The best historical mysteries for escaping the now to voyage in times past

Who am I?

Even as a child, I wanted to escape from current times and visit bygone or future eras. History and literature were favourites and I gleaned most of what I know of the past by reading. Then I found Georgette Heyer, prompting a lifetime love affair with all things Georgian and Regency. Agatha Christie got me into mystery. I loved both the puzzle of whodunit and being whirled away into Poirot, Marple, or Cadfael territory. A good mystery and a deep dive into history as well? Heaven! Best of all is the author who draws me so completely into their imaginary world that the real one fades away.


I wrote...

The Gilded Shroud

By Elizabeth Bailey,

Book cover of The Gilded Shroud

What is my book about?

When a murder is committed a lady’s companion finds herself as an amateur sleuth… 1789, London. When Emily Fanshawe, Marchioness of Polbrook, is found strangled in her bedchamber, suspicion immediately falls on those residing in the grand house in Hanover Square. Emily’s husband – Randal Fanshawe, Lord Polbrook – fled in the night and is chief suspect – much to the dismay of his family.

Ottilia Draycott is brought in as the new lady’s companion to Sybilla, Dowager Marchioness and soon finds herself assisting younger son, Lord Francis Fanshawe in his investigations. Can Ottilia help clear the family name? Does the killer still reside in the house? Or could there be more to the mystery than meets the eye…?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Virgin in the Ice

Elizabeth Bailey Why did I love this book?

My love affair with Cadfael started with the books and continued with the television series, but my absolute favourite read was this one. The image of the face beneath the ice has stayed with me for years. Cadfael was the first historical mystery series that dragged me into the world of the book and kept me reading. When I had read one, I binged on the whole series. Ellis Peters is possibly the most immersive historical writer I’ve come across. It’s not just the detail, it’s the emotive pull of her description that drags you in. Her monk sleuth is a wonderful creation – erudite, clever, persistent, knowledgeable, and yet so humane and compassionate. Derek Jacobi was perfect in the role. But you can’t beat the realism of the books.

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Virgin in the Ice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is winter 1139 and the tranquil life in the monastery gardens in Shrewsbury is again interrupted by violence. Raging civil war has sent refugees fleeing north from Worcester. Among them are two orphans from a noble family, a boy of thirteen and an eighteen year old girl of great beauty, with their companion, a young Benedictine nun. But the trio have disappeared somewhere in the wild countryside. Cadfael fears for these three lost lambs, but his skills are needed to tend to a wounded monk, found naked and bleeding at the roadside. Why this holy man has been attacked…


Book cover of The Murder of Patience Brooke

Elizabeth Bailey Why did I love this book?

With Charles Dickens investigating, I had to check this out. The author’s imaginative use of Dickens as a sleuth is rooted in facts new to me. I didn’t know he had set up a sanctuary for fallen women, for example. Having read much Dickens, I found the voice authentic. His Victorian world, so intense in his novels, was equally immersive here – the poverty, the dirt, the inequality and I became thoroughly involved in the story and the unfolding investigation. If an author can draw me into their world and hold me… this did, due to impressive detailed research. I was particularly struck by the compassion visible in this Dickens which made me realise how much his books also demonstrate this aspect of his character.

By J. C. Briggs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An intriguing detective series featuring Charles Dickens! Perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian crime mysteries, A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield…

A brutal murder in Victorian London forces a famous writer to solve the mystery… London, 1849Charles Dickens has set up Urania Cottage as a sanctuary for fallen women.

But he is shocked when the matron’s assistant – Patience Brooke – is found hanging outside the property, covered in blood.

Desperate to protect the reputation of the Home and to stop a scandal from spreading, Dickens takes the investigation into his own hands.

With the help of his good…


Book cover of Untrue Till Death

Elizabeth Bailey Why did I love this book?

This story seized my imagination from the off for its unusual setting and sleuth. I mean, you don’t get to be transported to the Netherlands in the 17th Century every day of the week. Our narrator is a priest – always a fascinating field for a sometime convent schoolgirl. And he’s an unusual priest at that. Master Mercurius is not always at ease with his calling and even less keen on the spying task he is set by William of Orange. I was lost in Mercurius’s world even before the murder and the escalating twists and turns kept me on tenterhooks. This is a series to be savoured.

By Graham Brack,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Join Mercurius in another mysterious investigation! Perfect for fans of Andrew Taylor, C J Sansom, S J Parris and Ken Follett.

This time murder has hit close to home… 1674, Leiden, The NetherlandsAfter successfully solving the case of the missing girls in Delft, Master Mercurius has made a name for himself as a private investigator.

With unrest occurring both nationally and internationally, William of Orange is obsessed by plots against his leadership.

He calls on Mercurius to help spy on state officials. But before Mercurius has a chance to investigate, his colleague at the University of Leiden is killed.

And…


Book cover of The Brief

Elizabeth Bailey Why did I love this book?

This one had me on the edge of my seat. More telling for me to be thrown back in time to the 1960s. I didn’t live this life, but the background was familiar. I remember the Kray brothers and I did once briefly have a job in the sleazy sort of club where the boss had his goons hold a guy so he could punch him in the gut. Scary. Simon Michael’s story is all too believable and it is a testament to his ability to pull me into that world that it threw up long-gone memories. The story is told in first person which works to keep you guessing along with the protagonist barrister sleuth. For me it was a thrill ride into the past.

By Simon Michael,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The legal thriller series you need to read! Perfect for fans of John Grisham, Robert Bailey, Michael Connelly and Robert Dugoni.

Guilty until proven innocent…

London, 1960

Barrister Charles Holborne is not popular. A Jewish East Ender with a rough past, he is ostracised by his anti-Semitic and class-conscious colleagues who don’t want him in their prestigious Establishment profession.

And the bitterness Charles feels at work is spilling over into his personal life, putting his marriage under strain.

When a high-profile murder case lands on his desk, Charles is hopeful his fortunes will turn around. But after a shocking crime…


Book cover of A Vow of Silence

Elizabeth Bailey Why did I love this book?

Sister Joan is yet another religious sleuth. Set in the early 1990s, I think this series now qualifies as a historical mystery. It is a lighter read than my other choices, but one I absolutely loved and, like Cadfael, I dived in and devoured the lot. Vow of Silence is the first and hooked me straight away. The religious life fascinates me and I enjoyed the way the ceremonial routine of the convent was woven into the mysteries. This detail serves to immerse you in the life of Sister Joan, a down-to-earth heroine who drew my admiration. The mysteries unfold naturally into the setting and don’t seem incongruous. A more gentle read than the others I have chosen, but acutely satisfying.

By Veronica Black,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Vow of Silence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When one nun dies in a bizarre accident and another disappears, hushed whispers of virgin sacrifice, Mother Goddess worship, suicide, and murder spread among the Sisters at Cornwall House convent and Sister Joan is sent to investigate


You might also like...

The Blighted Mission

By E. Chris Ambrose,

Book cover of The Blighted Mission

E. Chris Ambrose Author Of The Mongol's Coffin

New book alert!

Who am I?

As an art school drop-out who'd been majoring in sculpture, I'm fascinated by material culture—artifacts created by early peoples that reveal their cultural values. Often, the relics and sites that engage both archaeologists and readers suggest unexpected depths of knowledge that show human ingenuity through the ages. I strive to incorporate the details of an artifact or monument's creation into the clues and descriptions in my work, hopefully illuminating a little-known historical realm, if only by torchlight as the adventure unfolds. The fact that I get to explore so many exotic locations, in research if not in person, is a definite plus!

E. Chris' book list on weaving adventure and history

What is my book about?

Disgraced British anthropologist Nigel Rowe hopes his YouTube adventure channel will be just the treat to redeem him, but vengeful treasure hunters have other plans! Seeking a legendary Jesuit mission in Baja, Nigel saves his producer’s life when the man takes a bullet meant for him. 

When an ex-Marine strolls up for a bodyguard interview, and dresses him down for his lax security, she might be precisely what he needs, or the last face he'll ever see. They plunge into the desert in search of fame, fortune and viral footage. Will he survive long enough to work out who's after him or meet a sticky end in the mountains of Mexico? All he can hope is that his new partner's doesn’t pull the trigger herself.

The Blighted Mission

By E. Chris Ambrose,

What is this book about?

A disgraced British anthropologist hopes his YouTube adventure channel will redeem him, but vengeful treasure hunters have other plans.

From the author of the internationally best-selling Bone Guard archaeological adventures!

On the trail of a legendary Jesuit mission in Baja—and the treasure it may contain—Nigel Rowe leaps into action to save the life of his producer when the man takes a bullet meant for Nigel. Alas, the list of those who might wish him dead spans the globe and ranges from American treasure hunters to Russian mobsters to his own dear brother, with their mother's consent if not her explicit…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in London, the Benedictines, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about London, the Benedictines, and presidential biography.

London Explore 753 books about London
The Benedictines Explore 6 books about the Benedictines
Presidential Biography Explore 17 books about presidential biography