9 Thrilling Historical Mystery Novels

Clever people have been trying to catch killers and solve mysteries for centuries. So if you want to take a break from the present day, there are plenty of great historical mystery novels you can turn to. The nine listed below cover time periods from World War II all the way back to Ancient Rome. When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue to support our research. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

9 Thrilling Historical Mystery Novels

Title Author More by the Author
1. Memento Mori Ruth Downie Medicus Terra Incognita
2. A Treachery of Spies Manda Scott Into The Fire Boudica
3. A Gathering of Ghosts Karen Maitland The Vanishing Witch The Plague Charmer
4. Book of the Just Dana Chamblee Carpenter Bohemian Gospel The Devil's Bible
5. Haunt Me Still Jennifer Lee Carrell Interred with Their Bones The Speckled Monster
6. A Trace of Smoke Rebecca Cantrell A Night of Long Knives A Game of Lies
7. The Sans Pareil Mystery Karen Charlton The Sculthorpe Murder Plague Pits & River Bones
8. The Progeny Tosca Lee Firstborn The Line Between
9. Women of the Dunes Sarah Maine The House Between Tides Beyond the Wild River

Classic Mystery Books

The authors on this list stand on the shoulders of many amazing writers who influenced the genre. Consider diving into mystery's rich history with these classics:

  1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  4. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The History of the Mystery Genre

Some of the world's oldest known stories used the same elements that make modern mysteries so enticing. Homer's famous epic poem The Odyssey is something of a prototype of the genre. The hero's life is in constant danger as he uses his cunning to solve problems and overcome his enemies. But the genre isn't exclusive to Western culture. One of the stories in One Thousand and One Nights (commonly known as Arabian Nights) is considered to be the oldest known murder mystery. This tale, The Three Apples, is full of plot twists and revolves around a mysterious death. Centuries later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle popularized the genre with his stories about the now-famous Sherlock Holmes. Eventually, of course, mystery made its way from the pages of books to the big screen. Some of the most well-known of these movies were directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who worked on several classics throughout his career, including Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window.

The History of Fictional Detectives

In Depth

Mystery novels often feature tales of gruesome murder, espionage, and crime investigation. Throw in a dash of the past, and these thrilling stories gain an extra level of intrigue. With that in mind, we gathered some of the best historical mystery novels. In no particular order, here is our list of nine.

At the #1 spot is "Memento Mori" by British author Ruth Downie. This is the eighth installment in the bestselling Medicus series. Set in the Roman Empire during the 2nd century A.D., the book features a gripping tale of death, which protagonists Ruso and Tilla investigate. The wife of Ruso's friend is found dead in a hot spring. They try to help clear his friend's name, but leads are scarce and the persons of interest refuse to cooperate. This novel is a well-crafted puzzle, engaging readers to the very end.

Coming in at #2 is "A Treachery of Spies," book two in the Capitaine Ines Picaut Series. Written by Manda Scott, this is an entertaining story about espionage. The plot begins with the murder of an elderly woman named Sophie Destivelle. The details of her death are reminiscent of how traitors to the Resistance were killed in World War II. Police inspector Capitaine Ines Picaut is assigned to solve the case. As he learns about other deaths in the past, he begins to uncover treacherous secrets that go back decades.

Police inspector Capitaine Ines Picaut is assigned to solve the case.

Following at #3 is "A Gathering of Ghosts" by Karen Maitland. This novel is set in medieval times with elements of black magic, legends, and the supernatural. The book begins in an area where crops have been ruined and the people are desperate. They search for healing at the holy well that lies beneath the Priory of St Mary. However, when three strangers reach it, the well's waters run with blood. The locals and nuns fight against what they believe to be witchcraft, brought on by people who have dark intentions for their small monastery.

Next, at #4 is "Book of the Just" by award-winning author Dana Chamblee Carpenter. This is the final installment in the Bohemian trilogy. It tells the story of Mouse, a powerful immortal who is on the run with her lover, Angelo. Mouse discovers that she has a brother, something her father always wished for. As the pages unfold, they both begin to have dreams of a dark future. Together, they try to find the weapons that will prepare them for a dangerous war against their enemies.

At #5 is an occult fiction titled "Haunt Me Still." Written by Jennifer Lee Carrell, this is a thrilling tale that features Kate Stanley, a theater director who becomes involved in the murder of a woman. She discovers the dead body while she and her cast are rehearsing for a famously cursed play. Evidence suggests that the killing is based on ancient pagan sacrifice. Equipped with her knowledge of Shakespearean obscure mysteries, Kate investigates, as strange ritual objects begin to turn up.

She discovers the dead body while she and her cast are rehearsing for a famously cursed play.

Taking the #6 spot is "A Trace Of Smoke" by Rebecca Cantrell. Set in 1931, the plot centers on the life of Hannah Vogel, a crime reporter who discovers her brother's death in Berlin while searching through photos of murder victims. Soon after, an orphan appears at her doorstep, claiming to be her brother's child. Now, Hannah has to choose between helping out this child and jeopardizing her own secret identity, or bringing down the Nazi party and disregarding the innocent orphan.

Next, at #7 is "The Sans Pareil Mystery," the second installment in the Detective Lavender Mysteries. Written by Karen Charlton, this is a thrilling tale of murder, set in London in the year 1810. Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods investigate the killing of April Clare, a young theater actress. Her death is shrouded with complications, including her ties to criminal activity and spying for the French. The author also mixes in some chapters about Lavender's past and his love for a Spanish woman named Magdalena.

Coming in at #8 is "The Progeny" by New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee. Main character Emily wakes up in a cabin with vague memories of her past. She had a memory-erasing procedure in order to live a normal life, but she soon realizes that not everything she knows now is true. In fact, she is a descendant of the murderous Hungarian "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory. Emily is trapped in the middle of a 400-year old war between a blood line of serial killers and the secret society trying to kill every one of them.

Main character Emily wakes up in a cabin with vague memories of her past.

Finally, at #9 is "Women of the Dunes" by Sarah Maine. The plot centers on Libby Snow, an archaeologist who goes to the island of Ullaness, not only in pursuit of science, but also to confirm a myth that has been passed down through generations. There, she discovers many things, including a man's century-old bones. Such discoveries are tied to Libby's family stories about her grandmother Ellen who was obsessed with the tale of Ulla, the Viking woman who sought refuge in the island in the 9th century.