The best mystery books set in the perfect time & place

Who am I?

Of course, every mystery needs a perfect crime, but what about the perfect setting? I’m fascinated by how authors manipulate time and place to add to the heightened emotions of their murders, thefts, blackmail, and frauds. It’s the juxtaposition of truth and fantasy—what we believe times were like and how they actually were—that makes setting such an essential detail of every whodunnit. Doing research on my own novel, I wrenched apart the facts and fictions of Post-War America, and grew even more ravenous for mysteries that leveraged their settings for the utmost entertainment. 

I wrote...

Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man

By Emily J. Edwards,

Book cover of Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man

What is my book about?

New York, 1950. Viviana Valentine is Girl Friday to the city’s top detective, Tommy Fortuna. The clients can be frustrating, and none more than wealthy Tallmadge Blackstone, who demands Tommy tail his daughter, Tallulah, and find out why she won’t marry his business partner, a man forty years her senior. Sounds like an easy case—but the next day, Viviana finds Tommy M.I.A. and a body on the office floor.

Desperate to clear Tommy’s name, Viviana takes on the Blackstone case. When she goes out for a night with the heiress, she learns the secrets behind Tallulah’s headline-grabbing life. Now, it’s up to her to find her missing boss and make sure he doesn’t turn up D.O.A.

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The books I picked & why

The Big Rewind

By Libby Cudmore,

Book cover of The Big Rewind

Why did I love this book?

It might ruffle some feathers to think of the early aughts era of hipster Williamsburg, NY as a “period piece,” but there’s no other setting for this dynamite novel. Cudmore evokes that perfect blend of cigarette smoke, eggs benedict, and the lingering scent of vinyl records in her mystery novel for those of us who grew up emulating High Fidelity but wish for it with a hidden track of murder. It takes me back to my own college days, when I was reading mystery novels… before it was cool. 😎

By Libby Cudmore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Raymond Chandler meets Nick Hornby in this clever noir romp through hipster Brooklyn as a mysterious mix tape puts a young amateur sleuth on the hunt for a killer-and for the truths hidden within her own heart. To listen to someone else's mix tapes is a huge breach of trust. But KitKat was dead...and curiosity got the better of me. When a mix tape destined for her friend KitKat accidentally arrives in Jett Bennett's mailbox, she doesn't think twice about it-even in the age of iTunes and Spotify, the hipster residents of the Barter Street district of Brooklyn are in…

Dead Dead Girls

By Nekesa Afia,

Book cover of Dead Dead Girls

Why did I love this book?

Months ago, I was on Twitter, openly wishing for a Thin Man remake, with Mahershala Ali and Lupita Nyong'o as Nick and Nora. A friend immediately suggested Nekesa Afia’s Harlem Renaissance Mystery debut, Dead Dead Girls. Afia’s understanding of the tightly-knit community plays an essential role in the story, with main character Louise fighting against perceptions and a cold-blooded murderer. Couple all the expected roadblocks with glam nightlife and Prohibition antics. This entire series comes together like a perfect cocktail.

By Nekesa Afia,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dead Dead Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“In this terrific series opener, Afia evokes the women’s lives in all their wayward and beautiful glory, especially the abruptness with which their dreams, hopes and fears cease to exist.”--The New York Times

The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set during the Harlem Renaissance from debut author Nekesa Afia

Harlem, 1926. Young Black women like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead.

Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She’s succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie’s Café and her nights…

Book cover of A Quiet Life in the Country

Why did I love this book?

Try as I might, I can’t get into Marple. But T.E. Kinsey’s Lady Hardcastle series, beginning with the debut A Quiet Life in The Country turns the cozy genre on its head. In this case, the dithering, older busybody is Lady Emily Hardcastle, with her trusty ladies’ maid, Florence Armstrong. As the book and series progress, we find that neither woman is quite the helpless Edwardian female the neighbors believe. Come for the murder mystery and stay for the… knife throwing? 

By T E Kinsey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Quiet Life in the Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they've just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.

But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There's a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation...

As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries…

Take Her Down

By Lauren Emily Whalen,

Book cover of Take Her Down

Why did I love this book?

Not a traditional Whodunnit, this queer, YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar leaves the reader wondering what happened to class alpha-lesbian, Jude Cuthbert, when she goes missing under mysterious circumstances. Set just after the 2016 election, this brilliant satire pulls apart the thoughts of each conspirator – Brutus becomes Bronwyn; Cassius, Cass; and Portia is gender-flipped to Bronwyn’s boyfriend, Porter – as well as Jude/Julius’s own perspective on her fall from power.

By Lauren Emily Whalen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Take Her Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this queer YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,stakes at Augustus Magnet School are cutthroat, scheming is creative, and loyalty is ever-changing.

Overnight, Bronwyn St. James goes from junior class queen to daughter of an imprisoned felon, and she lands in the care of her aunt and younger cousin Cass, a competitive cheerleader who Bronwyn barely knows. Life gets worse when her ex-best friend, the always-cool Jude Cuthbert, ostracizes Bronwyn from the queer social elite for dating a boy, Porter Kendrick.

Bronwyn and Jude are both running for student body president, and that means war. But after Bronwyn, Porter, and…

Book cover of A Morbid Taste for Bones

Why did I love this book?

Did I ever think that a nearly 50-year-old mystery series… following the trials of Welsh monk…during the war between King Stephen and Queen Maude in the mid-1100s… would become one of my favorite mystery series of all time? Obviously not. But Brother Cadfael is, of course, not your ordinary monk, and this is not your ordinary cozy series. The strictly ordained lives of cloistered brothers make a fantastic structure on which to hang brilliant murder mysteries that involve reliquaries, lepers, and more than a few gallant soldiers.

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

5 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…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, murder mystery, and Brooklyn?

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