17 Historical Mystery Books to Test Your Skills

Historical Mystery Books
17 Historical Mystery Books to Test Your Skills 19

Historical Mystery Books have long been one of my favorite genres of books to read. Solving crime without technology, cell phones, DNA testing, etc. just seems that much more impressive.

Some of these historical mysteries are historical mystery series, some are standalone, some are young adult and some are even classic retellings. No matter what you are looking for, we have you covered.

*Historical Mystery Books Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Best Historical Mystery Books

The lIght in the Ruinsand more books about WWII

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

Taking place in the Italian countryside, in both 1943 and 1955, this mystery covers the Nazi/Italy Axis Alliance. A murderer from the war is coming back to kill the remaining members of an Italian family one by one.

My heart was racing as I read this story. It totally kept me on the edge of my seat. This is one of the best historical mystery books I have read.

and then there were none

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I was so hooked by this British murder mystery/thriller. A mysterious person is trying to right the wrongs of the past by luring unsuspecting criminals to a deserted island…and then murdering them one by one.

But who is the killer? Why are they killing? And just how long have they been stalking their prey? You have to figure out whodunit in this unreliable narrator book that is one of the best mystery books of all time. This is one of the historical mystery books you will not want to miss.

Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

A young girl is abandoned on a ship headed to Australia. When she arrives, the only thing in her possession is a suitcase with some clothes and a book of fairy tales. The dock master and his wife adopt Nell and tell her the story of her arrival in Australia on her 21st birthday. She goes back to England on a quest to find her lost identity.

Unsuccessful, her granddaughter later takes up the search and tries to assemble the pieces of her grandmother’s mystery and unlock the secrets of her past. I adored this family saga story. This historical mystery book set in Cornwall swept me away. This is a gothic fiction that is a perfect book for fall.

the lost apothecary

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Nella is the owner of a shop that used to be a renowned apothecary to treat women but, after her mother died and Nella faced unspeakable loss, her shop is now the bringer of death to men who have wronged the women in their lives.  

In the present day, Caroline is spending her 10th wedding anniversary alone in London after discovering her husband is a lying, cheater.  When she finds a vial while mud larking, she cannot resist the pull. What is the story behind this vial? This is such a great historical mystery book for book clubs!

thirteenth tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I adored this gothic story when I read it on vacation a few years back. A young biographer is called to help a reclusive author of 12 books tell the story of her life.

In the process, she learns there is a thirteenth tale after all. It’s a gothic romance, a mystery, and a story about family ties all in one. Although it is a long one from the best mystery books,  I absolutely adore this book for fall. It’s the perfect book to snuggle up with on a chilly autumn day. If you love historical mystery books, this one is a must-read.

Historical Mystery Book Retellings

beekeepersapprentice

The BeeKeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

This one is for all the Sherlock fans out there. It takes place after the classic canon ends with the introduction of the retired Holmes and his new neighbor – Mary Russell. I adore this historical mystery book series, as does my dad who is a mystery reader exclusively.

When an American Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, Holmes and his protege are called to help Scotland Yard with the case. This is one of my favorite detective books and my favorite Sherlock Holmes retelling!

A Study in Scarlet Women

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas delivers a masterful new take on Sherlock Holmes with this mystery series featuring a lady detective using Sherlock as an alias.

The series set-up on this one lays the groundwork for why Charlotte Holmes left home, became a detective, and met Mrs. Watson. And, of course, there is a mystery about numerous deaths to be solved as well.

I loved the layer of deception Charlotte needs to have to keep her identity a mystery in an era where women weren’t valued for their minds. This is one of the detective books where there is some social commentary as well.

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

This story takes place a few years after Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy get married. While the Darcys are preparing for a ball, Lydia comes hurtling up the drive claiming that Wickham has been murdered.

Soon the whole family, along with the Bingleys, are plunged into the investigation and its aftermath. If you love Austen and British mysteries, this historical mystery book is perfect for you!

The mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict


⁣Marie Benedict is the master of bringing women back to life in her historical fiction novels. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is my favorite to date and I found it hard to put down. ⁣In December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days. She re-emerged as mysteriously as she disappeared and more questions than answers persist.

Benedict does a wonderful job of building the mystery using her brilliant imagination and bringing us into the world of Agatha Christie. It is the perfect blend of fiction and mystery and my favorite pick from books about writers.⁣ If you love historical mystery books, this fictional biography is an absolute delight.

the christie affair

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

February 2022 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I adored this mystery novel set during the 11 days of Agatha Christie’s disappearance. It’s told from the perspective of Christie’s husband’s mistress and it is utterly absorbing. This biographical novel is totally fictional because there is no account of what actually happened to Agatha Christie during those 11 days.

There are layers of mystery throughout, with a side of a love story. It’s actually a hotel novel because the majority of the book takes place at a small hotel.

I never felt I would be able to sympathize with a mistress but I was cheering for her by the end. If you love mystery books, historical mystery books in particular, this is a must-read.

Historical Mystery Series

Mr. Churchills Secretary

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

The thing I love about Susan Elia MacNeal is that she doesn’t make the females in her series meek. She puts them center stage in the middle of the war; solving mysteries, spying, fighting, and the like.

The women in this historical fiction mystery series are tough cookies who don’t need a man’s protection. I adored Maggie Hope who is whipsmart and at the center of this female spy series. I’m only a few books into this British mystery series but I love each one.

the scottish ladies detective agency

The Scottish Ladies’ Detective Agency by Lydia Travers

This is a delightful detective novel set in Scotland about two women who decide to start a detective agency in 1911. While no one takes them seriously at first, they soon have their first client and case – to stop a jewel thief who repeatedly hits up house parties.

I loved this cozy mystery book. It was the perfect story to escape into during a rough week. I look forward to the next book in this detective series- they are delightful historical mystery books.

Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs  by Jacqueline Winspear

I read this cozy mystery novel in one day.  Maisie Dobbs is not your typical PI and she is the most unusual detective in this list of detective books. For a start, she is a woman working as a PI in 1929. 

She is smart, thoughtful, and fun to read.  This historical mystery book will hit just the right spot if you are looking for mystery books or feel-good books to read. I cannot wait to read more books in this British mystery series.

beautiful blue death

A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lennox Mystery) by Charles Finch

If the gorgeous cover of Charles Finch’s debut novel doesn’t have you itching to buy it, then the story within definitely will. It’s the first in a series of novels starring Charles Lenox as a brilliant aristocrat with too much time on his hands.

When his friend (and maybe love interest) Lady Jane asks for his help he is eager to oblige. So together they try to solve the mystery of Jane’s former servant’s death. I loved this historical fiction mystery book for its mix of Sherlock vibes mixed with an almost Wodehouse look at society life.

YA Historical Fiction Mystery Books

The sweetness at the bottom of the pie

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This is the first book in the Flavia De Luce series. This 11-year-old aspiring chemist is a wonderful heroine. I love her- she is smart and precocious. This is one of the best historical mystery books for YA readers and does not have violence. 

It is 1950 and Flavia has a love of poisons. When she finds a man taking his last breath in a cucumber patch, she is not scared at all, rather, she delights in solving the mystery. The rest of this detective series is on my list of books to read. We also included this British mystery book on our list of Books for 13-year-olds and in our favorite books by Canadian Authors.

pride and Premeditation

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price

This Pride and Prejudice retelling is actually a murder mystery! In this version of the story, Mr. Bennett is a barrister and Lizzie is desperate to prove herself and be the first female barrister.

But while she offers to help Mr. Bingley find the real culprit of the murder he’s been accused of, she ends up butting heads with her rival, Mr. Darcy of Pemberley and Associates.

This delightful take on the classic story was a refreshing and fun historical mystery book. I look forward to reading the rest of the ya historical fiction retellings in this series.

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

This British mystery book takes place at Oxford University in the 1980s when a socialite is murdered. Ursula Flowerbutton, an English country girl, is trying to investigate the murder for the college paper while trying to befriend the glamorous crowd.

It’s a comedic spoof and the outfit descriptions alone had me giggling. I hope it becomes a series of mystery books because I would love to read more of Flowerbutton and her Sloane Ranger friends. The secret societies and prestigious schools make this one of our lighter dark academia books set in college and as historical mysteries go, this is a really fun pick.

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What is your favorite historical mystery book?

Is Historical Mystery a Genre?

Yes! Historical mystery books are a subgenre that combines both historical fiction and mystery books. Historical mysteries have a plot that is a mystery and the setting is a historical time period.

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