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Women Sleuths

We love historical mystery stories and are thrilled when we find some which feature females who solve crimes. Reading them provides light hearted ways to learn things about the past through the eyes of active, inquisitive female characters.

But, Why would anyone want to read an historical novel - or assign it to students?
Historical mysteries let the reader be picked up and be transported to different times and places. A good story is a painless way to get into the period, and, if it features a unsolved crime or two, give a look at history’s darker underside.

Most historical mystery writers seemed to have always been drawn toward both mysteries and specific historical periods. In delving into the extensive research needed for their tale, they can become quite expert in their chosen period.

Those who have used crime stories as teaching tools, also point to the book's proven ability to intrigue students. William Edwards, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco, writes, “From the outset, the genre constructs a world whereby the ordinary routes of life are disrupted. Something happens that forces us to ask questions about society and the actions of its members....and invites students to probe many of these kinds of questions as the narrative unfolds.” (Bouchercon newsletter 36, 2005)

Why have women protagonists? Some writers feature female sleuths as a conscious way to revise stereotypes about women. They bring attention to the fact that there always have been strong women in the past. They have strong, interesting historically verified models to draw upon, even if such women were not the norm.

If women in a particular period lived within restricted roles, writers claim that it turns out to good for the plot. The female character who is especially challenged in society has something to work against. We often find that many of the female characters we’ve reviewed in surprising ways have access to a variety of life styles and can pass between social classes at will.

Our reviews: We’ve selected a wide variety of stories from diverse historical periods. You will note that certain periods and regions of the world loom large; regrettably mystery stories written in English thus far are limited in their geographic scope and topic.

Our reviews note the book’s historical themes and events, with particular reference to womens’ lives. We are very critical of those books which in our opinion look back and dress up women in modern clothes and speech. With good research and imagination, a book can ensure that things are presented realistically for their time, while keeping a balance between creating the ambience of the past and the abilities of modern audiences to understand and engage in the narrative. We also bring attention to books which provide an introduction or epilogue containing historic background, and which include a bibliography citing some of the resources used. And, we only review one book in the series, usually the first.

Remember these are fictional accounts. If your curiosity is piqued, see if any of our curriculum units, the books we have reviewed, or our Web links can help you find a way to judge the story’s historical accuracy.

Find reviews of book set in these regions:

Europe   Middle East   Africa   Far East   The Americas   True Historical Mysteries




Greece, 336 B.C.
A Murder in Thebes
byAnna Apostolou

Ancient Rome
Black Salamander
by Marilyn Todd

Ancient Rome - 89 AD
The Ides of April
by Lindsey Davis

Ancient Rome - Britannia 91 A.D
Get Out Or Die
by Jane Finnis

4th Century Rome
Murder Imperial
by Paul Doherty

Ravenna, 5th Century Italy
The Secundus Papyrus
by Albert Noyer

Middle Ages - England/Ireland
Absolution by Murder
by Petet Tremayne

11th Century Byzantium
Murder in Byzantium
by Julia Kristeva

12th Century-France & Spain
Strong as Death
by Sharan Newman

12th Century England
Mistress of the Art of Death
by Ariana Franklin

London, England, 1139
A Mortal Bane
by Roberta Gellis

England, 1141
Other Gods-The Averillan Chronicles
by Barbara Reichmuth Geisler

Europe, 1176
A Murderous Procession
by Ariana Franklin

England, 1189
Fortune Like the Moon
by Alys Clare

France & England, circa, 1200
The Canterbury Papers
by Judith Koll Healey

England, 1270
Wine of Violence
by Priscilla Royal

13th Century Italy
The Franciscan Conspiracy
by John Sack

13th Century Scotland
A Trust Betrayed
by Candace Robb

Europe, 1382
The Red Velven Turnshoe
by Cassandra Clark

Middle Ages - England
The Servant’s Tale
by Margaret Frazer

England, 1473
A Maze of Murders
by C.L. Grace

West Ireland, 1509
My Lady Judge
by Cora Harrison

England, 1562
The Queen's Cure
by Karen Harper

Cornwall, England, 1584
Murder in a Cornish Alehouse
by Kathy Lynn Emerson

England, Reign of Elizabeth I
Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie
by Kathy Lynn Emerson



Elizabethan England
Murder in Stratford
by Audrey Peterson

Elizabethan England
To Shield the Queen
by Fiona Buckley

England, 1603
Bone House
by Betsy Tobin

York, England, 1644
The Midwife's Tale
by Sam Thomas

England, 1676
Invitation to a Funeral
by Molly Brown

Late 17th Century England
Unnatural Fire
by Fidelis Morgan

Renaissance Italy
Bella Donna
by Barbara Cherne

Renaissance Italy
Lucrezia Borgia & the Mother of Poisons
by Roberta Gellis

Renaissance Bologna, Italy
Key Deceptions
by M. E. Cooper

1715 England
The Birth of the Blue Satan
by Patricia Wynn

18th Century France
Mute Witness
by Charles O'Brien

French Revolution - Paris
Death du Jour
by Lou Jane Temple

Rngland - 1780
Instruments of Darkness
by Imogen Robertson

Ireland - 1786
Midnight Fires
by Nancy Means Wright

Early19th Century England
Jane and the Unpleasantness
at Scargrave Manor
by Stephanie Barron

19th Century England
Callander Square
by Anne Perry

England, 1810
Point of Honor
by Madeleine E. Robins

Regency England, 1812
Blood for Blood
by S. K. Rizzolo

Regency England, 1812
When Maidens Mourn
by C.S. Harris

Vienna, 1814
Vienna Waltz
by Teresa Grant

England, 1848
The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte
by Laura Joh Rowland

England, 1861
Lady of Ashes
by Christine Trent

Venice, 19th & Late 15th Century
Death in the Floating City
byTasha Alexander


England, 1864
The Companion
by Ann Granger

England, Regency Era
Pride and Prescience
by Carrie Bebris

England, Regency Period
A Gentleman of Fortune
by Anna Dean

England, 1886
Silent in the Grave
by Deanna Raybourn

England, 1888
The Three Body Problem
by Catherine Shaw

1890s Scotland
The Inspector's Daughter
by Alanna Knight

1890s England
Death at Bishop's Keep
by Robin Paige

1890s Russia
Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
by Boris Akunin

London, Late 19th Century
Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits' Curse
by Martin Davis

Victorian England
The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries
by Emily Brightwell

Victorian Era - England
Symptoms of Death
by Paula Paul

Late Victorian Era - England
The Adventuress
by Carole Nelson Douglas

Victorian Women in Crime
Penguin Book, Michael Sims, Editor

Early 20th Century England
A Letter of Mary
by Laurie R. King

England, Edwardian Era
Snobbery with Violence
by Marion Chesney

Vienna, Austria - 1889
Requiem in Vienna
by J. Sydney Jones

Paris 1900
Death at the Paris Exposition
by Frances McNamara

Paris 1909 - 1910
The Paris Winter
by Imogen Robertson

England 1910
Consequences of Sin
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

France, 1910s
Sister Beneath the Sheet
by Gillian Linscott


England 1916
The Murder Stone
by Charles Todd

England 1916-17
A Duty to the Dead
by Charles Todd

World War I England
Maisie Dobbs
by Jacqueline Winspear

England, 1922s
Dying in the Wool
by Frances Brody

England, 1920s
Die Laughing
by Carola Dunn

Scotland, 1920s
The Burry Man's Day
by Catriona McPherson

Crete, 1927
The Tomb of Zeus
by Barbara Cleverly

London, 1930s
An Expert in Murder
by Nicola Upson

Berlin, 1931
A Trace pf Smoke
by Rebecca Cantrell
England, 1932
Her Royal Spyness
by Rhys Bowen

England, 1936
Hollow Crown
by David Roberts

England, 1937
Who Killed the Curate?
by Joan Coggin

Germany, 1938
Journey to Munich
by Jacqueline Winspear

London, 1940
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
by Susan Elia Macneal

Spain, 1940
The Watcher in the Pine
by Rebecca Pawel

Paris, 1940s
The Last Time I Saw Paris
by Lynn Sheene



World War II Ireland
Common or Garden Crime
by Sheila Pim

World War II England
The London Blitz Murders
by Max Allan Collins

World War II England
Berried Alive
by Kate Kingsbury

World War II England
A Presumption of Death
by Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy L. Sayers

Italy - 1944&1955
The Light of the Ruins
by Chris Bohjalian

Scottish Highlands - 1955
A Double Death on the Black Isle
by A.D. Scott

Middle East

Middle East

Middle East

Palestine/Jerusalem, 1938
A Fly Has a Hundred Eyes
by Aileen G. Baron

Constantinople 1887
The Sultan's Seal
by Jenny White

Constantinople - late 19th century
Tears of Pearl
by Tasha Alexander




Ancient Egypt
A Place of Darkness
by Lauren Haney

Ancient Egypt
The Golden One
by Elizabeth Peters

Late 18th Century Egypt
Napoleon Must Die
by Quinn Fawcett

Egypt - England 1911s
The Serpent and the Scorpion
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

East Africa (Kenya) 1920s
Mark of the Lion
by Suzanne Arruda

Morocco 1924s
Garment of Shadows
by Laurie King

Morocco 1942
Touch of Tangiers
by Aileen g. Baron

Contemporary Botswana
The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith





7th Century China
by Eleanor Cooney & Daniel Altieri

Heian Period Japan
The Exile Way
by Ann Woodward

17th Century Japan
The Samurai's Wife
by Laura Joh Rowland

Sikkam 1880s
Dark Road to Darjeeling
by Deanna Raybourne

NW Indian Frontier 1920s
The Damascened Blade
by Barbara Cleverly

Japan 1920s
Dreaming of Spies
by Laurie King

Australia 1928
Murder in Montparnasse
by Kerry Greenwood

Contemporary China
Dragon Bones
by Lisa See

Beijing - 1990s
The Eye of Jade
by Diane Wei Liang

The Americas

The Americas

The Americas

Peru (now Boliva) - 1650
City of Silver
by Annamaria Alfieri

17th Century New England
The Dumb Shall Sing
by Stephen Lewis

Colonial New England
Mischief in the Snow
by Margaret Miles
Boston 1764
byJan Kamensky & Jill Leporne
Revolutionary Boston 1773
The Ninth Daughter
by Barbara Hamilton
American Revolution, 1780-81
Paper Woman
by Suzanne Adair
United States, 1786
Hearts and Bones
by Margaret Lawerence
Massachusetts, 1832
The Daring Ladies of Lowell
by Kate Alcott
Philadelphia 1842
The Conjurer
by Cordelia Frances Biddle
San Francisco 1850s
Woman of Ill Fame
by Erika Mailman
Boston 1850s
Louisa and the Missing Heiress
by Anna Maclean
19th Century U.S.
Seneca Falls Inheritance
by Miriam Grace Monfredo
America & England 1861
Slaves of Obsession
by Anne Perry
Civil War
Cut to the Heart
by Ava Dianne Day
Civil War
Chickahominy Fever
by Ann McMillan
Boston, Post Civil War
Still Life with Murder
by P.B. Ryan
USA, Post Civil War
A Lady Never Trifles with Thieves
by Suzann Ledbetter
New York City, 1860s
The Spice Box
by Lou Jane Temple
San Francisco, 1867
No Comfort for the Lost
by Nancy Herriman

Western U.S. 1870-85
Murder at Bent Elbow
by Kate Bryan
Western U.S. 1878
Solomon Spring
by Michelle Black
Colorado U.S. 1879
Silver Lies
by Ann Parker
San Francisco, 1879
Maids of Misfortune
by M. Louisa Locke
San Francisco, 1880
Murder on Nob Hill
by Shirley Tallman
U.S. 1888
Deadlier Than the Pen
by Kathy Lynn Emerson
New York City, 1890
Deadly Illumination
by Serena Stier
Boston, 1890s
The White Crow
by Cynthia Peale
United States, 1892
A Lack of Temperance
by Anna Loan-Wilsey
Chicago, 1893
Death at the Fair
by Frances McNamara
Portland, Oregon, 1894
A Death at the Rose Paperworks
by M.J. Zellnik
Winslow Arizona, 1895
Seashells in the Desert
by Susan Tornga
San Francisco 1895
The Spook Lights Affair
by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Missouri, 1898
by Cynthia Thomason
Vancouver Canada, 1899
The Silk Train Murder
by Sharon Rowsea

New York - Late 1890s
Masterpiece of Murder
by Mary Kruger

U.S. 1900
Death in Lacquer Red
by Jeanne M. Dams

Los Angeles, 1903
City of Angels
by Tracie Peterson & James Scott Bell

Early 1900s, New York City
Murphy's Law
by Rhys Bowen

Early 1900s, Pittsburgh
Steel Ashes
by Karen Rose Cercon

Early 1900s, New York City
Murder on Mulberry Bend
by Victoria Thompson

Early 20th Century California
The Bohemian Murders
by Dianne Day

Oklahoma, 1912
The Old Buzzard Had It Coming
by Donis Casey

U.S.A. New Jersey, 1914
Girl Waits With Gun
by Amy Stewart

U.S.A. New York, 1915
Prima Donna at Large
by Barbara Paul

World War I - San Francisco
Young Mrs Cavendish and theKaiser's Men
by K.K. Beck

U.S.A. New York, 1920
Free Love
by Annette Meyers
HAWAII 1920s U.S.A.
Peril Under the Palmas
by K. K. Beck
Harlem 1920s
Darkness and the Devil Behind Me
by Persia Walker
LATE 1920s U.S.A.
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Chicago, 1931
Tears of the Dragon
by Holly Baxter
1931 U.S.A.
Anything Goes
by Jill Churchill
1930s Mexico
Day of the Dead
by Barbara Hambly
1930s U.S.A.
Death of a Winter Shaker
by Deborah Woodworth
Boston, 1930s
Murder Is A Collector's Item
Elizabeth Dean
World War II United States
The Blackbirder
by Dorothy B. Hughes    
United States - 1931
Quiet Dell
by Jayne Anne Phillips    
1939, Kansas City, U.S.A.
One O’Clock Jump
by Lise McClendon    
San Francisco/Hawaii - 1941
The Last Full Measure
by Hal Glatzer    
1943 United States
Lipstick and Lies
by Margit Liesche    

1943, New York City, U.S.A.
The War Against Miss Winter
by Kathryn Miller Haines

1943 New York, U.S.A.
This Dame For Hire
by Sandra Scoppettone

1947 Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
The Victory Dance Murder
by Dorothy B. Hughes

True Historical Mysteries

The following list are books about crimes actually committed in the past. We add these because of their invaluable insight into the lives of women. The female sleuths in these cases are contemporary historians who have combed the available sources trying to uncover how and why these women were killed, and who committed the crimes.

Rome/Greece - Second Century A.D.
The Murder of Regilla
by Sarah Pomeroy    

Florence, Italy - 16th Century
Murder of a Medici Princess
by Caroline Murphy    



Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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