The best Roaring Twenties mystery series

The Books I Picked & Why

Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

By Kerry Greenwood

Book cover of Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Why this book?

Phryne Fisher’s 21 mysteries take place in Australia, which means they lack the extra criminal/cultural dimension that Prohibition gave the US in the 1920s. However, while Australia did not prohibit alcohol consumption, there was still plenty of crime, gangsters, jazz, and flapper fashion to spice up every murder investigation. Miss Fisher, who through accident has inherited both title and fortune, stylishly sleuths her way through Melbourne’s underworld. Her adventures are relatively short and a fast read, but if you tire of reading, you can watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on television. I enjoy comparing books to movies—which is better? For me it’s usually the book, but still fun seeing the film version.  


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Maisie Dobbs

By Jacqueline Winspear

Book cover of Maisie Dobbs

Why this book?

The 17 Maisie Dobbs books are set mostly in England during the 1930s but they do begin in the late 1920s, so I include them in this list. A girl from a poor family, Maisie begins her working life at thirteen as a housemaid, then works her way from servant to scholar to nurse to psychologist and investigator. The psychological trauma of the Great War (1914-1918), which was supposed to end all wars, pervades these books. The period detail will pull you into the mystery every time.


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The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or, on the Segregation of the Queen

By Laurie R. King

Book cover of The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or, on the Segregation of the Queen

Why this book?

This 17-book series flips history and fiction: instead of fictionalizing a historical character, King’s premise is that a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, is real. Mary Russell, his much younger investigative apprentice, grows up to become his much younger wife, and together they tackle criminals all over the world. The stories begin in 1915 and move forward in time to the 1930s. King is a terrific writer. I like to cite one passage in particular where she describes Holmes holding his wife’s hand—calling it the best sex scene I’ve ever read is probably only a slight exaggeration. Though it is based in England, the author’s portrayal of life in far-flung places like Morocco and Palestine will make you wish you could travel across the miles as well as back in time.  


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Death at Wentwater Court: The First Daisy Dalrymple Mystery

By Carola Dunn

Book cover of Death at Wentwater Court: The First Daisy Dalrymple Mystery

Why this book?

Daisy has solved 23 murder mysteries so far. These Christie-esque plots are set in London, at posh country estates, and in other parts of the British landscape. Daisy works as a journalist—an unusual job for a young woman in the ‘20s, especially one who is aristocratic and wealthy and, therefore, shouldn’t be working at all. Her assignments and social connections inevitably entangle her in murder investigations, which she solves with the help of a competent Scotland Yard inspector who in later books becomes her husband. 


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Girl Waits with Gun

By Amy Stewart

Book cover of Girl Waits with Gun

Why this book?

Okay, this one is a stretch because it takes place during the years just prior to the Roaring Twenties. But it’s such a winner, I couldn’t resist including it. Stewart is a gifted writer and her research is impeccable. I was fascinated to learn that, unlike the fictional characters in the books mentioned above, the three Kopp sisters were very real. Constance Kopp was New Jersey’s first female deputy sheriff and her sisters led similarly unusual lives for their time. Her notes at the end where she explains her research are, for me, as entertaining as the story itself. So far the Kopp sisters have seven books, and I’m betting that the eighth will push the timeline into the 1920s. Do not miss this marvelously entertaining historical series! 


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