I Love a Mystery — Historic Mysteries

Three Favorite Historic Mysteries

My favorite books are mys­ter­ies, true, but I like to read in sev­er­al gen­res. When I find a delight­ful his­toric mys­tery, I’m dou­bly thrilled. In fact, I so love his­tor­i­cal mys­ter­ies, I have to show­case three series. 

Five Star Read — EVANS ABOVE

This is the first of the series, and the first of Rhys Bowen’s three series. I dis­cov­ered her third series first, then the sec­ond, and now while I’m try­ing to col­lect all the books in the sec­ond, I decid­ed to try the first. Did not know what to expect with a male pro­tag­o­nist, a vil­lage con­sta­ble in Wales. I must say, from my read­ing of the first book, that this series is just as delight­ful (not a term usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with male cops) as the oth­er two. In this book read­ers are right there in Wales, along with all the frus­tra­tions, the odd goings on, and the vari­ety of char­ac­ters. Add to that a puz­zling plot and a wind-up that pulls an amaz­ing host of events togeth­er.

Evans aboveI’d like to quote from the publisher’s descrip­tion — Evan Evans, a young police con­sta­ble, has trad­ed city life for that of Llan­fair — an idyl­lic Welsh vil­lage. Nestling in the Snow­do­nia moun­tain range, Llan­fair looks to Evans like a town for­got­ten by time, but he quick­ly learns that even the bucol­ic coun­try­side has its share of eccen­tric — and dead­ly — char­ac­ters. Evans’s new neigh­bors include two com­pet­i­tive min­is­ters vying for the souls of their flock, one las­civ­i­ous bar­maid, and three oth­er Evans­es: Evans-the-Meat; Evans-the-Milk and Evans-the-Post (whose favorite hob­by is to read the mail before he deliv­ers it).

Before Evans has time to sort through the com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships and rival­ries of his new home, he’s called to the scene of a crime as bru­tal and fear­some as any he encoun­tered in the big city. Two hik­ers have been mur­dered on the trails of the local moun­tain, and Evans must hunt down a vicious killer — who may or may not be linked to the mys­te­ri­ous destruc­tion of Mrs. Pow­ell-Jones’ prize-win­ning toma­toes.

Most of this series is avail­able as e-books only. I’ve got­ten them as used books through the resellers on Ama­zon since my hus­band enjoys them too, and he hasn’t con­vert­ed to e-book read­ing. I do wish they were more wide­ly avail­able.

Since I men­tioned the rar­i­ty of books pub­lished even as late as 2005, I won­der, do you have a favorite series that is out of print?

 

The Irish Cop Connection

I like to make con­nec­tions. Some­times the con­nec­tion is between a news­pa­per arti­cle and a sto­ry I’ve read. Some­times it’s between a whis­pered con­fi­dence and a past event. Some­times, such as this time, the con­nec­tion is between two mys­tery series by two dif­fer­ent authors.

Besides the Irish cop con­nec­tion, these series are cozy, his­toric, and by authors I’ve actu­al­ly met! Both series are set in New York at the turn of the century—that’s the ear­ly 1900s, Both have a young woman who helps an Irish cop solve mur­ders. Both include a good bit of accu­rate his­toric detail.

I met Vic­to­ria Thomp­son a few years ago at a con­fer­ence where I bought one of her Gaslight Mys­tery books. I’ve been buy­ing, and read­ing them ever since. How­ev­er, I began read­ing the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies before I met Rhys Bowen. Okay, I must admit, it was a brief encounter. We rode the same ele­va­tor at the Mal­ice Domes­tic Con­fer­ence this May. I did tell her how much I enjoyed her mys­ter­ies.

Now that I’ve men­tioned the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two series, let me tell you the dif­fer­ences.

Sarah Brandt, star of the Gaslight Mys­ter­ies, was born to wealth then turned against that lifestyle by becom­ing a mid­wife. She mar­ried and was a young wid­ow when the series begins. Among the real his­toric issues involved in the mys­ter­ies are med­ical prob­lems, includ­ing those of the Irish cop’s deaf son as well as social issues and the pover­ty of so many of New York’s cit­i­zens of the time. One among the con­tin­u­ing char­ac­ters is Sarah’s neigh­bor, an extreme­ly super­sti­tions woman who sees signs of dan­ger if a crow flies by, or almost any­thing else. Sarah has the advan­tage of know­ing the wealthy peo­ple, old friends from her for­mer life, and espe­cial­ly her moth­er to help in learn­ing things that might be clues. The Irish cop, Frank Mal­loy, wel­comes any help Sarah can pro­vide. The two are attract­ed to each oth­er, but so far, have too many oth­er things going on to do much about it.

Mol­ly Mur­phy, the hero­ine of the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies, arrived in New York from Ire­land, one step ahead of the law that would arrest her for pro­tect­ing her­self. She takes a job at a detec­tive agency. When the detec­tive is killed, she takes over the role of detec­tive. Through­out the series, Mol­ly meets his­toric peo­ple such as Har­ry Hou­di­ni and Nel­lie Bly. Her neigh­bors are two flam­boy­ant women who intro­duce Mol­ly to their well-known friends, so many his­toric events con­tribute to the mys­ter­ies. Daniel Sul­li­van, the Irish cop, does not wel­come help from Mol­ly on his cas­es, nor does he want to hear about her detec­tive work that may be con­nect­ed to his. How­ev­er, their per­son­al rela­tion­ship advances from romance, to dis­tance, to rejec­tion, then back, and to mar­riage.

Do you like to make con­nec­tions such as this? Do you know of any oth­er mys­ter­ies that could be con­nect­ed in some ten­u­ous fash­ion? Let me know below in the com­ments. And, before I leave you, I’d like to give you a cou­ple of links for these two authors and their sites.

Vic­to­ria Thompson’s Ama­zon author page is here. A recent Face­book entry is here. 

Rhys Bowen’s Ama­zon author page is here. Her Twit­ter account is here.