Historical mysteries

The Old Buzzard Had it Coming by Donis Casey

The Old Buzzard Had it Coming by Donis Casey

Harley Day was a mean, shiftless, good-for-nothing drunk. He regularly beat up on his wife and kids. So when he was found frozen to death in a snowbank outside his house, no one seemed to mourn. After all, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming--which is the title of the first Alafair Tucker mystery by Donis Casey.

Set in 1912, this book introduces Alafair Tucker, who lives with her husband and nine children on the Oklahoma frontier. It's an interesting look at frontier life at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the details seem so modern, but much of the day-to-day life for a frontier ranching family seems like unbelievable deprivation and hardship 100 years on.

Bold Sons of Erin by Owen Parry

Bold Sons of Erin cover

You have to love living in Fredericksburg! I enjoy walking my dogs through the forest paths of the Fredericksburg Battlefields, but you have to be out of the park by sundown because the park police lock the gate.  One evening I was hurrying down the darkening path before sunset when I heard footsteps behind me.  When I turned around to see who was walking behind me, I saw a Confederate soldier coming out of the shadows of the path.  I was being followed by a ghost and I don’t even believe in ghosts!  I made a mental note to talk to my Supervisor at the library about getting some time off for my mental health.  As I came to the edge of the woods and climbed up the hill into the clearing with a little extra daylight I could see that there were Confederate soldiers milling around everywhere.  I had to be smack dab in the middle of a re-enactment.  Whew! That was relief - scratch the request for a mental health day!

If you love mysteries and the Civil War, then you might enjoy Owen Parry books.  The main character is Major Abel Jones, who is an unassuming tiny man who walks with a limp and uses a cane.  He is a Welsh immigrant to America who serves in the United States army, but previously served in the British army in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Now he is a secret investigator for President Lincoln.  In Bold Sons of Erin, Major Abel is sent by Lincoln to investigate the sudden death of General Stone.  The book begins with Abel arranging to dig up the grave of General Stone.  When it is opened, he finds the body of a young girl who has been stabbed to death buried in the grave of the General. 

Too Many Notes, Mr. Mozart

By Robert Barnard writing as Bernard Bastable

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History meets mystery in a novel about one pupil of Mozart's we have never heard of, the young Princess Victoria, whom the composer soon discovers has quite a talent for the keyboard and a knack for being a murder victim.

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The Chinese Bell Murders

By Robert Hans van Gulik

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"The Chinese Bell Murders introduces the great Judge Dee, a magistrate of the city of Poo-yang in ancient China. In the spirit of ancient Chinese detective novels, Judge Dee is challenged by three cases. First, he must solve the mysterious murder of Pure Jade, a young girl living on Half Moon Street. All the evidence points to the guilt of her lover, but Judge Dee has his doubts. Dee also solves the mystery of a deserted temple and that of a group of monks' terrific success with a cure for barren women."

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Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton

By Philip Kerr

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I swore not to tell this story while Newton was still alive.

1696, young Christopher Ellis is sent to the Tower of London, but not as a prisoner. Though Ellis is notoriously hotheaded and was caught fighting an illegal duel, he arrives at the Tower as assistant to the renowned scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Newton is Warden of the Royal Mint, which resides within the Tower walls, and he has accepted an appointment from the King of England and Parliament to investigate and prosecute counterfeiters whose false coins threaten to bring down the shaky, war-weakened economy. Ellis may lack Newton’s scholarly mind, but he is quick with a pistol and proves himself to be an invaluable sidekick and devoted apprentice to Newton as they zealously pursue these criminals. While Newton and Ellis investigate a counterfeiting ring, they come upon a mysterious coded message on the body of a man killed in the Lion Tower, as well as alchemical symbols that indicate this was more than just a random murder.

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Blind Justice

By Bruce Alexander

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First of a series featuring Sir John Fielding, a magistrate who in the 18th century co-founded London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners. The narrator is Jeremy Proctor, a 13-year-old orphan who serves as Fielding's eyes. Fielding is blind. The series opens with the "suicide" of a lord known for his gambling and extra-marital affairs.

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Murder by the Waters: Further Adventures of the American Agent Abroad

By Robert Lee Hall

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"The year is 1758. Sent from America to England to battle with the Crown, Benjamin Franklin, with his keen mind and scientific skills, has also found himself called upon to solve a series of mysteries - cases of murder, blackmail, forgery, and jewel theft - but his latest mystery is perhaps his most baffling and challenging.

"He is invited to the city of Bath, site of England's famous spa, where rakes and lechers and gamesters abound. He rides there in a coach with a beautiful, seemingly innocent young girl who comes to sit at the heart of a plot to gain control of a fabulous fortune.

"Thieves steal letters, highwaymen attack, bludgeoners attempt murder, and shots ring out in the House of God. Despite all this, the Bath social round progresses, at secret gaming parties, grand balls, and the famous waters, where a man is later found murdered.

"Benjamin Franklin must winnow his way through this intrigue, to the truth of a mystery which may be masterminded by his great enemy, the enigmatic Quimp, who governs much of England's crime. Ben is ably aided by his natural son, Nick Handy. Once again his acute intellect and unerring heart prove him to be the archetypal detective."

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Death at Rottingdean

By Robin Paige

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For Kathryn Ardleigh and her newly Lorded husband Charles, a seaside holiday in Rottingdean is a needed rest. The cozy hamlet is built on a labyrinth of hundred-year-old tunnels that once were used by smugglers. But when a coast guard's body is found on the beach, the town is suspected of plying its illicit trades of the past. And with the help of a young writer named Rudyard Kipling, they're about to discover something rotten in Rottingdean....
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By a Slow River

By Philippe Claudel

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"As the First World War rages on, the daily life of a small town near the front is hardly disturbed by the report of artillery fire and the parade of wounded in its streets. But within the space of a year, this illusion of ordinary days is shattered by the deaths of three innocents—-a charming schoolmistress from “the north,” who captured every male heart only to take her own life without apparent reason; an angelic eight-year-old girl, who is strangled, her body abandoned by the canal; and the cherished wife of the local policeman, who dies in labor while her husband is hunting the little girl’s murderer.

"Twenty years on, the policeman still struggles to make sense of these mysteries that both torment and sustain him. In the pages of his notebooks he continually—-desperately, obsessively—-summons up the past and its ghosts. But excavating the town’s secret history will bring neither peace to him nor justice to the wicked. And as his solitary detective work continues on these long-closed cases, we come to see that his efforts can lead only to an unimaginable widening of the tragedy. In the policeman’s simple, plangent voice--full of unflinching scrutiny and the compassion of weary experience--Philippe Claudel gives us a tale of galvanizing suspense and an indelible meditation on morality."

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