The best Medieval-Tudor historical mysteries when you want to travel back in time

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a biology and chemistry degree and have worked in a hospital laboratory for over 25 years. History has always been an interest, and my affection for the Tudor era was sparked after learning some background about Shakespeare’s works. The politics, the forgotten words and their meanings from that time, fascinate me. I fancy myself a bit of an armchair historian and time traveler. My suggested books succeed in transporting me back in time. I learn on the coattails of smart protagonists created by intelligent writers who get the mix of history, mystery, and science just right. 


I wrote...

The Alchemist's Daughter

By Mary Lawrence,

Book cover of The Alchemist's Daughter

What is my book about?

Set in the slums and sinister underbelly of Tudor London, the daughter of an infamous alchemist is accused of killing her best friend during the final years of King Henry VIII’s brutal reign. To clear her name, Bianca must apply her knowledge of alchemy and medicine to deduce exactly how her friend was murdered, and by whom—before she ends at the gallows—punished for a crime she did not commit. 

My book offers a different perspective of Tudor life. Instead of focusing on the courtiers and nobility, the story delves into the world of commoners—the men and women who must live under a petulant king and navigate an ever-shifting political and religious backdrop.  

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Famine of Horses: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery

Mary Lawrence Why did I love this book?

P.F. Chisholm is my go-to author when I want to escape modern life and enjoy a light-hearted visit to Elizabethan England. I love her character, Sir Robert Carey, a courtier and a bit of a conniver enlisted by the queen to solve crimes in the Scottish borderlands.

Chisholm balances the perfect dose of action and romp while incorporating accessible historical details—my definition of a fun read. Her Sir Robert Carey adventures always entertain and put a smile on my face.

By P. F. Chisholm,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With a Note From the Author. In the year 1592, Sir Robert Carey, a handsome courtier, comes north to Carlisle to take up his new post as Deputy Warden of the West March. He has wrangled his appointment to be nearer to his true love, a married woman, and farther from the gimlet eyes of his creditors and the disapproving eye of his father (the Queen's cousin-possibly her half-brother). And of course, he can use the money�?�. Sir Robert is quick to realize he won't see a profit from the perks if he fails to keep the peace. Alas, he…


Book cover of Dissolution

Mary Lawrence Why did I love this book?

I admire C.J. Sansom’s meticulous research in his book, which lends authenticity and believability to his story. Sansom’s Mathew Shardlake series is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

There is plenty of history, law, and court politics as Shardlake–a hunchback lawyer, undertakes politically motivated murders and crimes. I also appreciate that his main character has a physical disability, and Sansom uses it effectively to reflect the attitudes (mostly ungenerous) of the time.  

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Dissolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger - the highest honor in British crime writing

From the bestselling author of Winter in Madrid and Dominion comes the exciting and elegantly written first novel in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series

Dissolution is an utterly riveting portrayal of Tudor England. The year is 1537, and the country is divided between those faithful to the Catholic Church and those loyal to the king and the newly established Church of England. When a royal commissioner is brutally murdered in a monastery on the south coast of England, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's feared vicar general, summons…


Book cover of Mistress of the Art of Death

Mary Lawrence Why did I love this book?

One of the smartest books I’ve ever read portraying a woman in a “man’s job” in medieval England. Adelia is trained in Italy as a ‘Mistress of the Art of Death,’ a precursor to today’s medical examiner.

She’s brilliant and brave, and she engages in repartee with Sir Rowley—King Henry II’s tax collector and love interest—that has me turning the pages eager for their next encounter. This is a smart, funny, well-researched thriller that I return to every few years to reread. 

By Ariana Franklin,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Mistress of the Art of Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14.

What is this book about?

Winner of the CWA Best Historical Crime Novel of the Year

'Great fun! Franklin succeeds in vividly bringing the 12th century to life with this cracking good story' KATE MOSSE

Medieval England. A hideous murder. Enter the first female anatomist...

Adelia Aguilar is a rare thing in medieval Europe - a woman who has trained as a doctor. Her speciality is the study of corpses, a skill that must be concealed if she is to avoid accusations of witchcraft.

But in Cambridge a child has been murdered, others are disappearing, and King Henry has called upon a renowned Italian investigator…


Book cover of The Name of the Rose

Mary Lawrence Why did I love this book?

One of the first books I ever read set in the medieval period that hooked me on historical mysteries set in medieval/Tudor times.

Eco’s plot is absolutely unique and memorable. The story is dotted with eccentric monks who do not always follow the rules. The atmosphere feels incredibly well done. I feel present in the cavernous stone abbey, with the winter chill and sinister machinations that seep straight into my bones.

A true genre classic, they even made it into a movie starring Sean Connery.

By Umberto Eco,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Name of the Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the enthralling medieval murder mystery.

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

William collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, The Name of the Rose is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.

'Whether…


Book cover of A Morbid Taste for Bones

Mary Lawrence Why did I love this book?

Ellis Peters is an expert in crafting a lovable character in Brother Cadfael. His wry humor and astute observations of human foibles keep me returning to her series.

This is the first in the series, introducing a man who has become a Benedictine monk, an herbalist, and a ‘medical examiner’, so to speak.

I thoroughly relate to his love of science and plants. Brother Cadfael is a smart, steady observer of his time period.  

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Morbid Taste for Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the gentle Shrewsbury spring of 1140 the midnight matins at the Benedictine abbey suddenly reverberates with an unholy sound - a hunt in full cry. Pursued by a drunken mob, the quarry is running for its life. When the frantic creature bursts into the nave to claim sanctuary, Brother Cadfael finds himself fighting off armed townsmen to save a terrified young man. Accused of robbery and murder is Liliwin, a wandering minstrel who performed at the wedding of the local goldsmith's son. But his supposed victim, the miserly craftsman, is still alive, although a strongbox lies empty. Brother Cadfael…


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


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