The best books if you love upstairs/downstairs historical sagas with a mystery twist

Who am I?

As the author of a historical/mystery/romance series that has won over sixty international awards in multiple categories, I’m attracted to books that cannot be pinned to one genre. I love sweeping sagas with elements of all three, perhaps because I was so immersed in classic literature as a kid and fascinated by stories of the past. I suspect I may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, I have resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting myself back there. I am, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. 


I wrote...

A Girl Like You

By Michelle Cox,

Book cover of A Girl Like You

What is my book about?

Henrietta Von Harmon works as a 26 girl at a corner bar on Chicago’s northwest side. It’s 1935, but things still aren’t looking up since the big crash and her father’s subsequent suicide, leaving Henrietta to care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings.

In desperation, Henrietta takes a job as a taxi dancer at a local dance hall, and just when she’s beginning to enjoy herself, the floor matron turns up dead. When aloof Inspector Clive Howard appears on the scene, Henrietta agrees to go undercover for him and is plunged into Chicago’s grittier underworld. While she attempts to uncover a potential serial killer, little does she know that the Inspector is keeping his secrets of his own.

The books I picked & why

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The Passing Bells

By Phillip Rock,

Book cover of The Passing Bells

Why this book?

I came upon this 3-part series almost by accident and quickly gobbled it up, surprised that it is not more well known. It is a fabulous upstairs/downstairs type of saga in which both the aristocracy and the servants who wait upon them are upended by the outbreak of WW1. Excellent writing; hard to put down.  


The Palliser Novels

By Anthony Trollope,

Book cover of The Palliser Novels

Why this book?

While walking through a Barnes and Noble some thirty years ago, I stumbled upon Anthony Trollope—probably because he took up about three whole shelves. Curious, I chose one of his fifty novels and then another and another until I concluded that he is undoubtedly one of the most underrated authors in the English language. Both of his series—The Chronicles of Barsetshire and The Pallisers—make Downton Abbey look like upstairs/downstairs-lite. Highly recommended! 


The Girl

By 055311901X,

Book cover of The Girl

Why this book?

I read all of Catherine Cookson’s novels at a much too-young age, having “borrowed” them from my mom’s bookshelf when she wasn’t looking. I was immediately hooked. So many of Cookson’s books, not just The Girl, pit the wealthy, landed class against their poorer servants, and this theme made a deep impression on me. In fact, I think that Cookson, along with Dickens, probably had the most influence on my personal writing style.  


The House at Riverton

By Kate Morton,

Book cover of The House at Riverton

Why this book?

Kate Morton is the penultimate professional at combining sweeping historical fiction and a mystery element. Any of her books are a delight, but I chose to showcase The House at Riverton because of its English aristocratic setting and the heavy mystery element. I adore Morton’s almost magical ability to successfully weave two or even three plotlines, all in different eras, into one tight story.  


The Secret Life of Violet Grant

By Beatriz Williams,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Why this book?

Williams is another of my absolute favorite authors. I love anything she writes, but I chose to showcase the Schuler Sisters series because, again, it consists of an overarching saga with some fantastic mystery elements. Williams’ strength is that she is able to place the reader directly in the scene with her perfect attention to detail without overdoing it. She expertly weaves multiple storylines in different eras to produce one delicious book.  


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in sagas, social class, and Downton Abbey?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about sagas, social class, and Downton Abbey.

Sagas Explore 28 books about sagas
Social Class Explore 51 books about social class
Downton Abbey Explore 9 books about Downton Abbey

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Governess of Highland Hall, The Saga of the Volsungs, and Epic and Romance if you like this list.