The best historical novels featuring Jazz Age mysteries by the sea

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by all that was happening in the world before WWII. Amidst a silent, looming economic collapse, many social norms were turned on their head, women broke out of their molds, and art, literature, technology, and music all flourished. And a heady mix of cultures blended not altogether seamlessly to influence the Roaring Twenties like no other decade before it. The juxtaposition of this exciting yet challenging tumult lures me into reading books and writing immigrant-forward stories about this period—and as an author with deep roots in the boot—I particularly enjoy doing so through an Italian lens.


I wrote...

Slain Over Spumoni

By Tessa Floreano,

Book cover of Slain Over Spumoni

What is my book about?

My book, Slain Over Spumoni, is set in 1920 in a seaside resort in northern Italy, and features a former WWI nurse, a former soldier, and a spumoni recipe that The Gelato King of Italy is killed over. It is a light beach read in the mystery genre with a dash of romance thrown in to sweeten the tale. You’ll enjoy this family story about sibling rivalry gone awry, but also a budding romance between two people from different cultures who find commonality that has staying power beyond sampling the famous spumoni and  sleuthing by the sea.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mystery by the Sea

Tessa Floreano Why did I love this book?

When I really need to recharge, I go to the sea, which is why I instantly gravitated to this book. As a busy amateur detective, Lady Swift seeks some downtime, too, but it doesn’t last. Not only does a body turn up almost as soon as she lets out a big exhale at the resort where she’s staying, but her husband whom she thought was dead six years ago, is the victim. Of all the people that had to “die” while she was on vacation, it had to be him, and that’s just where this storyteller’s mastery begins. Add humor, Englishness, and the interwar years—things I often gravitate toward in my beach reads—and I had a great whodunnit on my hands.

By Verity Bright,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mystery by the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

‘OMG! What an incredible read! Where to start?… I read this entire book in a few sittings… I was so enraptured that I couldn’t put it down!’ Celebrating Authors ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A magnificent seaside hotel, striped deckchairs, strawberry ice cream… and a rather familiar dead body? Lady Swift is on the case!

Spring, 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift, explorer extraordinaire and accidental sleuth, hasn’t had a vacation since she arrived in England a year ago. Being an amateur detective can be a rather tiring business and she is determined to escape any more murder and mysteries. So she books into the Grand…


Book cover of The Saltwater Murder

Tessa Floreano Why did I love this book?

Even if there’s just a hint of something Italian in a story by the sea, I’m smiling. When you first meet Miss Posie Parker in this story, she’s wearing a scent reminiscent of Parma Violet, first distilled by the second wife of Napoleon I. For the next 300 pages, I couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful Posie smells and how she must leave behind a whiff of her violet-scented perfume everywhere she goes a-sleuthing. Such a telling detail about a character and one that stayed with me as I tried in vain to solve the mystery.

By L.B. Hathaway,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

MURDERED WITH A BOX OF TEARS…

London, 1924

Posie Parker has been called to her most baffling case yet.

Amyas Lyle, London’s top young lawyer, has been found with his head in a box of poisoned saltwater.

It’s the perfect murder. But who hated him enough to do such a thing?

Following a trail of strange notes, all of which speak of the sea, and saltwater, Posie travels from London to the seaside resort of Whitley Bay, looking for answers. But nothing can prepare her for what she finds there.

Can Posie find Amyas Lyle’s cold-blooded killer before further deaths…


Book cover of The Moonlit Murders

Tessa Floreano Why did I love this book?

This book stands out from other historical mysteries near the sea because it is about a mystery on the high seas. On a steamship, to be exact, on its way to New York harbor. My mom was once a young Italian woman on a steamship sailing to Halifax, and while she was nothing like Fen Churche, the heroine in this story, I’ve always imagined my mom having lots of wild adventures on that Atlantic crossing. The way the author has woven this twisty, tricky tale, I could almost believe mom had an alter ego.

By Fliss Chester,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a journey to New York is interrupted by missing diamonds and a body in the lifeboat, there is only one woman who can help: Fen Churche!

1945. Fen Churche follows her dreams and sails for New York. She books passage on a steam ship from France to America, excited to dance the night away in the glamorous ballroom and play games on deck. Nothing will stand in the way of her trip, not even when an eccentric heiress’s diamond tiara goes missing…

Looking forward to relaxing with her favourite crossword puzzles, Fen’s quiet passage is horribly disrupted by another…


Book cover of Death in Daylesford

Tessa Floreano Why did I love this book?

I fell in love with Miss Phryne Fisher on TV first, then in all of the books only after binge-watching all the seasons in short order. Her attitude, her clothes, her wit—all of it makes her adventures so fun to read. Besides, what list of Jazz Age mysteries is complete without this bobbed-hair socialite and her gaggle of misfits helping her to solve mysteries? Add in a spa vacation for Phyrne and I was hooked to see how she solved a murder while on holiday in some fabulous resort town. After 7 years, my Phryne drought is over!

By Kerry Greenwood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death in Daylesford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'. . . there is no doubt Phryne is back at her best.' The Book Muse

When a mysterious invitation arrives for Miss Phryne Fisher from an unknown Captain Herbert Spencer in Victoria's spa country, Phryne's curiosity is excited.

Phryne accepts Spencer's invitation but from their arrival, she and her loyal maid Dot are thrown into the midst of disturbing Highland gatherings, cases of disappearing women, murder and the mystery of the Temperance Hotel.

Meanwhile, Cec, Bert and Tinker find a young woman floating face down in the harbour. Tinker, with Jane and Ruth, Phryne's resilient adopted daughters, together decide…


Book cover of Mystery at the Blue Sea Cottage: A True Story of Murder in San Diego's Jazz Age

Tessa Floreano Why did I love this book?

Veering away from fiction for a moment, this is a true crime tale set in the Jazz Age in San Diego. Flappers and playboys and actors in Hollywood during Prohibition, oh my! The biggest question this narrative nonfiction book doesn’t answer, though attempts to, is who killed the dancer, Fritzie Mann? A sensational story that was splashed on newspapers across the nation in the 1920s that I happened to stumble on last year. A tragic unsolved homicide by the sea that had me gripped from the get-go—and that’s saying something for someone not usually drawn to true crime—this book reads like a novel and should be a movie.

By James A. Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mystery at the Blue Sea Cottage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This “fast-paced, thoughtful true-crime” examines the cultural shifts of Jazz Age America through a beautiful dancer’s mysterious and scandalous death (Kirkus, starred review).

In January 1923, twenty-year-old Fritzie Mann left home for a remote cottage by the sea to meet a man whose identity she had revealed to no one. The next morning, the dancer’s barely clad body washed up on Torrey Pines beach, her party dress and possessions strewn about the sand. The scene baffled investigators, and abotched autopsy created more questions than it answered. However, the investigation revealed a scandalous secret.

When a Hollywood A-lister was arrested for…


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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