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25 Best Historical Mystery Books

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By Jennifer Marie Lin on Nov 10th, 2021 (Last Updated Nov 10th, 2021)

best historical mystery books and novels or series

Historical Mysteries are a subgenre of both historical fiction and mystery novels. If you love books set in a different time period and you enjoy a satisfying whodunit, then perhaps these titles might interest you!

This is a list of the Best Historical Mystery Books, set in various time periods throughout history and all featuring engrossing and thrilling mysteries at the center of the plot. For books that are part of a series, I’ve included the first book of the series on the list.

There are so many great books that fit into this category that it was really tough to narrow it down, but here’s what I came up with. Do you have a suggestion for this list? Drop a comment below!

For more heart-pounding mysteries and enchanting historical fiction, see the lists of Best Historical Fiction Novels for 2022 or the Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time.

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)
Carlos Ruiz ZafonWhat It’s About: Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written…Publication Date: May 1, 2001
  4.27 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery book club
The Alienist (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, #1)
Caleb CarrWhat It’s About: When The Alienist was first published in 1994, it was a major phenomenon, spending six months on the New York Times bestseller list, receiving critical acclaim, and selling millions of copies. This modern classic continues to be a touchstone of historical suspense fiction for readers everywhere.

The year is 1896…

Publication Date: December 15, 1994
  4.04 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery thriller
The Historian
Elizabeth KostovaWhat It’s About: For centuries, the story of Dracula has captured the imagination of readers and storytellers alike. Kostova’s breathtaking first novel, ten years in the writing, is an accomplished retelling of this ancient tale. “The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper… As an historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it…Publication Date: June 14, 2005
  3.79 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction fantasy horror
The Thirteenth Tale
Diane SetterfieldWhat It’s About: All children mythologize their birth…So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret…

Publication Date: September 12, 2006
  3.96 out of 5 on Goodreads
mystery book club historical fiction
Death Comes as the End
Agatha ChristieWhat It’s About: It is Egypt in 2000 BC, where death gives meaning to life. At the foot of a cliff lies the broken, twisted body of Nofret, concubine to a ka-priest. Young, beautiful, and venomous, most agree that it was fate–she deserved to die like a snake!

But at her father’s house on the banks of the Nile, the priest’s daughter Renisenb believes that the woman’s death is suspicious…

Publication Date: February 27, 2010
  3.85 out of 5 on Goodreads
agatha christie historical fiction crime The Name of the Rose
Umberto EcoWhat It’s About: The year is 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon—all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity…Publication Date: September 28, 1994
  4.13 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery classics
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #1)
Laurie R. KingWhat It’s About: Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes’ pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger…Publication Date: January 15, 1994
  4.05 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mysteries series
Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1)
Jacqueline WinspearWhat It’s About: Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, began her working life at the age of thirteen as a servant in a Belgravia mansion, only to be discovered reading in the library by her employer, Lady Rowan Compton. Fearing dismissal, Maisie is shocked when she discovers that her thirst for education is to be supported by Lady Rowan and a family friend, Dr…Publication Date: July 1, 2003
  3.91 out of 5 on Goodreads
mystery historical fiction mysteries
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1)
Alan BradleyWhat It’s About: It is the summer of 1950—and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath…Publication Date: April 28, 2009
  3.82 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction book club series
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Patrick SuskindWhat It’s About: An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind’s classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift—an absolute sense of smell…

Publication Date: January 1, 1989
  4.02 out of 5 on Goodreads
classics historical fiction horror The Lost Apothecary
Sarah PennerWhat It’s About: A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register…

Publication Date: March 2, 2021
  3.78 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery botm
The Forgotten Garden
Kate MortonWhat It’s About: A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving…

Publication Date: June 1, 2008
  4.12 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery book club
The Secret Keeper
Kate MortonWhat It’s About: During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime…Publication Date: October 16, 2012
  4.12 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery book club
The Club Dumas
Arturo Perez-ReverteWhat It’s About: Lucas Corso is a book detective, a middle-aged mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found dead, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment…Publication Date: May 1, 2006
  3.82 out of 5 on Goodreads
mystery thriller historical fiction
The Hangman’s Daughter
Oliver PötzschWhat It’s About: Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession…Publication Date: March 13, 2008
  3.74 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery historical
Her Royal Spyness (Royal Spyness #1)
Rhys BowenWhat It’s About: Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.

So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg… She’s gate-crashed a wedding… She’s making money by secretly cleaning houses…

Publication Date: July 3, 2007
  3.80 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction cozy mystery mysteries Fingersmith
Sarah WatersWhat It’s About: An alternate cover for this ASIN can be found here.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home…

Publication Date: October 1, 2002
  3.98 out of 5 on Goodreads
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Our Woman in Moscow
Beatriz WilliamsWhat It’s About: The New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion.

In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance…

Publication Date: June 1, 2021
  4.10 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction historical mystery
The Shape of Darkness
Laura PurcellWhat It’s About: As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another…Publication Date: January 21, 2021
  3.94 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction gothic horror A Master of Djinn
P. Djèlí ClarkWhat It’s About: Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer…

Publication Date: May 11, 2021
  4.19 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction steampunk 2021 releases
A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1)
Deanna RaybournWhat It’s About: London, 1887.

After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime…

Publication Date: September 1, 2015
  3.95 out of 5 on Goodreads
mystery historical fiction historical
The Widows of Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry #1)
Sujata MasseyWhat It’s About: Bombay, 1921: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes her especially devoted to championing and protecting women’s rights…Publication Date: January 9, 2018
  3.93 out of 5 on Goodreads
mystery historical fiction india
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Katherine HoweWhat It’s About: A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history–the Salem witch trials.

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation…

Publication Date: June 9, 2009
  3.72 out of 5 on Goodreads
fantasy mystery historical
My Name Is Red
Orhan PamukWhat It’s About: At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers.

The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm…

Publication Date: December 5, 2006
  3.86 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery turkey Child 44 (Leo Demidov #1)
Tom Rob SmithWhat It’s About: MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line. He arrests whomever he is told to arrest. He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia. Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime. But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is shaken…Publication Date: March 3, 2008
  4.08 out of 5 on Goodreads
historical fiction mystery thriller

best historical mystery books and novels or series

best historical mystery books and novels or series

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