If You Like….
Since I’ve been deep in the writing cave, the wonderful Rachel very kindly offered to take up the slack by writing a brand new “If You Like” post– and may I just say how delighted I was when she offered and how even more delighted I was once I read it?
Here, without further preamble, is our latest guest If You Like: If You Like Lady Detectives in Historical Fiction. And now over to Rachel!
I don’t know about you all, but once in a while I get a taste for a certain genre/ trope/ character personality and go crazy with it. I’ll look up recommendations on Goodreads, talk to friends, and make a list of things to check out from the library. Lately, because of Laurie R King’s latest in her “Beekeeper’s Apprentice” series [which I know has been a big hit on this website before!] I’ve been on a “Lady Detectives in Historical Fiction,” kick. The latest installment is intriguingly titled “The Murder of Mary Russell” and actually alternates between the Mary/ Sherlock storyline and Mrs. Hudson’s early life, as the famous housekeeper has her own intrepid adventures. King’s series is intelligent, amusing, and fast paced while packed with incredible dialogue and character/ plot development. The lady does her research. In the past few weeks I have also delved into several new (to me) series that promised similar devices to King. So if you like Mary Russell/ Lady Detectives in Historical Fiction, you may also like…
The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, by Rachel McMillan- The “first” in a series (there is a prequel available also) about two friends, Merinda and Jem, who eschew the patriarchal norms of 1910 Toronto and form a detective agency. Merinda is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes stories and uses them as research to help in their own cases. Fun, fast paced, and full of colorful personalities. (And if you like the Canadian show “Murdoch Mysteries”, you will surely like this series!)
Sister Beneath the Sheet by Gillian Linscott- First in a series about Nell Bray, a suffragette working under Emmeline Pankhurst, who directs Nell to look into a suspicious death. Slightly darker in plot and detail, this story still contains a great deal of history and atmosphere of the early suffragette revolution. Male-female relations in the book also raise though provoking questions in the midst of the current political debate over gender in America.
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn- First in a series about protagonist Lady Julia Grey, a woman who becomes involved in detecting when her husband unexpectedly expires at a dinner party. (Think “Gosford Park” meets the “Lady Emily” series by Tasha Alexander.) She is joined in her investigation by her husband’s acquaintance Nicholas Brisbane, who does get get along with Lady Julia at the outset and causes much consternation for her and amusement for the reader. Steamier and, in parts, darker, this book contains elements of several adored genres.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear- I’m almost done with this one, and it is blowing my mind. My favorite so far for no particular reason other than I am connecting with the eponymous Maisie. Incredibly bright, she is born into a lower class but rises up with the help of her employer-turned-patron. I definitely see elements of Mary Russell in Maisie Dobbs, except that Maisie has struck out on her own to open a detective agency and does not work with a partner after leaving the tutelage of Dr. Maurice Blanche. Maisie is able to easy sympathize with her clientele, drawing on shared WWI experiences (Maisie served as a nurse).
On tap for me (because I over-indulged at the library) are: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, The Alchemy of Murder by Carol McCleary, Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, and This Dame for Hire by Sandra Scoppettone.
Thank you so much, Rachel! I’m busy scribbling notes to myself since while half of these are old favorites (am I the only one reading this who feels a strong need to re-read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice right about now?), the other half are new to me. Which is very exciting.
I’ve been racking my brains to think who else I would add to this list…. There’s Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mysteries (Scottish, 19th century), Jennifer Kincheloe’s The Secret Life of Anna Blanc (American, turn of the century), Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries (Australian, 1920s), and, of course, Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness (English, 1930s).
Who are your favorite historical lady detectives?
The Maggie Hope series is another to add to your list! Maggie is an American in England during WWII. She ends up as a secretary for Mr. Churchill who helps crack secret codes. A fun read – also tons of mystery and family drama.
I have a deep love of pastiches. I enjoyed the Mr. And Mrs. Darcy series by Carrie Bebris, which is inspired by the works of Jane Austen. I got the first book, Suspense and Sensibility, as a writer’s conference freebie and really liked it.
Read them to date, Corinne, and agree that they are a really well done series.
I’m starting the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd. It’s about a nurse and amateur detective during WWI.
Oo! That sounds enticing!
Adding to Rhys Bowen’s list is her Molly Murphy series–turn of the century NYC Irish immigrant Molly and her lovely neighbors Sid and Gus.
Also Tasha Alexander’s later Victorian era Lady Emily series is fab.
Victoria Thompson’s sleuthing midwife Sarah Brandt in turn of the century NYC is really good, too.
Ohhhh, Deanna Raybourn, Rachel! If you like her Lady Julia series, you’ll also love the new Veronica Speedwell series. Lauren told me I’d like Veronica, and she was right, as usual. Also, Deanna’s stand-alone books set in Africa are terrific.
I think it’s time for me to re-read my beloved Elizabeth Peters books. I miss her so much. I was always waiting for the next Amelia Peabody, Vicky Bliss, or Jacqueline Kirby story. Now there won’t be any more. Sigh.
Thank you! I am actually making headway with my TBR so I’ll try and do the other Raybourn titles this summer 🙂
Thanks for the plug, Lauren!
I mean Rachel!
There is also The Charlotte Pitt series, by Anne Perry. Eventually it becomes a husband and wife series, very good. It was in the first book, The Cater Street Hangman, that I learned Victorian fathers did not allow their daughters to read the newspaper !
In my opinion, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody reigns supreme amongst lady detectives!
I love Peabody and Emerson. It’s one of my favorite series.
Mary Russell by Laurie R. King
I have always enjoyed the Freemont jones series by Dianne day.
She doesn’t have a series of her own, alas, but I’ve always loved Miss Katherine Climpson (created by Dorothy L. Sayers.) She runs a detective agency disguised as a typing service, under the aegis of Lord Peter Wimsey. Young women down on their luck and hunting for employment apply there, and find themselves doing something much more thrilling than office work.
I love the Gareth and Gwen medieval mysteries by Sarah Woodbury. Also, the Newport Gilded Age series by Shelley Freydont featuring debutante sleuth Deanna Randolph. And I recently discovered the Amory Ames series by Ashley Weaver which I absolutely adore!
Rachel, this is a terrific list – thanks! Most are already old friends on my bookshelf but you’ve added some new titles I’ll want to chase down. I would add a personal favorite – Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries. Jane as a detective is very satisfying.
Jane and I thank you.
You’re welcome, Stephanie – I own all but the most recent one and have loved each one.
I’ve been meaning to “investigate” this series, thanks for the reminder! 🙂
Oh, and also the wonderful Adelia Aguilar novels by Ariana Franklin (a.k.a. Diana Norman.) My absolute favorite of all her books is *The Vizard Mask*, which I read over and over and over. It isn’t exactly a mystery, though, so in terms of the genre I heartily recommend the Adelia Aguilar series.
Wonderful list! While Mary Russell will always be (to me) the Utter And Undeniable Queen of Sleuths…I’m really glad you mentioned Nell Bray by the incredible Gillian Linscott. I discovered “Nell” while in the UK, and have had a somewhat challenging time finding more of her books here in the US, but they are worth the search! Nell is thoughtful and brave while still human and vulnerable, and the mysteries are tense and engaging. Her books hum with a passion for both the historical time frame and the Cause(s) embraced by the main characters. Love them!
Thanks for a wonderful list – many are on my TBR list. The only ones of these I have read are Deanna’s Julia Grey and one Bess Crawford – love them.
Have to give a shout-out for Dorothy Sayers’ Harriot Vane–the perfectly intelligent foil for Peter Wimsey–and also Carola Dunn’s Daisy Darymple. I also find Nicola Upson’s depiction of Josephine Tey as a sleuth quite intriguing.
Oooh…two great additions that I’d recommend as well!
The detective wears Prada! Detailed list and reviews of each title. Thanks, Rachel!
as a MASSIVE Lauren Willig fan, I was so excited to read the most recent entry and see my lady detectives!
thank you sooo much for the shout-out to Herringford and Watts <3
I really liked Lady Waits with Gun. I adore Phyrne Fisher, especially the show. I was so sad when I watched the last episode.
I seem to be rather picky about this category. I read the first couple Mary Russell’s and while I liked her, the relationship between her and Holmes doesn’t work for me and I’ve not been inclined to read more.
I read the first Lady Emily and it didn’t really catch my interest. I really like Hero in the Sebastian St. Cyr books.
In the girl not lady category, I adore Flavia de Luce. Flavia is a terrific character and so is everyone else in the books. The setting is great as well. If Bradley were a better plotter these would be all time favorites but they are still very good.
So far everyone has mentioned all my favorite historical mystery series featuring female detectives save the following:
The Liberty Lane series by Caro Peacock- Victorian England, an independent lady private detective. Reminds me a lot of Maisy Dobbs
The Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson – set in Gilded Age New York City and featuring an intrepid midwife detective.
Ghost story/ mysteries by Simone St. James – all one-off novels but all set in the aftermath of WW1 in England. Creepy ghost stories. murders and intrepid females solving it all. I am a fan for life.
I can give definite shout outs to the Lady Darby series, Daisy Dalrymple, Lady Emily, Nell Bray, Bess Crawford and anything that Rhys Bowen writes!
Read this post a month or so late. But I love the Lady Emily series by Victoria Alexander. Female detective in Victorian England!