Five Best Historical Mystery Novels from The Wall Street Journal

My mother, ever the newspaper clipping wealth of information, sent me this article in the mail yesterday. Often, the articles she sends me are of education, or medical advice, or some article that if I’d wanted to read I’d subscribe to a newspaper myself. But, with this one, she hit the nail of my interest right on the head. It’s from the Wall Street Journal, and it’s entitled:

Five Best These historical mystery novels are superb mixtures of the scholarly and the suspenseful, says David B. Rivkin Jr.

Take a look. At number one we have:

Alexandria by Lindsey Davis

“One of Davis’s virtues is the way she roots her tales in ancient times even as she adds sly modern touches; in Alexandria she lampoons today’s universities with a hilarious portrayal of academia circa A.D. 75, replete with rancorous board meetings, pretentious intellectual wrangling and petty professional jealousies.

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters

The author keeps the suspense high, but Peters raises the story well above the average whodunit with his descriptions of the Welsh countryside’s stark beauty, his vivid characters and his command of medieval church matters. Mystery, after all, is best framed by history.

The Emporer’s Pearl by Robert H. van Gulik

One of the pleasures of the Judge Dee mysteries-in addition to the fine storytelling and attention to period detail, like the Chinese love for dragon-boat racing- is the sprinkling of illustrations by the author, the Dutch diplomat and student of Chinese history, Robert H. van Gulik who died in 1967.

Slayer of Gods by  Lynda S. Robinson

Lynda S. Robinson has a doctorate in anthropology, specializing in archaeology. Such expertise clearly informs her richly atmosphere depictions of ancient Egypt in her Lord Meren mysteries. In “slayer of Gods,” we find Meren serving as chief security officer for Pharoah Tu Tutankhamun in the 14th century B.C…It’s considered a cold case, but Meren won’t let it go and is soon entangled in a story fraught with immense political and religious significance, colored by that characteristics obsessions of ancient Egypt, the afterlife.

The Fire Kimono by Laura John Rowland

The Fire Kimono lingers in the memory as a haunting story of an honest man trying to navigate in an honor-obsessed culture where elaborate ritual can conceal sinister intrigue.

So, after Carl‘s Once Upon A Time Challenge, which will begin March 21, and after The Brother’s Karamazov read-along which I’m hosting this April, I’m going to dive into these five. Don’t they look awesome?!

Thanks, David B. Rivkin, author of this article. And thanks, Mother of mine, for always enlightening me.

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42 thoughts on “Five Best Historical Mystery Novels from The Wall Street Journal”

  1. I've heard of each and every one of these mystery series (I think they are all series, maybe no #1), but I've never read any of them. You'll have to be sure and share your thoughts on them.

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  2. I hadn't even heard of them, Kay! It appears to me that many of them are series, as you said, which is all the better: if they're good, hooray for more to come!

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  3. Laura Joh Rowland and Ellis Peters are old friends of mine. The others are all brand new, and I'm eager to make their acquintance. Thank you (and your mother!) for the introduction 🙂

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  4. How sweet is your mom! My dad used to do that, too, before we were half the world away. He would come home after work bringing me 'stuff.' Not my sisters or brother, but me. 🙂

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  5. Ah, it's good to be "Daddy's Girl". I think that holds true even when our patent leather Mary Jane's wear out. My father still blesses me with gifts; usually it's berries left on our front step. It's my mother who clips the newspaper until I don't know where to file everything! But, I'm covered in their love whichever gift they bestow, and I'm so grateful for parents. Wow, that ended up being a longer comment than I expected…;)What did your father bring you? Is he living in China?

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  6. I LOVE the Lindsey Davis series, so I'm thrilled she's at #1! However, if you haven't read the other Falco mysteries (and, I admit, there are many), then I suggest starting from the beginning because they are chronological and it's a lot of fun to see Falco grow.I'll be looking into the one that is set in China- fun!

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  7. Dear "B" – what do you think? which mystery to attack? Can't have 'em all, though would like to. Have been working on my writing (exercises, etc.) and reading in between. (ah, yes, and then there's work, etc.) Anyway, this entry is a visual treat as well as an inspirtation. BTW, I loved my Japanese challenge – am reading the 4th Manga in the EMMA series and nearly finished NORWEIGN WOOD (Murikama) and love my Japanese origami paper I purchased to use for making bookmarks and "scrap" pages. You continue to inspire! And I shall try to be a better blogger and blog friend!

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  8. Thanks for helpful hint, Aarti, because they're all new to me. I love reading about Asia, as you probably know, so that sounds like an extra special one to me, too.

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  9. I like Brother Cadfael! Hope you will too. Don't know any of the others. But I do know that I love this new look of yours. Just beautiful (but your blog has always been beautiful & not just in appearance).

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  10. Oh, first of all you are a good blogger and friend! Who could be any worse than me at getting around and leaving comments to everyone? Hopefully, this summer when I have the days to myself…I'm so happy that the Japanese challenge worked for you. It's rather addictive, is it not? I can't wait to get to Norwegian Wood, right after I finish Dance Dance Dance for Tanabata's discussion on March 29th. (Do you have time to join in?) I keep hearing fabulous things about Norwegian Wood, but there's not a Murakami I don't admire so I'm not impartial. I'm glad that this was a visual treat, the header being a harbinger of Spring. I hope.

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  11. Kisses to you, ds. I think, am I right?, that Brother Cadfael was on PBS? It seems to ring a bell for me. I'm glad that you endorse him; when I hear from readers I trust I'm all the more eager to pick up a certain work.

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  12. "My mother, ever the newspaper clipping wealth of information…"I knew it. We are sisters! My mom does the same thing. 🙂 And, once again, you have a gorgeous new header! I love it, yet can't quite put my name on the artist. Gustav Klimt, perhaps?

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  13. I've only read Ellis Peters, who I really like, but coincidentally I have a Laura Joh Rowland out from library right now! Two of my favourite historical mystery authors are Laurie King (her Mary Russell series) and Kate Ross (who only wrote four books, which are now out of print, but definitely worth the hunt!).

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  14. For someone who's thought of taking Durrell's Alexandria Quartet to bed with her like a Teddy Bear, and who would rather have a copy of The White Nile than white chocolate, I see two on the list right now that are must-reads!I'm putting Lindsey Davis at the top of the list!

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  15. Lesley, I hate to sound ungrateful, but sometimes all those clippings just collect on my counter. 😦 I have lots to read, without picking up newspaper articles to add to the bunch! But, I'm sure you're like me in that you appreciate our mothers' thoughtfulness.The yet again new header is from a Marc Chagall (Adam and Eve Chased From Paradise), but it's only the bottom half. I'm frustrated that the header is so small one is forced to choose which fraction of the photograph will fit into the space, but surely, I've arrived at my template of choice. 😉

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  16. Eva, I'm sad to say that I didn't love Laurie King as highly as I've heard her praised. I'll look up Kate Ross, though, and certainly Laura Joh Rowland.

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  17. Sadly, it won't count as a Japanese literature challenge selection as it's not written by a Japanese author. Maybe I should change the rules, eh? 🙂

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  18. Linda, I should have known you'd be intimately acquainted with this bunch. I love your 'endorsement' and trust it implicitly, so I'll be turning to Durrell and Davis both.

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  19. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes, I let the clippings pile up and then curl up with a glass of wine and spend time reading them. It's not too much of a burden since we stopped subscribing to our local paper (except on Sundays). Ah! Chagall. I knew that (says she who took several semesters of Art History)! I do love your template, by the way. Someday…

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  20. Listen, Sister of mine, you don't need to change a thing on your blog! I think I get so caught up in the appearance I'm neglecting the content…or, certainly, commenting on others' blogs. But, you never lack of post worthy material.

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  21. Thanks for the ego-boost, Sis. I'll probably leave well enough alone. At least until I have a month or so to learn WordPress! Ha!I'll have you know I spent the entire day (yesterday) catching up on all my favorite blogs! It's so time consuming. I probably could've read half a book, but I hate to let too much time go between blog-hops. Be on the lookout for a little gifty later next week. I'm sending something your way…

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  22. I love the Lord Meren series, but the last book was published quite a while ago. Was Slayer of Gods the end of the series or were more planned? I hope that the author is not in poor health, because it appears that it has been a while since she has published anything. Do you have any information on whether Slayer was the end of the series or whether more are planned?

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