Whether visiting war-torn London or delving into secrets from the Revolutionary War, historical mysteries provide the perfect reading blend of fiction with a healthy dash of intrigue and suspense. There’s something deliciously different when a mystery book is set in times gone by, transporting us to an era we can only experience through the written word. We’ve rounded up the best crime fiction books with a historical twist.
Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible.
But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.
by Josh Weiss
LAPD detective Morris Baker—a Holocaust survivor who drowns his fractured memories of the unspeakable in schnapps and work—is called to the scene of a horrific double-homicide. The victims are John Huston, a once-promising but now forgotten film director, and an up-and-coming young journalist named Walter Cronkite. Clutched in the hand of one of the dead men is a cryptic note containing the phrase “beat the devils” followed by a single name: Baker. Did the two men die in an attack fueled by better-dead-than-red sentiment, as the Hueys are quick to conclude, or were they murdered in a cover-up designed to protect—or even set in motion—a secret plot connected to Baker's past?
In a country where terror grows stronger by the day, and paranoia rises unchecked, Baker is determined to find justice for two men who raised their voices in a time when free speech comes at the ultimate cost. In the course of his investigation, Baker stumbles into a conspiracy that reaches deep into the halls of power and uncovers a secret that could destroy the City of Angels—and the American ideal itself.
When former novelist Lily Albrecht suffers an unimaginable tragedy, she fully retreats into her dull new life as a celibate rare book dealer. While boring and sexless, down-on-her-luck Lily accepts this new status quo. That is until a lead appears that is too good to be true - one that may not be real at all. The 17th-century manual, The Book of the Most Precious Substance, is said to be the most powerful book about the occult ever written, full of mystery that promises unlimited power and unrivaled sexual pleasure. And wealthy people, desperate to get their hands on its magic, are willing to pay Lily a fortune to track it down. As she crosses the globe, from New York to Paris, Lily searches for the book and discovers her own desires along the way.
Research assistant Saffron Everleigh is determined to escape the shadow of her late father’s esteemed reputation and forge her own path at the University College London botany department. Despite feeling stymied by a male-dominated field and her colleagues’ assumptions about women’s academic capabilities, she attends a dinner party for the school hoping to prove her worth. But when Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives, drops dead, Saffron may be the only one who can determine what poisoned her. With evidence against her mentor, Saffron must rely on her botanical knowledge to help clear his name and keep her own off of the murderer’s list.
by Ben Mezrich
Hailey Gordon is looking to make some fast cash to help pay her tuition when she’s caught counting cards at the Encore casino in Boston. She grabs her winnings and makes her escape. With guards closing in, she dives into an unlocked room to hide . . . only to find a dead body.
Recently released from prison, Nick Patterson hasn’t felt hope in a long time, but the job he “inherited” in prison promises to change that. He enters hotel room 633 to find that the person he was supposed to meet has been murdered. Next to the corpse stands a terrified young woman—Hailey Gordon.
American history professor Adrian Jensen learns of the death of his professional nemesis, Charles Walker, the night after he received Walker’s latest research. Skeptical at first, Adrian nearly deletes the file. But when one small, new detail catches his eye, he makes it his mission to uncover what could be one of the biggest secrets of the Revolutionary War.
All three strangers find themselves on the cusp of an incredible discovery—one that someone is willing to kill to keep buried.
The second book in the Archer series takes the World War II vet on a bus and out to Bay Town, California for a fresh start. A pit stop in Reno lands him several unexpected additions, including a blood-red Delahaye convertible, a hefty wad of cash, and an aspiring actress headed for the bright lights of Hollywood.
Ready for fame and fortune, Archer is thrilled when he lands a job with Willie Dash, a legendary P.I. and former FBI agent. The new gig comes at him fast, and soon Archer is smack in the middle of a blackmail case involving a wealthy politician who is running for mayor. Working together, Archer and Dash find themselves having to infiltrate the underbelly of gambling dens, drug operations, and brothels that make up a seedy town full of secrets. How far does the town’s corruption go? And how long can Archer manage to keep his head above water?
by Sandra Brown
It’s 1920 when war-weary soldier Thatcher Hutton accidentally lands in Foley, Texas and steps into unexpected trouble right away.
Young Laurel Plummer arrived in Foley hoping for a fresh start, but her dreams quickly turned to tragedy. Gritty and determined to avoid a life of destitution, she forges her own path
When Thatcher unexpectedly arrives at Laurel’s ranch, the two find an instant connection.
With a backdrop of Prohibition, this novel explores the risky business of moonshine wars and love in the lawless old West. Layers of suspense and romance mark Brown’s mystery thriller, taking readers through the backdoors of a speakeasy and into a cutthroat time in history.
Related: The Best Thrillers From Sandra Brown
NASA is getting ready to launch Apollo 18, a scientific mission that will send three astronauts a quarter-million miles into space. Flight controller Kazimieras "Kaz" Zemeckis is on the ground and knows that this flight is more complicated than the government is letting on. Intelligence has discovered there is a secret Soviet space station, and that Russia has been spying on America.
As Apollo 18 orbits through the vast loneliness of space, Kaz is racing to help the crew stay ahead of their rival astronauts, but a deadly accident changes everything. With the White House and the Kremlin watching from below, dangerous political stakes come into play, and the claustrophobia of a tiny spaceship tests the crew’s mental and physical limits in ways they never could have imagined.
by Steve Berry
The Ghent Altarpiece is the most violated work of art in the world. Thirteen times it has been vandalized, dismantled, or stolen. Why? What secrets does it hold?
Enter UNESCO investigator, Nicholas Lee, who works for the United Nations’ Cultural Liaison and Investigative Office (CLIO). Nick’s job is to protect the world’s cultural artifacts—anything and everything from countless lesser-known objects to national treasures.
When Nick travels to Belgium for a visit with a woman from his past, he unwittingly stumbles on the trail of a legendary panel from the Ghent Altarpiece, stolen in 1934 under cover of night and never seen since. Soon Nick is plunged into a bitter conflict, one that has been simmering for nearly two thousand years. On one side is the Maidens of Saint-Michael, les Vautours—the Vultures—a secret order of nuns and the guardians of a great truth. Pitted against them is the Vatican, which has wanted for centuries to both find and possess what the nuns guard. Because of Nick the maidens have finally been exposed, their secret placed in dire jeopardy—a vulnerability that the Vatican swiftly moves to exploit utilizing an ambitious cardinal and a corrupt archbishop, both with agendas of their own.
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