The best historical mystery series with a touch of humor

Who am I?

I enjoy authors who craft twisty mystery plots with vivid historical settings filled with memorable characters. I enjoy them even more when they make me laugh out loud. When I read for pleasure, I don’t want books filled with gritty realism or tragic stories. I want a bit of fun, but my dry sense of humor is left wanting by many novels purported to be funny. I often find their main characters either annoyingly frivolous or painfully cynical. Give me intelligent characters, stories filled with hope, and an occasional one-liner that tickles my funny bone. I hope this list has introduced you to authors who do just that.

I wrote...

Fountains and Secrets

By Lisa E. Betz,

Book cover of Fountains and Secrets

What is my book about?

A quirky mystery set in first-century Rome. When her husband’s friend goes missing, spunky Livia Aemilia eagerly joins the search for clues. She discovers two key facts: A) the missing man is tied to more serious crimes and B) her husband does not appreciate her sleuthing behind his back. 

Oops. Livia makes amends, but her curiosity soon gets her into trouble again. Worse, her husband discovers the mastermind behind the crimes is a ruthless longtime enemy. He orders her to cease investigating without explaining why, which only infuriates her into reckless action. Can they learn to trust each other and work together before their enemy identifies the pesky woman who’s been asking too many questions?

The books I picked & why

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

By Alan Bradley,

Book cover of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

Why this book?

Meet Flavia DeLuce, a precocious eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and murder. Do not underestimate her! This is no children’s story. It’s a brilliantly written cozy set in the quaint English village of Bishop’s Lacey. 

Flavia is a charming sleuth, untainted by adult cynicism yet wise enough to unravel tricky mysteries. When she’s not conducting chemical analyses on suspicious substances, she pedals through the countryside on her trusty bicycle, Gladys (delightfully brought to life by Flavia’s imagination).

Once you meet this cast of eccentric and memorable characters, you’ll be as eager as I am for another visit to Bishop’s Lacy to watch the indomitable Flavia in action. Yaroo!

The Silver Pigs: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery

By Lindsey Davis,

Book cover of The Silver Pigs: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery

Why this book?

What happens when you take a tough, ex-legionary who solves crimes for a living, and give him a large extended family of nosy sisters, eccentric uncles, and a mother who shall be obeyed? You get the wickedly funny noir send-up featuring Marcus Didius Falco. In addition to being cracking good mysteries, every book in this series brings fascinating details of ancient Rome to vivid life through Ms. Davis’s snarky and memorable descriptions. 

In this first book, Falco finds himself working undercover in a sliver mine in Britannia, a brave but ill-advised scheme that almost ends in his death. In the end, his friends must extricate him from his rash decisions, establishing an amusing precedent for many future predicaments. 

Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire

By Ruth Downie,

Book cover of Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire

Why this book?

An unlikely pair fight crime and corruption in second-century Britain. 

Meet Ruso and Tilla. He’s an educated, idealistic Roman serving as an army medic with the 20th Legion. She’s a feisty, pragmatic Briton and former slave. Together they fight injustice, solve murders, and share an endearing talent for getting themselves into awkward pickles by misconstruing each other’s intentions. 

In Terra Incognito, Ruso travels to the British frontier, where he is the outsider and Tilla the one who understands the rules. Can a tough Roman soldier learn to take advice from his barbarian housekeeper? Can he trust her not to betray him or run away to rejoin her people? Tilla proves trustworthy, and a great crime-fighting partnership is formed.

A Study in Scarlet Women

By Sherry Thomas,

Book cover of A Study in Scarlet Women

Why this book?

What if Sherlock Holmes was actually a lady?

This playful reimagining of the great sleuth features a fiercely independent and intelligent young woman named Charlotte Holmes, stuck in an age where a woman’s job was to produce heirs. The determined Charlotte intentionally breaks moral codes in hopes of freeing herself from the rigid expectations of her strict, unsympathetic parents. Things don’t work out as planned, and her life might have plummeted into ruin if not for a (seemingly) chance encounter with a wealthy widow named Mrs. Watson.  

Thus begins an unconventional and highly entertaining partnership. Fans of the original will appreciate the clever ways the author has adapted the main characters without slavishly copying the personalities of the originals.

The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries

By Emily Brightwell,

Book cover of The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries

Why this book?

If you love underdog stories, this one offers a double helping. First, Inspector Witherspoon’s career is threatened by ambitious and unscrupulous men who want to see him fail. Secondly, his household staff are the real heroes, tracking down clues that they cleverly feed to their unsuspecting employer to help him solve murder cases. Each staff member has unique methods for uncovering information, and together they make an effective team. I chuckle at their close calls as they scramble to hide their secret sleuthing from the inspector and the rest of the police force.  

This first novel gives the backstory: what’s at stake for the inspector and his household, plus why his housekeeper (Mrs. Jeffries) is a plausible and capable sleuth.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Roman Empire, private investigators, and murders?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Roman Empire, private investigators, and murders.

The Roman Empire Explore 112 books about the Roman Empire
Private Investigators Explore 121 books about private investigators
Murders Explore 339 books about murders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Gates of Fire, A Foreign Affair, and The Man with a Load of Mischief if you like this list.