Although my literary taste – and my own writing! – involves pretty much everything that catches my fancy, historical mysteries written by modern writers are my go-to genre when I need a bit of comfort. I have selected the first books of three series who constantly delight:
1) Elizabeth Peters, The Crocodile on the Sandbank
WHY I LIKE IT: The Victorian era series, as befits a trained archaeologist, is steeped in knowledge about ancient Egypt. Woven in the fabric of the mysteries, it deals with cultural clashes, western prejudices and expectations, the struggles faced by women in both cultures. Armed with wit, razor-sharp intellect and a sturdy umbrella, she deals with impunity with walking mummies, grave robbers, a girl on the brink of ruin, and a dashing archaeologist. Even after the third read, I keep turning the pages for just one more chapter.
2) Rhys Bowen, Murphy’s Law
WHY I LIKE IT: “A week before I turned twenty-three, I was on the run, wanted for murder.” A chance encounter provides peasant-girl Molly Murphy with a new identity, a ticket to America – no passport control at the end of the 19th century – and the care of two children.
But as Murphy’s law will have it, am man is murdered on the ship, and Molly has seen too much. Soon she’s in up to her neck with dodging the police (including handsome Daniel Sullivan who gets her heart racing in more than one way), and escaping the murderer.
The whole series is fast, fun, and frivolous, with serious topics like rape, exploitation, and corruption working their way quietly into the reader’s mind.
3) Kerry Greenwood, Cocaine Blues
WHY I LIKE IT: The Hon. Phryne Fisher is a heroine that in most books would have been a man. She’s young, beautiful, rich and titled, and as such a rarity in Australia at the end of the Roaring Twenties. She’s also liberated in every sense, and while she loves them and leaves them, the men she beds hardly ever have a hold over her heart. With socialist sympathies and a fine disregard for conventions, this pistol-packing lady is a treasure, and an advocate for gays and lesbians. The series is clever, thought-provoking and as intoxicating as one of Pharynx’s cocktails!
BIO: Carmen Radtke is a screenwriter and novelist. Her debut novel, The Case of the Missing Bride (Bloodhound Books) is out TODAY, 5 September! She also writes under the pen name Caron Albright. A Matter of Love and Death will be published by Bombshell Books. Follow Carmen on Twitter: @CarmenRadtke1 and visit her website, HERE.