100 books like A Duty to the Dead

By Charles Todd,

Here are 100 books that A Duty to the Dead fans have personally recommended if you like A Duty to the Dead. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Free Man of Color

Eleanor Kuhns Author Of Murder on Principle

From my list on historical mysteries with a dash of social commentary.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the mysteriousness of the past. Learning dates or the importance of battles does not yield understanding. Skillfully written historical fiction can make a reader live history—in a twelfth-century abbey or nursing in WWI. The characters I find the most gripping are outsiders: a Black man always in danger of capture and slavery, and investigating the murders of the marginalized; a monk, once a crusader, who sees human frailties clearly; or a Victorian lady, restless under the constraints of her time, who marries beneath her. Why murder mysteries? Because, although murder is forbidden in almost every culture and every religion, we still kill each other. 

Eleanor's book list on historical mysteries with a dash of social commentary

Eleanor Kuhns Why did Eleanor love this book?

Benjamin January is a rarity in New Orleans 1830s; a free Black man. He is free because his mother is a place, the mistress of a wealthy white planter. Ben is educated and smart, but the casual racism of the times means he makes a living as a musician instead of a surgeon.

Despite his papers, he is always afraid of being kidnapped and sold into slavery, and that fear casts a shadow over his life.

When a beautiful quadroon is murdered, and no one cares, Ben’s sense of justice inspires him to investigate, despite risking his own freedom.

I love the exotic setting and reread every few years. I marvel at the way Hambly threads the mystery through this unusual culture.

By Barbara Hambly,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Free Man of Color as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This lush and haunting novel tells of a city steeped in decadent pleasures and of a man, proud and defiant, caught in a web of murder and betrayal.

It is 1833. In the midst of Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d'Orléans when the evening's festivities are interrupted--by murder.

The ravishing Angelique Crozat, a notorious octoroon who travels in the city's finest company, has been strangled to death. With the authorities reluctant to become involved, Ben begins his own inquiry, which will take him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmen…


Book cover of The Cater Street Hangman

Anastasia Hastings Author Of Of Manners and Murder: A Dear Miss Hermione Mystery

From my list on dark and stormy Victorian vibes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I confess to a life-long interest in both the Victorian era and in crime, and I blame my dad for both. Dad was a Cleveland Police detective who introduced me to the Holmes stories at an early age. We read Doyle and we both enjoyed Basil Rathbone’s take on Sherlock in the old black-and-white movies. Dad also gave me my first chance to practice my detecting skills when on his days off, he’d load me into the car, buy me an ice cream cone (no doubt to keep me quiet), and take me for a cruise around the city looking for stolen cars.  

Anastasia's book list on dark and stormy Victorian vibes

Anastasia Hastings Why did Anastasia love this book?

I will admit it’s been a while since I read this, the first Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery.

The fact that I still remember it and include it on this list says something. The mystery is convoluted enough to keep readers interested and the story of the lead characters going against societal norms (young woman from a good family attracted to a “lowly” police inspector) is intriguing. 

Throw in the foggy atmosphere of Victorian London and you’ve got a real winner. Be aware, though, Hangman is the first of 32 Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels.

By Anne Perry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Cater Street Hangman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the debut of the New York Times–bestselling Victorian crime series, Inspector Thomas Pitt seeks an elusive strangler among upper-class British society.

Panic and fear strike the Ellison household when one of their own falls prey to the Cater Street murderer. While Mrs. Ellison and her three daughters are out, their maid becomes the third victim of a killer who strangles young women with cheese wire, leaving their swollen-faced bodies on the dark streets of this genteel neighborhood. Inspector Pitt, assigned to the case, must break through the walls of upper-class society to get at the truth. His in-depth investigation…


Book cover of The Gods of Gotham

Eleanor Kuhns Author Of Murder on Principle

From my list on historical mysteries with a dash of social commentary.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the mysteriousness of the past. Learning dates or the importance of battles does not yield understanding. Skillfully written historical fiction can make a reader live history—in a twelfth-century abbey or nursing in WWI. The characters I find the most gripping are outsiders: a Black man always in danger of capture and slavery, and investigating the murders of the marginalized; a monk, once a crusader, who sees human frailties clearly; or a Victorian lady, restless under the constraints of her time, who marries beneath her. Why murder mysteries? Because, although murder is forbidden in almost every culture and every religion, we still kill each other. 

Eleanor's book list on historical mysteries with a dash of social commentary

Eleanor Kuhns Why did Eleanor love this book?

Disfigured and jobless after a fire, Timothy Wilde takes a job with the newly formed NYPD. He is assigned to the Sixth Ward, right on the border of the Five Points, a ward notorious for the desperately poor who live there and the rampant crime. One night he finds a young girl running through the street in a nightgown soaked with blood. She tells an unbelievable story of bodies buried in a nearby woods. Wilde investigates and soon finds himself a target of the city’s wealthy, several of whom are guilty of the most heinous of crimes but feel entitled to escape any accountability. Written in the slang of the times, it reads with the immediacy and plausibility of a memoir. I loved this book because it treats such serious issues: income inequality and the lack of accountability for the rich and powerful—even when engaged in child prostitution and murder.

By Lyndsay Faye,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gods of Gotham as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Spectacular' Gillian Flynn. GODS OF GOTHAM is the fantastic first novel in Lyndsay Faye's Edgar Award-nominated series, for fans of Andrew Taylor and Antonia Hodgson's The Devil in the Marshalsea.

August 1845 in New York; enter the dark, unforgiving city underworld of the legendary Five Points...

After a fire decimates a swathe of lower Manhattan, and following years of passionate political dispute, New York City at long last forms an official Police Department. That same summer, the great potato famine hits Ireland. These events will change the city of New York for ever.

Timothy Wilde hadn't wanted to be a…


Book cover of The Pilgrim of Hate

Eleanor Kuhns Author Of Murder on Principle

From my list on historical mysteries with a dash of social commentary.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the mysteriousness of the past. Learning dates or the importance of battles does not yield understanding. Skillfully written historical fiction can make a reader live history—in a twelfth-century abbey or nursing in WWI. The characters I find the most gripping are outsiders: a Black man always in danger of capture and slavery, and investigating the murders of the marginalized; a monk, once a crusader, who sees human frailties clearly; or a Victorian lady, restless under the constraints of her time, who marries beneath her. Why murder mysteries? Because, although murder is forbidden in almost every culture and every religion, we still kill each other. 

Eleanor's book list on historical mysteries with a dash of social commentary

Eleanor Kuhns Why did Eleanor love this book?

Several bands of pilgrims descend on the abbey where Cadfael is a monk in twelfth-century England. Among them is the widow Dame Alice Weaver with her crippled nephew Rhun and his sister. Two young men, Ciaran and Matthew, arrive with them. Ciaran is under a vow to walk to Wales, barefoot and with a heavy iron cross around his neck, in penance for an impulsive killing. Matthew has vowed to accompany Ciaran to the end. A theft implicates both Ciaran and Matthew, one of whom is a thief in disguise. I love the way Peters’ plot turns on Christianity as it was practiced then, and the way the pious, suffering from hate and jealousy as well as love, rationalize the ideals of their religion to their own advantage.

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the year of our Lord 1141, civil war over England's throne leaves a legacy of violence- and the murder of a knight dear to Brother Cadfael. And with gentle budstrewn May, a flood of pilgrims comes to the celebration of Saint Winifred at the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, carrying with it many strange souls and perhaps the knight's killer. Brother Cadfael's shrewd eyes see all: the prosperous merchant who rings false, and angelic lame boy, his beautiful dowess sister, and two wealthy penitents. In the name of justice, Cadfael decides to uncover the strange and twisted…


Book cover of Sisters of the Great War

Connie Hertzberg Mayo Author Of The Sharp Edge of Mercy

From my list on historical fiction with rockstar nurses.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother went back to school for her PhD in Anatomy when I was a pre-teen. During the summers of my high school years I worked with her in her lab, and let me tell you, you see your mother in a new light when you see her dissect a rat. Though I didn’t go into medicine, anyone raised in our household learned an impressive amount of biology just sitting around the dinner table. Consequently, I’ve always loved fiction with a medical bent. My mother was also the one to introduce me to historical fiction, so perhaps I was fated to write a historical novel with a nurse protagonist.

Connie's book list on historical fiction with rockstar nurses

Connie Hertzberg Mayo Why did Connie love this book?

Two sisters from Baltimore volunteer for WWI, one as a nurse, one as an ambulance driver. Though this isn’t a romance, each find love amid the gruesome reality of war – one with a doctor, one with another (female) ambulance driver. The sheer number of amputations will leave your head spinning.

By Suzanne Feldman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sisters of the Great War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by real women, this powerful novel tells the story of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I

August 1914. While Europe enters a brutal conflict unlike any waged before, the Duncan household in Baltimore, Maryland, is the setting for a different struggle. Ruth and Elise Duncan long to escape the roles that society, and their controlling father, demand they play. Together, the sisters volunteer for the war effort—Ruth as a nurse, Elise as a driver.

Stationed at a makeshift hospital in Ypres, Belgium, Ruth soon confronts war’s harshest lesson: not everyone can be…


Book cover of Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse

Joanna Higgins Author Of In the Fall They Leave

From my list on WWI Angels of Mercy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I’m neither a healthcare professional nor a historian, my passions are reading great fiction and continually striving to write it. Degrees in literature led to college teaching and then full-time writing. And that, to the publication of six works of fiction, including four historical novels. So, add to the mix, then, the years spent studying and teaching literature as well as those spent writing and rewriting—and, too, being an inveterate reader—and you have, in brief, the sum of my expertise. Each of the works listed below, I feel, has super qualities. I certainly enjoyed reading such masterful work and hope you will as well.   

Joanna's book list on WWI Angels of Mercy

Joanna Higgins Why did Joanna love this book?

Terri Arthur, a retired registered nurse, obviously wrote Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse, as an homage to a British nurse whose heroism not only saved hundreds of Allied lives when the penalty for doing so was death by execution but also inspired thousands to join the Allied war effort. I appreciated the numerous historical photographs throughout this prize-winning biographical novel. The narrative and incorporated historical context beautifully dramatize the courageous actions and inner life of a great WWI hero. In an Author’s Note, Terri Arthur states that her intention in telling the story of Edith Cavell in fictional form was so that readers could fully experience Cavell’s “amazing journey.” For me, Arthur achieved her objective. This is history richly conveyed,  

By Terri Arthur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An inspiring story everyone should know…and will never forget!

Based on historical fact, this captivating novel tells the story of the legendary Edith Cavell, a British nurse whose duties as a healer clashed with the demands of a ruthless occupying regime during World War I. At the request of a brilliant,
hot-headed surgeon, Edith went from London to Brussels to create Belgium's first school of nursing. At the height of her success, the German army marched into neutral Belgium and took over her hospital and school.

Knowing the dangers of working against the repressive and brutal control of the German…


Book cover of The Daughters of Mars

Joanna Higgins Author Of In the Fall They Leave

From my list on WWI Angels of Mercy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I’m neither a healthcare professional nor a historian, my passions are reading great fiction and continually striving to write it. Degrees in literature led to college teaching and then full-time writing. And that, to the publication of six works of fiction, including four historical novels. So, add to the mix, then, the years spent studying and teaching literature as well as those spent writing and rewriting—and, too, being an inveterate reader—and you have, in brief, the sum of my expertise. Each of the works listed below, I feel, has super qualities. I certainly enjoyed reading such masterful work and hope you will as well.   

Joanna's book list on WWI Angels of Mercy

Joanna Higgins Why did Joanna love this book?

As a writer, I found so much to admire in The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally. Simply put, it’s epic. I was blown away by Kenneally’s Tolstoian precision of narrative and by the drama of two sisters who leave their confined lives in Australia and serve as nurses in WWI, first on a hospital ship in the Mediterranean and then on the Western Front. Keneally recreates a full sense of the times, showing how individuals can become enmeshed and shaped by huge historical events. The sisters confront not only the terrible effects of war but also a secret that haunts them. This is a stunning, multi-layered novel by a master, The Daughters of Mars has earned numerous accolades—and no wonder. It’s beautifully written and deeply affecting.  

By Thomas Keneally,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Daughters of Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father's dairy farm and carrying a guilty secret with them. Used to tending the sick as they are, nothing could have prepared them for what they confront, first in the Dardanelles, then on the Western Front. Yet they find courage in the face of extreme danger and become the friends they never were before. And eventually they meet the kind of men worth giving up their precious independence for - if only they all survive.

At once epic in scope and extraordinarily intimate,…


Book cover of Between the Lines: Diaries and Letters from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit

Wendy Moore Author Of No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

From my list on women’s experiences in WW1.

Why am I passionate about this?

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of five non-fiction books on medical and social history. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, Times, Observer and Lancet. Her new book is about Endell Street Military Hospital which was run and staffed by women in London in the First World War.

Wendy's book list on women’s experiences in WW1

Wendy Moore Why did Wendy love this book?

History is just “one damned thing after another” is a common phrase. For me this is the book which has led me to my next project. Cahill traces the story of the women who went to Russia in 1916 with the voluntary outfit the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Set up by a Scottish surgeon, Elsie Inglis, the SWH became the biggest women’s medical organisation serving abroad in the war. The SWH women ran hospitals in France, Serbia and Russia. Here Cahill tells the story of their astonishing adventures in Russia – driving ambulances close to the firing line, retreating with the Serbian and Russian armies, surviving the cold, food shortages and the Russian Revolution – through the women’s own words. It’s staggering stuff – and great material for my next book about one of those incredible women pioneers.

By Audrey Fawcett Cahill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between the Lines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shipped from UK, please allow 10 to 21 business days for arrival. First Published by PENTLAND, EDINBURGH, 1999 BETWEEN THE LINES: Letters and Diaries from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit. Arranged and edited by Audrey Fawcett Cahill. 372 p., ill., maps A very good, near fine soft-cover copy.


Book cover of The Man in the Window

Molly D. Campbell Author Of The World Came to Us

From my list on unforgettable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a novelist, I focus on the characters in my books, and the plot is woven around them. I'm a people-watcher, and I remember bits and pieces of the folks I observe—many of which find their way into my novels. As a reader, plot pulls me in, but it is the characters that I remember. As a novelist, I always begin with a cast of characters: I start with a physical quirk, a personality flaw, an offbeat way of seeing things. Then I add a plot. For me, plot is the hardest. There are hundreds of characters swimming around in my imagination (see my first book, Characters in Search of a Novel).

Molly's book list on unforgettable characters

Molly D. Campbell Why did Molly love this book?

Perhaps this was an inspiration for my own novel. It is about Louis, who has not left his house in sixteen years, due to his disfigured face. I won’t ruin the book, but I must say that it is written with great tenderness and understanding, and the characters are luminous. 

This book has stayed with me for years. Cohen weaves a bit of magic into his writing, and though the topic is sad on the surface, its two main characters will fill the reader with deep love and great satisfaction.

By Jon Cohen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An off-beat love story alternately deeply moving and laugh-aloud funny. Good Housekeeping Jon Cohen conjures magic, weaving a gentle romantic fantasy of piercing and eccentric beauty. Boston GlobeSince he was disfigured in a fire sixteen years ago, recluse Louis Malone has remained hidden from the prying eyes of his neighbors in the small town of Waverly.Across town, Iris Shula, a lonely and unlovely nurse knows, at thirty-seven, it is unlikely that her Prince Charming will ever appear. But Iris is about to learn how wrong she is.When Louis accidently falls out of his second story window these two kindred souls…


Book cover of The Mysterious Private Thompson: The Double Life of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier

Julian Sher Author Of The North Star: Canada and the Civil War Plots Against Lincoln

From my list on Civil War plots against Lincoln from Canada.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been an investigative journalist for four decades and the author of eight books. From covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to biker gangs or online child predators, I have always tried to encourage people to question their assumptions and popular beliefs. When I was a history student at McGill University in Montreal, I came across a plaque to Jefferson Davis, the leader of the slave South, on the walls of one of our major department stores. Why were we honoring the Confederates more than a century after the Civil War? That quest led me to dig into the myths about the Civil War and the fight against slavery.

Julian's book list on Civil War plots against Lincoln from Canada

Julian Sher Why did Julian love this book?

I am always fascinated by the life-changing choices people make during crucial turning points in history. How certain are you that–depending on where you were born and what race, class, or gender you were–that you would have sided with Lincoln against slavery?

Emma Edmonds was a feisty New Brunswick farm girl who rebels against the 19th-century restrictions against women by disguising herself as a man to become a very successful bible salesman. She finds herself in the US when the Civil War breaks out, and even though it is not her country or her cause, she decides to enlist (as a man!) in the Union Army. Gansler does an excellent job of capturing Edmonds’ conflicted emotions, turmoil and troubles as she tries to hide her identity for two years wearing a man’s uniform. She also navigates the difficult exaggerations and lies around Edmonds’ story. A serious yet exciting read. 

By Laura Leedy Gansler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Resurrecting a lost hero of the Civil War, The Mysterious Private Thompson tells the remarkable story of Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841-98), who disguised herself as a man and defended her country at a time of war. Drawing on Edmonds's journals and those of the men she served with, Laura Leedy Gansler recreates Edmonds's experience in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including both the First and the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, and the Battle of Fredericksburg, during which she served with distinction in combat as a "male" nurse and braved enemy fire as…


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