VI of Scotland learned to play the political game successfully and survived the Virgin Queen to become the supreme ruler of Britain and her fledgling colonies. Just the years-long strain of their relations would be enough in itself to create a satisfying novel for history fans. But George Garrett took it further in The Succession. He gives us the rulers’ views and often their exact correspondence, but he goes far deeper than most historical novelists in recreating the personalities of the age.

The Queen’s spying messenger riding hell-bent for leather; drunken and fearless border reivers; a condemned noble priest hiding in plain sight; an actor full of bluff and bravado; Elizabeth’s too-young, too-ambitious lover; and her brilliant, crookbacked secretary are all players on this stage of statecraft. This is no romance but rather a swirling journey back to a time when it meant something to be ruler of the realm. What’s at stake for these bit characters? Power, riches, adventure, sometimes freedom as well as their very lives. Some will perish by the Queen’s command on the rack or by the blade. The Succession is too intellectually and emotionally honest to pretend there are no losers when a crown’s at stake.

The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar

“…I know what happened that horrible night the Romanovs were murdered.”

Robert Alexander’s The Kitchen Boy begins in sorrowful searching as young Kate tries to unravel the mysteries lying in her grandparents’ past. Before taking his own life, wealthy Grandfather Misha made a tape recording revealing some of what happened during the Tsar’s last days at The House of Special Purpose. Misha explains that he was the kitchen boy--a lowly yet trusted servant--who experienced the royal family’s many kindnesses during their final time of terror and imprisonment. And, he confesses, he had a part in their downfall.

A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley

In A Vision of Light, Margaret Kendall of Ashbury is a young and beautiful housewife living in 14th-century England. She is the mother of two healthy children, loved, and surrounded by many luxuries, but there is one thing more Margaret wishes, and her doting merchant husband is pleased to indulge her. Yet it is such a shocking thing that it is a harder wish to grant than a ring of rubies. Margaret wishes to write a book.

There are many difficulties. Of course, Margaret can not write--or read, for that matter—so she must find someone willing to take down her words. Three clerics refuse her, but they snigger as they point out their compatriot. Tattered, starving, and arrogant, Brother Gregory takes the job--which comes with frequent visits to Margaret’s well-stocked table. But he does so very grudgingly. What could such a feather-headed female have to say that is worth the expense of setting it down on vellum? A monk-in-training should be writing down great deeds and high-minded, philosophical points—not recipes and domestic notions.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is one of those simple, spiritual tales that captures modern-day imaginations and becomes a best-seller. As I read it on the beach, I felt the brush of Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s wings—or perhaps those were the wings of the laughing gull trying to steal my son’s peanut butter sandwich.

In this extended fable, the teenage shepherd Santiago has chosen his free and lonely life over a more respectable one that would have bound him tightly to his community and family. Content as he is with the wisdom he gained while wandering the Spanish hills, he is nonetheless being drawn to change his path. The dark-eyed daughter of a prosperous merchant awaits his marriage proposal, but Santiago’s prophetic dream in an abandoned and ruined church leads him further away from his homeland than he ever imagined.

A Painted House by John Grisham

Rural 1950s Arkansas is the setting for John Grisham’s Southern thriller, A Painted House. It’s the beginning of a summer full of sweltering days, acres of cotton to pick, dangerous desire, and deadly secrets to keep. 

This season--at its start the same as every other--finds the Chandler family on the road in their dusty pick-up looking for migrant workers to hire. Young Lucas is certain from what he has observed in his short life that once the season’s work is done, his family will go back to its quiet ways, sitting through another winter, readying for another spring planting with Grandpa, “Pappy” Chandler, heading the household.
 
Lucas’ family has worked the land for generations, and this summer’s batches of migrant help—Mexicans and hill people--will work alongside them to bring in the crop before the weather destroys their chance to make a little profit on the farm or at least get further out of debt. Lucas expects the workers to come stay for a few months, do their assigned work, and then go their way—never leaving a lasting impression on his family and their way of life.

Folly du Jour

The streets of 1920s Paris are teeming with tourists and tramps, fine artists and con artists. Also killers. Knife fights at cafés and corpses floating along the Seine are all part of the daily parade. But now something newly wicked is in the air—murder with style. A day at the Louvre might reveal a fresh body among the dusty corpses of Egyptian nobles. Josephine Baker’s dazzling performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées could be the scene of an unexpectedly dramatic tragedy. Passionate Paris is indeed a perilous place in Barbara Cleverly’s recent mystery, Folly du Jour.