The best historical mystery books with female protagonists

Who am I?

Books have always been an escape for me, historical mysteries in particular. Getting lost in another world, another time and someone else’s life is like therapy for me and something I will never tire of. Which is perhaps why I went on to write my own historical mystery trilogy. The Marion Lane series consists of The Midnight Murder, The Deadly Rose, and The Raven’s Revenge—all set in 1950’s London, in a mystical private detective agency concealed beneath the city streets. 


I wrote...

Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose

By T.A. Willberg,

Book cover of Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose

What is my book about?

It’s 1959 and a new killer haunts the streets of London, having baffled Scotland Yard. The newspapers call him The Florist because of the rose he brands on his victims. The police have turned yet again to the Inquirers at Miss Brickett’s for assistance, and second-year Marion Lane is assigned the case.

But she’s already dealing with a mystery of her own, having received an unsigned letter warning her that one of the three new recruits shouldn't be trusted. She dismisses the letter at first but her informer seems to be one step ahead, predicting what will happen before it does. But when a fellow second-year Inquirer is murdered, Marion takes matters into her own hands and must come face-to-face with her informer—who predicted the murder—to find out everything they know. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

T.A. Willberg Why did I love this book?

This historical mystery slash adventure novel is set in 1886 in Australia and follows the plucky, headstrong Eliza Brightwell as she attempts to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of her beloved father—a renowned pearler. I was so riveted by this heart-wrenching, atmospheric story and its unique setting. A great one for those who’d like to try something different in the historical mystery space.

By Lizzie Pook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For readers of The Light Between Oceans and The Island of Sea Women, a feminist adventure story set against the backdrop of the dangerous pearl diving industry in 19th-century Western Australia, about a young English woman who sets off to uncover the truth about the disappearance of her eccentric father.

Western Australia, 1886. After months at sea, a slow boat makes its passage from London to the shores of Bannin Bay. From the deck, young Eliza Brightwell and her family eye their strange, new home. Here is an unforgiving land where fortune sits patiently at the bottom of the ocean,…


Book cover of The Socialite's Guide to Murder

T.A. Willberg Why did I love this book?

Set in 1958, Manhattan, at the fictional Pinnacle Hotel, this is a closed-setting, classic cozy mystery that I really adored. The story’s lead—Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy (first off, what a name, right?)—is such a brilliantly written character. I love how ditzy and superficial she seems at the beginning, but as the plot unravels, and her sleuthing skills are put to the test, we get to see her complexities and flaws and learn to love her. What I love even more is that this book is the first in a (hopefully) long-running series. Encore, Evelyn! 

By S. K. Golden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Socialite's Guide to Murder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The hotel was her refuge, but scandal is afoot—and a killer stalks the halls in this charming series debut perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen and Ashley Weaver.

It’s 1958 and Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy has not left the Pinnacle Hotel in fourteen months. She suffers from agoraphobia, and what’s more, it’s her father’s hotel, and everything she needs is there. Evelyn’s always been good at finding things, she discovered her mother dead in a Manhattan alleyway fifteen years earlier. Now she’s finding trouble inside her sanctuary. At a party for artist Billie Bell, his newest work is stolen, and…


Book cover of A Dreadful Splendor

T.A. Willberg Why did I love this book?

Again, something a little different in the historical mystery genre. Set in Victorian London and following Genevieve Timmons—a “spiritualist” out to con the rich and famous by claiming she can speak to their dead. I loved this twisty,  gothic mystery, filled with magic (real and imagined) and even a sprinkling of romance. 

By B.R. Myers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Dreadful Splendor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

"This gem of a book sparkles with wit and originality. . . . There is no shortage of tricks and feints in this excellent novel and Genevieve is a delightful character." - The Globe and Mail

"A spooky gothic romance with impeccable vibes. I loved this!" - Erin Sterling, New York Times bestselling author of The Ex Hex and The Kiss Curse

In this wickedly whimsical Gothic murder mystery brimming with romance, betrayals, and chills, a fake spiritualist is summoned to hold a seance for a bride who died on the eve before her wedding, but as nefarious…


Book cover of The Lost Apothecary

T.A. Willberg Why did I love this book?

I devoured this scrumptious, dual-timeline historical mystery set between modern-day and eighteenth-century London. The narrative focuses on Nella, an apothecary who dishes out deadly poisons to rid women of the troublesome men in their lives. A feminist tale of revenge, murder, and mystery. 

By Sarah Penner,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Lost Apothecary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Named Most Anticipated of 2021 by Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Hello! magazine, Oprah.com, Bustle, Popsugar, Betches, Sweet July, and GoodReads!

March 2021 Indie Next Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick

“A bold, edgy, accomplished debut!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised…


Book cover of Where the Crawdads Sing

T.A. Willberg Why did I love this book?

I know everyone and their cat has read this book but, as it’s one of my all-time favourites, I just couldn’t leave it off my list. This beautiful, haunting book is set in North Carolina, 1950 to 1960, and follows the life of Kya Clark “The Marsh Girl”, a young woman who, after being abandoned by her entire family, must learn to survive alone in the wilderness, even after being accused of murder. It’s best to go into this one blind, so I won’t say too much more about the plot. A story of loneliness, nature, love, family, and what it means to be different. I can’t recommend it enough.

By Delia Owens,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked Where the Crawdads Sing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

OVER 12 MILLION COPIES SOLD WORLDWIDE
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
A NUMBER ONE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

For years, rumours of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be…


You might also like...

Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

Book cover of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer Author Of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

New book alert!

Who am I?

I grew up in a small town, with wonderful librarians who introduced me to books I remember fondly to this day. The Flicka, Ricka, Dicka series, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, and, of course, Little Women shaped my love for stories about relationships and the simple pleasures of daily life. Whether it’s a mystery or a memoir, I want interesting interactions between the main characters, meaty descriptions of daily activities and affairs, and, of course, a happy ending. As I’ve gotten older, I like books with older protagonists; those are hard to come by—one reason I wrote a novel about the adventures of five middle-aged girlfriends!

Jayne's book list on entertaining stories about relationships

What is my book about?

Country music diva Hayley Swift has fallen off the charts and into a funk. Desperate to regain her place in the limelight, she agrees to a low-budget tour of Southern venues, starting with her 35th high school reunion.

There, in an unexpected but fortuitous reconnection, The Girls Next Door —who sang together in their teens--become Hayley and the Hot Flashes as they embark on a road trip that will forever change their lives. You'll laugh out loud as the ladies deal with stage fright, stalkers, attitudes, egos, harmonies, hormones, and more. Middle age has never been moodier—or more melodic!

Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

What is this book about?

When five middle-aged girlfriends trade in carpools and casseroles for microphones and music halls, look out!

Hayley Swift, a country music diva who has slipped out of the limelight, gets more attention when she's mistaken for Taylor Swift's mom than for her former glory days. When she's invited to perform at her 35th high school reunion, a bus accident puts her back-up singers in a hospital, Hayley begs her long-gone-domestic quartet from high school to join her onstage for the gig. They're such a hit that she invites the women to fill in on a low-budget tour for a couple…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, murder mystery, and apothecary?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murder, murder mystery, and apothecary.

Murder Explore 891 books about murder
Murder Mystery Explore 469 books about murder mystery
Apothecary Explore 10 books about apothecary