The best historical mystery series with a touch of humor

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Lisa E. Betz Why did I love 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!

By Alan Bradley,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Flavia: Mystery Solver. Master Poisoner. 11 Years Old.

England 1950. At Buckshaw, the crumbling country seat of the de Luce family, very-nearly-eleven-year-old Flavia is plotting revenge on her older sisters.

Then a dead bird is left on the doorstep, which has an extraordinary effect on Flavia's eccentric father, and a body is found in the garden. As the police descend on Buckshaw, Flavia decides to do some investigating of her own.

Praise for the historical Flavia de Luce mysteries:
'The Flavia de Luce novels are now a cult favourite' Mail on Sunday

'A cross between Dodie Smith's I Capture…

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

Lisa E. Betz Why did I love 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. 

By Lindsey Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rome. AD 70. Private eye Marcus Didius Falco knows his way round the eternal city. He can handle the muggers, the police and most of the girls. But one fresh 16 year old, Sosia Camillina, finds him a case no Roman should be getting his nose into . . . Sosia's uncle is a Senator with suspicions. Some friends, Romans and countryment are doing a highly profitable, if highly illegal, trade in silver ingots or pigs. For Falco it's the start of a murderous trail that leads far beyond the seven hills. To a godforsaken land called Britain, to Emperor…

Book cover of Terra Incognita

Lisa E. Betz Why did I love 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.

By Ruth Downie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Terra Incognita as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is spring in the year of 118, and Hadrian has been Emperor of Rome for less than a year. After getting involved with the murders of local prostitutes in the town of Deva, Doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso needs to get out of town, so has volunteered for a posting with the Army on the volatile border where the Roman-controlled half of Britannia meets the independent tribes of the North. Not only is he going to the hinterlands of the hinterlands, but it his slave Tilla's homeland and she has some scores to settle there. Soon they find that Tilla's…

Book cover of A Study in Scarlet Women

Lisa E. Betz Why did I love 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.

By Sherry Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down in the first novel in this Victorian mystery series....
With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear…

Book cover of The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries

Lisa E. Betz Why did I love 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.

By Emily Brightwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This charming series of Victorian murder mysteries features mild-mannered Inspector Witherspoon of Scotland Yard and, more importantly, Mrs Jeffries, his housekeeper. A policeman's widow herself, her quick wits allow her to nudge the Inspector in the right direction to solve the crime.

When a doctor is discovered dead in his own office, Mrs Jeffries is on the look-out for a prescription for murder, determined to discover the culprit, despite how her employer feels about interviewing suspects . . . "He hated questioning people. He could never tell whether or not someone was actually lying to him, and he knew, shocking…

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A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

Book cover of A Sparrow Falls

Vicki Olsen Author Of A Sparrow Falls

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Air Force brat World War 2 junkie Gallivanter Beret-wearing Francophile Book hoarder

Vicki's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In this book set against the backdrop of a changing America, Sarah must find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and come to terms with her future. Sarah, a young woman from the rural town of Tolerance, Arkansas, has endured an impoverished and painful childhood.

But now, as the innocence of the 1950s transforms into the turbulent 1960s, Sarah must find the strength to overcome her traumas, forgive those who have wronged her, and discover her true self. With its moving and often disturbing narrative, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman's journey…

A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

What is this book about?

A moving, sometimes disturbing, beautifully written book...Amazon Customer Review
Set in Arkansas as the innocence of the 1950s morphs into the turbulent ‘60s, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman emerging from an impoverished and traumatic childhood as she finds the inner strength to overcome her past. Te ghosts of the past and come to terms with her future is in the strength to forgive those who have wronged her?
Content Advisory: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains child sexual abuse and disturbing imagery.

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