Era by Era, Firsts in Historical Mystery Series

shelved under History and Mystery

Historical mysteries are a subset of the mystery genre and cover the vast range of human civilizations, from ancient Egypt to mid-20th Century New York. I've read many discussions about what qualifies as historical, but I'd venture to say that you — the reader — would be the best judge. (Is it historical if it's not within your memory? Sounds good to me.) Some of the following historical mystery titles are well-known, some less so. In each case, they're the first in a series so don't say I didn't warn you! 


Murder in the Place of Anubis (Ancient Egypt)

by Lynda Robinson

Lord Meren as the Eyes and Ears of young Pharaoh Tutankhamen must solve a frightening murder in a sacred precinct before the Pharaoh's enemies use the death against him. (the 1st of 6 books in the series)


The Silver Pigs (Ancient Rome)

by Lindsey Davis

Marcus Didius Falco is an informer/detective for the emperor, a happy-go-lucky ladies man, and the son of a dysfunctional family in this fun first story from A.D. 70 Rome. The characters are hilarious and the intrigue is non-stop. (the 1st of 19)


The Dragon Scroll (Early Japan)

by I. J. Parker

Sugawara Akitada is a junior government official who is unfortunately also a scapegoat in 11th-century Japan. But Akitada has a few tricks up his voluminous sleeves, and he'll need all the help he can get in the treacherous world of court politics. (the 1st of 6)


The Novice's Tale (Middle Ages England)

by Margaret Frazer

Dame Frevisse is a nun at St. Frideswide's priory in medieval Oxfordshire, but she traveled on pilgrimage in her youth and has more worldly experience than many of the other sisters. Her uncle is Thomas Chaucer — son of Geoffrey — hence the tie-in with the titles to The Canterbury Tales. Each book is a murder mystery told in third person, with many engaging characters. (the 1st of 17)


The Demon of the Air (The Aztec Nation)

by Simon Levack

The narrator is a slave and reluctant investigator in this unique series set in the final years of Aztec society. The people famous for human sacrifice have more going on than bloody rituals, it seems. Politics, religion, economics, culture and of course, murder are all part of the story, and there's plenty of humor to go around. (the 1st of 4)


Face Down In The Marrow-Bone Pie (Elizabethan England)

by Kathy Lynn Emerson

There's a ghost at the country farm, and it's up to Lady Susanna Appleton to solve the mystery when her husband refuses to help. Her mastery of herbs and poisons may come in handy when a body is found. She's an educated women, but how dangerous is a little knowledge? (the 1st of 11)


Blind Justice (Georgian Era England)

by Bruce Alexander

Starring the blind but brilliant Magistrate of Bow Street court, Sir John Fielding, his young ward and apprentice Jeremy Proctor, and a wonderful supporting cast of Bow Street Runners, family and friends, and assorted aristocrats, rakes and ruffians of London. (the 1st of 11)


The Dumb Shall Sing (Colonial America)

by Stephen Lewis

Catherine Williams, widow and midwife, lives and works in 17th-century New England. Her protector, an obsolete Pequot sachem Massaquoit, who lodges on her land, helps her in tight spots, but Catherine is a strong and independent woman who wants to see justice done, especially when it comes to the murder of a child. (the 1st of 3)


Cut to the Quick (Regency England)

by Kate Ross

Julian Kestral, dandy and gentleman of leisure on the outside but super-observant detective on the inside, is the hero of these four charming mysteries. The supporting cast is wonderful, including his ex-con valet and humorous society friends. (the 1st of 4)

This book also appears on Kate Ross's "Julian Kestrel" Mysteries


The Face of a Stranger (Victorian England)

by Anne Perry

A man wakes up from an accident and doesn't remember anything about himself. With this intriguing premise, Perry begins the series of William Monk, who is supposed to be a London police detective. But the more he finds about his past, the less he likes it. This book is sobering and fascinating and each in the series is a courtroom drama. (the 1st of 16)


Faded Coat of Blue (American Civil War)

by Owen Parry

Abel Jones, Welsh immigrant, experienced soldier and volunteer in the Union Army, is asked to volunteer again, this time as an investigative agent for General McClellan. They've chosen well, as this man of faith and honor doesn't give up until he has his man, no matter where it leads. (the 1st of 6)


Holmes on the Range (Guilded Age America)

by Steve Hockensmith

The two Armlingmeyer Brothers are cowpokes and wannabe amateur detectives who read every Sherlock Holmes story they can get their callused hands on in 1890s Montana. You might not think they'd have much of a chance to test their theories, but you'd be wrong. Lots of fun. (the 1st of 4)


The Strange Files of Fremont Jones (Progressive Era America)

by Dianne Day

Fremont Jones is a young woman from the East making her own way in 1900 San Francisco. She works hard and has dreams of becoming a typewriter operator, but to make ends meet, she has decided to solve crimes for a living. That's when the trouble begins. Interesting characters and wonderful atmosphere. (the 1st of 6)


The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Edwardian England)

by Laurie R. King

Mary Russell is an exceptionally intelligent young woman, enough so to become a protégé of Sherlock Holmes. Their adventures are a stretch of the imagination, and that's how I like to exercise. (the 1st of 10)

This book also appears on In Honor of Darwin, A Menagerie of Species


The books above are just the beginning... looking for more? Try these websites:

Crime Thru Time
Stop, You're Killing Me!
Historical Mystery Fiction