Historical mystery books are usually set in the past and center around a crime or series of crimes. The protagonists are typically historical figures, such as detectives, journalists, or amateur sleuths, who use their knowledge of the past to solve the mystery. historical mystery books often incorporate real historical events and locations into the story, giving readers a glimpse into another time period.

In addition, historical mystery books often feature detailed research, making them a fascinating read for history buffs and armchair detectives alike. If you’re looking for a book that will transport you to another time and place while keeping you on the edge of your seat, then a historical mystery book is a perfect choice.

Historical mystery books offer readers the chance to step back in time and solve a puzzle along with the characters in the story. These books can transport readers to different eras and places, giving them a taste of what life was like in days gone by.

Historical mysteries often feature richly detailed settings and well-developed characters, making them a perfect choice for readers who appreciate strong world-building and complex plots. If you’re looking for a book that will keep you guessing until the very end, be sure to pick up a historical mystery the next time you’re at the library or bookstore.

Let’s get in our time machines and list the best historical mystery books…

the Spanish daughter - best historical mystery booksThe Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes

Lorena Hughes’ historical mystery novel The Spanish Daughter tells the story of Puri, a child in Spain with a passion for chocolate. When her Father dies, she discovers that she has inherited a cocoa estate in Ecuador. However, seemingly not everyone is happy about this news.

When her husband is murdered by a mercenary sent to murder Puri, everything changes. Puri adopts her husband’s identity, wearing his clothes in the hope of trying to stay safe whilst searching for the truth about her Father’s legacy in Ecuador. The Washington Post said of the book, “A lush Ecuadoran cacao plantation is the setting for this imaginative historical drama filled with sibling rivalry and betrayals. Threaded throughout this dramatic family saga are descriptions of cocoa-making that will leave your mouth watering for chocolate.”

murder on the red river - best historical mystery booksMurder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon

An award-winning debut novel from Marcie R. Rendon about a young Ojibwe woman who uses her visions to solve a brutal murder. The main character, Rennee ‘Cash’ Blackbear is only 19 years old, but don’t be fooled – she’s as tough as they come. When she’s not solving crimes with her ability to have visions, she is driving trucks, shooting pool and drinking beer.

One Saturday morning, her friend, Sheriff Wheaton, discovers a dead body in a field of an Indian man. Cash dreams of the dead man’s house and this sets them off on a journey to try and solve this murder together. The Los Angeles Review of Books said of the novel, “Marcie Rendon, a member of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation, masterfully weaves two stories in a seamless, vivid narrative.”

ordinary grace - best historical mystery booksOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace is a historical mystery novel by William Kent Krueger. The story is set in Minnesota in 1961 and revolves around the death of a teenage boy and the resulting fallout. The novel explores themes of grief, loss, and betrayal, and ultimately asks the question: can we ever really know another person? The characters are richly drawn and the suspense builds slowly but surely, making Ordinary Grace a book that is difficult to put down.

Krueger expertly captures the feel of small-town America, and the reader gets a real sense of the tight-knit community that is struggling to grapple with the tragedy. If you’re a fan of historical mystery novels, Ordinary Grace is definitely one to add to your list. Capital Journal said of the book, “Sometimes a work of fiction just comes to you, sits in your soul, touches your life experiences and then is hard to remember as fiction. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger is such a novel.”

my name is red - best historical mystery booksMy Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

My Name is Red is a historical mystery novel by Orhan Pamuk. The story is set in 16th-century Istanbul and revolves around the murder of a miniaturist, who disappears. As the investigation unfolds, the reader is taken on a journey through the city’s complex religious and political landscape. The book has been praised for its vibrant portrayal of Istanbul, as well as its exploration of the clash between East and West. My Name is Red is a must-read for fans of historical mystery novels.

The Daily Telegraph said of the novel, “A perfect example of Pamuk’s method as a novelist, which is to combine literary trickery with page-turning readability … As a meditation on art, in particular, My Name is Red is exquisitely subtle, demanding and repaying the closest attention … We in the West can only feel grateful that such a novelist as Pamuk exists, to act as a bridge between our culture and that of a heritage quite as rich as our own.”

the cutting season - best historical mystery booksThe Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Attica Locke’s historical mystery novel, The Cutting Season, is set on a former plantation in Louisiana. The book follows the investigation of a murder that takes place on the property. While the mystery is the book’s main focus, it also explores the history of the plantation and the lives of its former residents. In particular, the book sheds light on the horrific practice of slavery. Through the characters’ stories, readers are able to gain a better understanding of the terror and violence that was inflicted upon slaves.

The Cutting Season is a powerful and compelling novel that highlights an important period in American history. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said of the book, “One of the most engaging and gifted new voices in the genre. The Cutting Season does more than exhume a body―it rattles the bones of slavery, race, class, and power to examine a crime that reverberates from more than a century ago.”

a dangerous fortune - best historical mystery booksA Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett

A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett is a historical mystery novel that chronicles the lives of a group of friends attending an elite boarding school in England during the late 19th century. The novel opens with the death of one of the students, which sets in motion a series of events that will have far-reaching consequences for all of the characters.

Through the course of the story, Follett expertly weaves together a complex web of lies, deceit, and betrayal that ultimately leads to tragedy. While A Dangerous Fortune is not one of Follett’s best-known novels, it is nonetheless an excellent example of his skill as a storyteller. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.

fingersmith - best historical mystery booksFingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is a historical mystery novel set in Victorian England. The story follows the life of Sue Trinder, an orphan who is taken into Mrs Sucksby’s household. A dichotomous place, that homes infants and thieves. Sue ends up getting wrapped up in a plan to become the maid to Maud Lilly who has a vast estate. Once she has earned the trust of Maud, she will help one of the thieves she lives with to seduce Maud and then convince everyone she is insane – leaving them to inherit her wealth.

One reviewer called it “a masterful work of historical fiction.” Another said that it was “a fascinating puzzle of a book, with surprises and twists at every turn.” If you’re looking for a historical mystery that will keep you guessing, Fingersmith is definitely worth a read. It was adapted into a film called The Handmaiden and was directed by renowned film director, Park Chan-wook.

a gentleman's murder - best historical mystery booksA Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang

An impressive debut novel by Christopher Huang, that follows the story of Lieutenant Eric Peterkin in 1924. Whilst much of Britain is entering an age of peace and prosperity, the broken soldiers of the Great War struggle to move on. After joining an elite, soldier-only club, Eric witnesses the death of a member whose dying words are that Eric would soon ‘right a great wrong from the past’.

This sets Eric on a quest to figure out which of his fellow members is the murderer, each with their own suspicious background. Booklist said of the book, “Huang surrounds his engaging lead character with a meaty supporting cast, many of whom quickly become suspects with tantalizing motives. The mystery itself is clever and should keep even the most experienced whodunit finders’ guessings. We hope this will be only the first of many Eric Peterkin adventures.”

above the bay of angels - best historical mystery booksAbove the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

In a strange twist of fate, a young servant girl finds herself working in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen. Her name is Bella and she is handed a letter offering employment in the royal kitchen by a woman named Isabella Waverly. It is truly her dream as a young chef and she can’t believe her luck. However, when a member of the queen’s retinue becomes ill and dies after eating a meal prepared by Bella, she is suspected of poisoning the guest.

Will everything come crumbling down? She must solve the mystery of how this occurred to stop herself from ending up on the gallows. Library Journal said of the book, “This delightful mystery neatly blends historical details of late Victorian life, from rich foods to royalty, into a story spiced with humor and romance. Bowen’s depiction of Bella as a modern Victorian woman, skillfully navigating class differences while struggling with the choice between a safe life and her ambitions, rings true.”

The Silence of Bones by June Hur

June Hur’s historical mystery book, The Silence of Bones follows the story of Seol, a 16-year-old lowborn orphan in Joseon Korea who is indentured to the police bureau where she is told to assist a young inspector who is investigating the murder of a noblewoman. Over the story, Seol and the inspector form an unlikely friendship, but how will that be tested when the inspector himself becomes the prime suspect in the murder case? Can Seol solve the case herself?

The book does an excellent job of transporting readers back in time to Joseon Korea, and the mystery is sure to keep readers guessing until the very end. If you’re looking for an engaging historical mystery, The Silence of Bones is definitely worth a read. Buzzfeed said of the historical mystery novel, “This gripping drama is definitely one you’re not going to want to miss.

medicus - best historical mystery booksMedicus by Ruth Downie

Ruth Downie’s historical mystery series features the exploits of Gaius Petreius Ruso, a young Roman doctor who find himself continually getting mixed up in murders and other dubious activities. In the first book in the series, Medicus, Ruso has fled to Britannia and in a moment of weakness decides to rescue an injured slave girl.

Things escalate, and before he knows it – he is caught up in an investigation into the death of a group of prostitutes at a local bar. As he tries to piece together the evidence, Ruso finds himself caught up in a web of deceit and danger. Medicus is a fast-paced historical mystery that is sure to please fans of the genre. Kirkus Reviews said of the book, “A lavishly, often hilariously detailed portrayal of the world that absorbs Ruso’s exhausted wits and energies. He is a wonderful character, fueled by a dyspeptic machismo and sullen charm reminiscent of Harrison Ford in his heyday. A charming novel.”

Historical mystery books are the perfect blend of two genres that people love- history and mystery. These books offer readers a chance to step back in time and solve a puzzle along the way. Not only are historical mystery books entertaining, but they can also teach people about different periods in history.

For example, a historical mystery set in Victorian England can give readers a glimpse into the everyday life of people during that time period. Historical mystery books are the perfect way to encourage people to learn about history in a fun and engaging way. So pick up one of these books and transport yourself to a different time and place today.

If you enjoyed this reading list of the best historical mystery books, you may also want to check out the best historical fiction novels of all time.