The best historical books by the greatest writers of crime fiction

Jim Eldridge Author Of Murder at the Natural History Museum
By Jim Eldridge

Who am I?

I have always loved history, from ancient Egyptian times up to recent history (the 1950s and 1960s). Put history in the context of a crime and the history becomes even more fascinating. A book where the history of that time comes vividly alive for the reader is the greatest pleasure a reader can experience.


I wrote...

Murder at the Natural History Museum

By Jim Eldridge,

Book cover of Murder at the Natural History Museum

What is my book about?

London 1895. When the Museum Detectives, Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton, are asked to investigate a vandalised dinosaur skeleton at London’s Natural History Museum, it seems that the fossil-hunting mania of the Bone Wars in America may have reached Britain. But then people start dying and it becomes a murder investigation.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

A Study in Scarlet

By Arthur Conan Doyle,

Book cover of A Study in Scarlet

Why this book?

This is the first novel that introduces Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and is vital for appreciating every novel and story that follows. The Sherlock Holmes stories are the best evocation of Victorian England ever depicted. The shock for me was when I discovered that Doyle sold the rights outright to this novel for just £25, and never received any royalties from it.

A Study in Scarlet

By Arthur Conan Doyle,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Study in Scarlet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet is the literary debut of the world's most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, introduced by Iain Sinclair with notes by Ed Glinert in Penguin Classics.

Convalescing in London after a disastrous experience of war in Afghanistan, Dr John Watson finds himself sharing rooms with his enigmatic new acquaintance, Sherlock Holmes. But their quiet bachelor life at 221B Baker Street is soon interrupted by the grisly discovery of a dead man in a grimy 'ill-omened' house in south-east London, his face contorted by an expression of horror and hatred such as Watson has…


Maigret and the Burglar's Wife

By Georges Simenon, Julian Maclaren-Ross (translator),

Book cover of Maigret and the Burglar's Wife

Why this book?

After Conan Doyle, Georges Simenon is the greatest writer of European crime fiction, especially in his Maigret novels and short stories. This is a wonderful example of Maigret (and Simenon) at his very best, with Maigret and his inspectors coming alive for the reader, and the suspects presenting him with a serious challenge of wits.

Maigret and the Burglar's Wife

By Georges Simenon, Julian Maclaren-Ross (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maigret and the Burglar's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While committing what he intends to be his last burglary, "Sad Freddie" discovers something completely out of his line: the body of a dead woman, her chest covered in blood, holding a telephone in her hand. Inspector Maigret is called in to solve the crime, and after an exhaustive search, a psychological duel, a marathon interrogation, and innumerable glasses of Pernod, wine, cold beer, and brandy--a sure sign that this is no easy case--the famous French sleuth triumphs.

Maigret is a registered trademark of the Estate of Georges Simenon


The Long Goodbye

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of The Long Goodbye

Why this book?

Of all the Philip Marlowe books, this is for me the absolute best. It is one I can return to and read with love and admiration for a master writer. The story is intricate, plaiting various plots together seamlessly. At its heart is World War 2 and the effect it has on its main characters, which is why it slots into my historical crime category.

The Long Goodbye

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Long Goodbye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ed Bishop stars as Philip Marlowe in a powerful and atmospheric full-cast dramatisation of Raymond Chandler's classic noir novel. The first time Marlowe sets eyes on Terry Lennox, he is lying drunk in the passenger seat of a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. The next time, he's on Skid Row. After they share a few Gimlets, Marlowe thinks he seems like a nice guy, but he's had a hard life - his white hair and scarred face testify to that. Or could it be marriage to Sylvia Lennox that has turned him prematurely grey? Although beautiful and rich, she plays the field…


The Mysterious Mr. Quin

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of The Mysterious Mr. Quin

Why this book?

Agatha Christie is deservedly the world’s best-selling crime writer, and most of her readers are familiar with Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, but with this book we have the undiscovered gems of the mysterious Harley Quin and his partner Mr. Satterthwaite. The book is evocative of England in the 1930s. It makes for addictive reading and shows Christie at her very best.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mysterious Mr. Quin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A unique offering from the Queen of Crime. This Agatha Christie Signature Edition features the hero the world-famous author was most fond of - Mr Harley Quin, the enigmatic friend and counterpart of the rational Mr Satterthwaite.

So far, it had been a typical New Year's Eve house party. But Mr Satterthwaite - a keen observer of human nature - sensed that the real drama of the evening was yet to unfold.

So it proved when a mysterious stranger arrived after midnight. Who was this Mr Quin? And why did his presence have such a pronounced effect on Eleanor Portal,…


Inspector Colbeck’s Casebook

By Edward Marston,

Book cover of Inspector Colbeck’s Casebook

Why this book?

Edward Marston’s Railway Detective books, set in Victorian England and featuring Inspector Colbeck, have become under-the-wire best sellers internationally. This book features a dozen short stories where he and his sergeant investigate crimes happening in different railway companies. It is a wonderful introduction to the whole Railway Detective series and these short stories can be savored at leisure as a starter for the main course of the full-length novels.

Inspector Colbeck’s Casebook

By Edward Marston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inspector Colbeck’s Casebook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An eagerly awaited collection of brand new, specially commissioned short stories from the master of historical crime fiction Edward Marston, featuring his quick-witted Railway Detective, Inspector Robert Colbeck.

In this thrilling selection of stories, a young porter is found dead in a coal tub; Colbeck devises a trap to catch a thief; and a burnt train carriage holds a gruesome secret in a small coastal village. As Colbeck and his trusty aide Sergeant Victor Leeming begin to piece together clues and motives for each crime, it becomes clear the pair must stay a step ahead of the culprits to solve…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, France, and railroad?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, France, and railroad.

Private Investigators Explore 196 books about private investigators
France Explore 690 books about France
Railroad Explore 12 books about railroad

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Hunger Games, Money, and L.A. Confidential if you like this list.