20 historical mysteries featuring feisty female protagonists

20 historical mysteries featuring feisty female protagonists

Readers, my love of strong literary heroines is no secret. (I did named my blog Modern Mrs. Darcy after the inimitable Elizabeth Bennet.) A great heroine is strong in her convictions, often ahead of her time, and isn’t afraid to take charge (and occasionally take names). 

One of my favorite genres, chock-full of amazing heroines to root for, is historical mystery. Historical settings showcase a heroine’s gumption and independence as she shirks expectations for women of her era. Mysteries provide a reason for our heroines to engage in traditionally “male pursuits” like investigation, education, or crime-fighting. 

In the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club Community, we kicked off our Autumn Reading season with one such heroine: Veronica Speedwell from Deanna Raybourn’s fantastic book A Curious Beginning. According to Raybourn, Veronica “lives to suit herself and is not overly fussed about whether anyone else likes it.” Her character is based on Margaret Fountaine, a butterfly hunter from the Victorian era. Lepidopterology was considered a genteel occupation, so Margaret could make a living hunting insects but still be considered a lady in polite society. Margaret traveled the world, remained unmarried, and pursued a fulfilling life in her own way. Like Margaret, Veronica Speedwell keeps one foot in “proper society” and another in worldwide adventure. But her balancing act becomes difficult to manage as she finds herself in the middle of a mystery. 

Raybourn says that, for her, the best mysteries have a good puzzle and strong characterization. A well-plotted puzzle makes you turn the page, but wonderful characters make you care about what happens next. (She also claims that if the FBI ever gets ahold of her internet search history, she is so going to jail.) You can bet I’m bringing up that last point during my live book club chat with Deanna on September 26th. If you aren’t signed up for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club, you can do that here and mark your calendars for the event. (And yes, we always record these so you can watch later if you can’t make it live.)

My recent return to Veronica Speedwell has me thinking of other historical heroines that carry their own books (and often, as you’ll see, their own series) … so today I’m sharing 20 feisty female protagonists who epitomize strong characterization. Some are brash, bold, and bossy. Others are quiet, cerebral, and strong. Most of them drink copious amounts of tea, and all of them are absolute badasses.

Bonus recommendation: Our September book flight pick is Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. It isn’t exactly a mystery, but it IS dark, suspenseful, and fun. If you love these feisty heroines, then you’ll adore Jane Steele.

Some links (including all Amazon links) are affiliate links. More details here.

I’d love to hear about your favorite feisty female protagonists in historical mysteries. Tell us all about them in comments!

20 Historical Heroines Worth Rooting For
Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs Mysteries Series Book 1)

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs Mysteries Series Book 1)

Meet Maisie Dobbs as she trades wartime nursing for her own private investigation practice at the end of WWI. Her first case appears to be run-of-the-mill infidelity, but something tells her to look deeper. When she finds disturbing secrets connected to the Great War, she is forced to confront her own trauma in order to solve the case. Maisie’s strong empathy and nurse’s training make her uniquely suited to detective work, and learning more about her is just as delightful as following the mystery. Note: this series is excellent on audio. More info →
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A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

This is our September Book Club pick. Veronica Speedwell travels the world hunting beautiful butterfly specimens and the occasional romantic dalliance. When her guardian dies, the orphaned Veronica expects to embark on a grand scientific adventure. But Veronica quickly realizes that with her guardian's death, she is no longer safe—and she begins to unravel the mystery of why she poses a threat to dangerous men. More info →
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Girl Waits with Gun

Girl Waits with Gun

Author:
Clever, daring, and ahead-of-her-time, Constance Kopp has no interest in being traditional. Family secrets have kept her isolated from the world until an unfortunate buggy accident brings trouble to her doorstep. When a gang-member threatens her sisters and the family farm, she teams up with local law enforcement to take down the criminals. I love the way Stewart brings her leading lady to life in this mostly-true story about America’s first female sheriff. More info →
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The Agency: A Spy in the House

The Agency: A Spy in the House

Author:
This YA novel features a top-secret, all-female investigative unit in Victorian London. After being saved from the gallows, Mary Quinn is sent to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, where she learns high society manners and how to spy. When Mary turns 17, she is ready to test her mettle. Disguised as a lady’s maid in a rich merchant’s home, she uses her skills to trace the merchant’s missing cargo ships. Danger follows her around every corner as she finds herself in a house filled with secrets. Add some witty dialogue, a little bit of romance, and you have a fast-paced spy novel that appeals to adult readers, too. More info →
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A Study In Scarlet Women (The Lady Sherlock Series)

A Study In Scarlet Women (The Lady Sherlock Series)

Author:
This gender-bending Sherlock Holmes series is completely clever. Charlotte Holmes has never been comfortable with high society’s expectations for well-bred women, so she hatches an escape plan. By posing as Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte uses her incredible intellect to solve mysteries and secures the freedom to live as she pleases. When her family falls under suspicion for a series of London murders, Charlotte puts her skills to work to find the real killer and gathers new friends, and enemies, along the way. More info →
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Girl in Disguise

Girl in Disguise

Pinkerton detective Kate Warne risks danger and reputation by performing undercover operations on the seedy side of Chicago. She can disguise herself as a lady of the night, a wealthy society woman, or an unnoticeable young maid, depending on her assignment. As Pinkerton’s first female operative, Kate fights for respect at every turn. While the entire country is on the brink of the Civil War, Kate works her way up the ranks and becomes an essential part of American history. Based on a true story, this book follows her dangerous exploits and forgotten contributions with snappy dialogue and a memorable cast of characters. More info →
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The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Mystery of 1920s Bombay)

The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Mystery of 1920s Bombay)

Author:
I adored this one so much, it made the Minimalist Summer Reading Guide in 2018. Perveen Mistry is Bombay’s first female solicitor, employed by her father’s respected firm. When her father’s Muslim client dies, he is tasked with executing the will, but the three devout widows “stay behind the veil,” and must not be seen by men. When the duo discover irregularities in the estate documents, Perveen resolves to speak with the widows, because—as a woman—she’s the only one who can. Perveen understands the cruelty women can endure under the law and vows to protect the widows. Toss in a murder investigation, and you get a tightly-crafted mystery, a vividly-drawn multicultural setting, and a plucky heroine fiercely taking on the challenges of her time. More info →
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Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)

Author:
This steampunk suspense is first in the Parasol Protectorate series, which combines mystery, romance, and the supernatural in a vivid Victorian setting. Alexia Tarabotti is a soulless (literally) spinster with supernatural abilities. When society blames her for disappearing vampires, she sets out to find the real culprit (and drinks plenty of tea whilst doing so). Alexia’s quick wit and wicked parasol-wielding will have you laughing as you speed through the pages. More info →
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An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League)

An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League)

Author:
In her author's note, Alyssa Cole shares that while she always wanted to write historical romance, she'd "never want to write about THAT. The Civil War, that is." But after reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog on the Civil War in The Atlantic, Cole was deeply influenced to bring that time period and its remarkable Black historical figures to life. The heroine, Elle Burns, is based on Mary Bowser, a former slave with an eidetic memory, who spied for the Union. Elle joins forces with another undercover agent—Pinkerton detective Malcolm McCall. Sparks fly as they take on the Confederate Army and risk their lives, and love, for justice. (Note: this one includes open-door romance). More info →
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Murphy’s Law: The First Molly Murphy Mystery

Murphy’s Law: The First Molly Murphy Mystery

Author:
When Molly Murphy arrives in New York in 1901, she breathes a sigh of relief; her dark past is behind her. However, when a man is murdered on Ellis Island, Molly quickly becomes the prime suspect as she was seen arguing with him just before his death. Molly faces jail time if she sets foot back in Ireland, so returning home is out of the question. Instead, she employs her Irish charm and a whole lot of gumption to cross New York City in search of the true killer. Rich historical detail provides the perfect backdrop for this fierce, spunky heroine. More info →
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The Anatomist’s Wife (A Lady Darby Mystery)

The Anatomist’s Wife (A Lady Darby Mystery)

1830’s Scotland lends a deliciously moody setting for this mystery. After a scandal involving her anatomist husband comes to light, Lady Keira Darby seeks refuge at her sister’s country estate. With her artistic talents and knowledge of human anatomy, Keira becomes both detective and suspect when a fellow houseguest is murdered. Despite rumors and threats, Keira presses on in order to protect her family and find the murderer. More info →
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Whispers Beyond the Veil (A Change of Fortune Mystery)

Whispers Beyond the Veil (A Change of Fortune Mystery)

Ruby Proulx travels alongside her salesman father, reading cards while he cons people with his “medical miracles.” When his latest stunt goes awry, Ruby finds refuge at the Hotel Belden, a seaside home for Spiritualists owned by her Aunt Honoria. Just as she starts to feel safe, a series of murders near the hotel threatens her new life. In order to protect her secrets and her aunt’s hotel, Ruby launches her own investigation and uses newfound talents to find the killer. More info →
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A Front Page Affair (Kitty Weeks Mystery)

A Front Page Affair (Kitty Weeks Mystery)

Author:
Capability “Kitty” Weeks dreams of reporting on 1915 global politics but resigns herself to write fluff pieces for the Ladies’ Page. Her luck changes when a man is murdered at a high society party, and she’s there to get the scoop. Kitty follows her journalistic instincts to find the killer and winds up uncovering a much bigger conspiracy. Radha Vatsal based Kitty Weeks on early 1910s action film heroines, and Vatsal’s knowledge of the time period will impress even the most avid historical fiction readers. More info →
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The Secret Life of Anna Blanc (An Anna Blanc Mystery Book 1)

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc (An Anna Blanc Mystery Book 1)

When you’ve had your fill of Victorian London, visit 1907 Los Angeles, its corrupt police department, and a young woman determined to serve justice. Socialite Anna Blanc wants to be the next Sherlock Holmes. While she has the skill set, her social position prevents her from achieving her dream, so she pays off her chaperone, adopts an alias, and becomes a police matron for the LAPD. When she discovers that the police are covering up several brothel murders, she takes on the investigation and plunges into danger. Add in a dash of romance, and you have a perfectly page-turning mystery. More info →
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Murder on the Last Frontier (A Charlotte Brody Mystery)

Murder on the Last Frontier (A Charlotte Brody Mystery)

Author:
The Alaskan Territory is no place for a woman on her own, but suffragette and intrepid journalist Charlotte Brody pays no heed to such warnings. She needs a fresh start and travels to Cordova, the frontier town where her brother practices medicine. When a local prostitute is found murdered, Charlotte is the only one willing to investigate. As she digs into the case, Charlotte learns that the woman’s past is not unlike her own. Dangers posed by the Alaskan wilderness are nothing compared to a killer on the loose. More info →
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The Right Sort of Man: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery

The Right Sort of Man: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery

This mystery boasts a dynamic heroine duo and a clever premise. After WWII, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge open “The Right Sort Marriage Bureau” in order to bring some light and life to London’s citizens, as well as achieve independence for themselves. When their new client is found murdered by the man they paired her with, Iris and Gwendolyn face losing their business before it even gets off the ground. In order to save the Bureau’s reputation, the pair must use their skills and life experience to investigate the murder themselves. This proves to be much riskier than a new business venture. More info →
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A Useful Woman (A Rosalind Thorne Mystery)

A Useful Woman (A Rosalind Thorne Mystery)

Author:
This Regency mystery series is inspired by our patron saint of feisty protagonists, Jane Austen. Avoiding ruination after a family scandal, Rosalind Thorne makes herself indispensable to London’s most popular ladies as a personal secretary. Her insider connections and discretion prove useful when an aristocrat is found dead in Almack’s ballroom, and the list of suspects includes powerful lords and ladies. When her former suitor falls under suspicion, Rosalind must guard her heart. More info →
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And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily Mysteries, Book 1)

And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily Mysteries, Book 1)

Emily didn’t love her husband; theirs was a marriage of convenience, or so she thought. Upon his death, Emily reads his journals and discovers a new, scholarly side to him--and a deep, abiding love for her. Intrigued, she decides to study all things Greco-Roman as a way to connect with the man she lost. After countless trips to the British Museum and hours of studying, Emily discovers a dark secret involving stolen artifacts. She trades her intellectual pursuits for sleuthing, and learns more about herself along the way. More info →
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A Killer in King’s Cove (A Lane Winslow Mystery)

A Killer in King’s Cove (A Lane Winslow Mystery)

Author:
This cozy small-town mystery is perfect for fans of Louise Penny. After serving as a British intelligence officer in WWII, Lane Winslow craves a fresh start. She settles down in British Columbia, in a cozy small town filled with characters who make her feel safe. Of course, her comfort won’t last long. When a body is discovered, and murder suspected, Lane uses her background to help local investigators find the killer. However, she unwittingly casts herself as a suspect and must unravel the mystery without revealing her own secrets. More info →
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Murder on Astor Place: A Gaslight Mystery

Murder on Astor Place: A Gaslight Mystery

Widowed and estranged from her wealthy family, Sarah Brandt serves as a midwife in Gilded Age New York. After delivering a baby at a boarding house, she learns that another boarder was found murdered. Sarah agrees to search the young woman’s room for the police and finds an unwelcome connection to her own past. The victim belongs to one of New York’s wealthiest families, whom Sarah knows from her past life. Fearing scandal, they refuse an investigation, but Sarah is unable to rest until the killer is found. More info →
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Are you a historical mystery fan? Who are YOUR favorite feisty female protagonists? Please tell us all about your faves in comments!

146 comments | Comment

146 comments

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  1. Sarah says:

    Don’t forget my favorite “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)”. Flavia is all that is plucky and unconventional, even if she is only 11. She manages to balance being a precocious young girl, without dipping into the saccharine (which is don’t tolerate well in my reading). I believe I discovered this series based on the recommendation of one of your guests.

  2. Kerry says:

    I’ve also been enjoying the Clara Vine series about a German-English woman spying for the Brits while trying to make it as an actress in Germany during the lead up to WWII. The books are fast-paced, packed with historical detail, and all have a mystery at their core in addition to the larger story arc of how long can Clara safely stay in Germany.

  3. Sarah says:

    This is such a great list. lots of new ideas for me.
    But why, oh why, do the majority of these books have such awful covers?! Shocking.
    I’ll be picking up some of these only because you have brought them to my attention Anne and I bet they’re awesome – but I most definitely would not have even given them a second glance on the shelf!

  4. Micaela says:

    Two more series I love: The Rosie Winter Books by Kathryn Miller Haines, Book #1 is The War Against Miss Winter. Rosie Winter is an actress in NYC in the 40’s who also works for a PI. Fun and very fast paced.

    I also love the Kopp Sisters books by Amy Stewart, starting with Girl Waits with Gun. I think the first one gets mentioned a lot but as of this week there are now five books out! The mystery elements aren’t strong in all of them, but there is always some sort of mystery/crime element and Constance is a great heroine.

      • Emilee says:

        I am very excited to read Girl in Disguise now! I love Civil War era books (especially female centric ones) and would love to see a Modern Mrs Darcy list of more books that fit into that category!

      • Joanne Adams says:

        Thank you for the list! I enjoyed the Kerry Greenwood’s books with the historical character, and private detective, Ms Phryne Fisher in the 1920’s Melbourne, Australia. This was also made into tv programming which I have watched on Netflix.

  5. Jackie says:

    I’m not in the book club but I picked up A Curious Beginning to read along, and I am absolutely in love with Veronica Speedwell. I tried Jane Steele but, I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t read Jane Eyre, I could not get into it. Perhaps it just couldn’t reach my newfound love for VS.

    • Pam says:

      Ditto. I’m not in the book club – have to watch my expenses – but I just finished reading A Curious Beginning, and really enjoyed it! I’m a big mystery reader, but usually stay away from historical mysteries, and indeed, historical fiction in general. Generally not my cup of tea, but I really dug Veronica Speedwell. Butterflies, science, hat pins, a revolver, a travelling carnival, an interesting potential love interest, strong female characters. What’s not to like? Oh, an intriguing mystery, too. Although I had guessed the details before they were revealed, haha.

  6. This is a genre I haven’t read hardly at all since I’m not usually a mystery reader, but you’re convincing me to give it a try! I think strong characterization is a key factor and would keep me coming back book after book. Just like the Inspector Ganache series!

  7. I was SO glad to see Maisie at the top of the list! Two other series to add: the series with Daisy Dalrymple (I adore that name!) by Carola Dunn are set in 1920s England, and are a pure delight—the first one is Death at Wentwater Court; and the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. I think you would especially love Mrs. Pollifax: a white-haired gardening widow gets bored with life and decides to join the CIA. I don’t know if you can call them historical, per se, but we’ll worth your time! Start with The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. ☺️

    • Louise says:

      If you likes Carola Dunn and Mrs. Pollifax, you might enjoy Dunn’s Cornish Mysteries series. It’s set around the 1960s in Cornwall, and the protagonist is an elderly widow who accidentally stumbles into mysteries and then can’t get out of them because she gets too invested in the people’s lives. There’s only four so far, but they’re delightful.

    • Terry says:

      The Mrs. Pollifax series was the first female detective series I read . . . back in 1975. I read while I rode the bus every day to the university where I got my master’s degree. Reading Mrs. Pollifax was the only fun I allowed myself throughout my graduate school program (no movies, no TV, no dates) . . . just school and work to pay for school. To say I am extremely fond of Emily Pollifax is to put it mildly! And I just re-read the entire series last spring. They have dated a bit, but I still just love the series!

  8. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    Have you missed Emily Organ the Penny Green mysteriet, AnnePerry’s series, also , there is also M Louisa Locke the Victorian ones and many more

  9. Sharon Barker says:

    I want to recommend the Miss Zukas series by Jo Dereske. A wonderful librarian and her best friend and all sorts of mystery and adventures!

  10. Megan Z. says:

    The Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn is another one that I didn’t see listed. I tried to get into the other series by her but did not enjoy it as much as the Grey series.

    • Terri says:

      I agree! I loved The Lady Julia series the best! I also agree with Mary Russell series mentioned above. I love this list – it is my favorite genre. I would add the Nell Sweeney series by P.B. Ryan set in Boston after the Civil War. The first book is Still Life with Murder.

  11. Gini says:

    I love these lists and wonder if you’d be willing to create a link to a printable list form (maybe with boxes to check) that would be easy to take to the library. I have no idea how difficult that might be, so just a thought. Thanks for all you do!

  12. Karrie Hinch Blanchard says:

    I have enjoyed many of these and may I recommend the Ginger Gold mysteries by Lee Strauss. I would say they are the funnest new historical mysteries I have read and several of them are free on Kindle unlimited.

  13. Rada says:

    I love the Agency series, so good. I have some of these recommendations on my TBR but I always need more! another novel I enjoyed was Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterhwait. The famous/infamous Lizzie Borden helps her next door neighbor solve a murder.

  14. Beth says:

    So thrilled to see Deanna Raybourn and Sherry Thomas on your list. Two of my favorites. Recently discovered another (new!), excellent writer of Historical Mystery – Georgina Clarke. Her heroine, Lizzie Hardwicke, is delightful.

  15. Anne, You didn’t mention Anne Perry and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. Okay, technically it’s a husband and wife who work together, but Charlotte has all the characteristics that you mentioned above. Thomas, nor anyone else can keep Charlotte from getting involved in Thomas’ investigations. I haven’t read all of the books in the series but they are fun reads.

  16. Monica Deakin says:

    Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series with main character – Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 34th in line for the throne – is a lot of fun, too!

  17. Dianne Frothingham says:

    Don’t see how The Paragon Hotel by Lindsay Faye could absent on this lip-smacking list. History (in this case “back east” and PNW) and reading in story form what was left out of our history textbooks is a rewarding cup of tea. We shall be examining it in detail at our next Book Club dinner.
    Many thanks for all your reading research!

  18. Becky says:

    Another to add to the list is Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. I’ve never read anyone feistier. Set in late 1800s, early 1900 Egypt, she is a forward thinking archaeologist who seems to encounter a “dead body every season. Not a dark read for those who are wary of mysteries, such as myself.

    • Rondi Aastrup says:

      Susan Wittig Albert’s books that she co-wrote with her husband under the pseudonym of Robin Paige is a great Victorian mystery series of 9 books that often features real people and real events. An American author moves to Victorian Dedham, England, and meets Sir Charles Sheridan, a landed peer and amateur scientist. Mystery, murder, and marriage ensues in this delightful historical cozy mystery series.

    • Dana says:

      I agree completely – I love the Amelia Peabody books. Great cozy mysteries and they’re so entertaining. In the later ones Nefret is pretty feisty and independent too

    • Renee Meyer says:

      I was surprised that Amelia Peabody wasn’t on this list also, I think she flies under the radar because they are older books. This is one of my favorite genres, and Amelia is the BEST. And doesn’t mess with the will-they-won’t-they romance of some of these, which is the one draw back of the Veronica Speedwell books (which I adore.)

    • YES. This may be my favorite series ever. Also excellent on audio. The mysteries are fairly light, but the characters are so well developed if you stick with them through the series. I think I cried when the last book came out.

  19. Liz says:

    Wow this is a great list! Several I haven’t heard of that sound perfect. I also want to mention Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series starring Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie), 34th in line for the throne but penniless in early 1930s London. Just the right balance of mystery, strong heroine, and humor. And one more, the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig, kind of a wild ride of a takeoff from the Scarlet Pimpernel and generally more tongue in cheek than serious.

  20. Tabitha Schmidt says:

    The Lady Hardcastle series by T. E. Kinsey would also fit well in here. It features an unconventional aristocratic lady and her equally unconventional lady’s maid. They have retired from international espionage and stumble across mysteries in the English countryside.

  21. Clara says:

    I have always wondered why Maisie Dobbs isn’t mentioned more on this site or podcast, because I’ve always thought fans of Louise Penny would enjoy them. One of my favorite series!

  22. Heidi Benson says:

    I made sure to read through all the extra suggestions — for ideas and to avoid repetition 😉 — and can further add: Robin Paige’s Kathryn Ardleigh series (#1 “Death at Bishop’s Keep), T.E. Kinsey’s Lady Hardcastle mysteries (#1 “A Quiet Life in the Country”), Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series (#1 “Cocaine Blues”), and has anyone mentioned Miss Marple or Tommy & Tuppence? Agatha Christie’s books weren’t “historical” fifty years ago but they are now!

  23. Susan in TX says:

    Glad to see other readers brought up the Mary Russell series, but some of the most overlooked, fun reads that are especially suited for winter reading are the Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Barron – she does a masterful job with them. Start with Jane and the Unpleasantness of Scargrove Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery. Like many series, these need to be read in order and improve as you go. 🙂

  24. Libby Miner says:

    I want to read them all RIGHT now. I’ve read the first two of the Constance Kopp (Girl Waits with Gun) series. I won a copy of book two. Kinda light and fun like Flavia. (I’m just finishing book 7 or so “The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.”) I love Flavia. She can sit beside Anne of Green Gables, Ramona Quimby, and so many other girls of literature as spunky, fun, smart, and lovable!

  25. Jessica says:

    I internally squealed when I saw this list waiting for me in my inbox. I love this genre. Maisie Dobbs is a favorite and I’ve read the first Veronica Speedwell. I have a few of the others already on my too-big TBR, but it’s about to get bigger.

    A few that would also fit here:
    Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley – 1950s England
    Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood (still working my way through) -late 1920s Australia
    Maggie Hope Mystery series by Susan Elia MacNeal (just started it this year) – early 1940s England
    The Gower Steet Detective series by M.R.C. Kasasian (the detective, in this case, is a man, but the protagonist is his female sidekick/ward/Watson and it feels right to place it here; I’m stuck at Book 3 as I have yet to get my hands on it) – 1880s England
    Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by T E Kinsey (I haven’t yet decided if I like it enough to continue, but it may very well be the series for someone else) – late 1900s-early 1910s England

  26. Andrea says:

    I have always loved mysteries but still have missed out on a lot of these. I’m thinking of dedicating a good portion of next year’s reading solely to mysteries. As for a recommendation for a feisty lady not listed here, there’s Julie McElwain’s Kendra Donovon series. An FBI agent gone rogue lands in 1815 and starts solving mysteries. So it’s a great combination of time travel and historical fiction. The fourth book in the series just came out (Betrayal in Time).

  27. Becky Overholt says:

    One of my favorites is the Mary Russell series by Laurie R King. You mentioned Deana Raybourn’s Speedwell series but her older Lady Julia Grey series is fantastic too!

  28. Katrina Hunt says:

    Kerry greenwood’s Phryne Fisher is my favorite feisty female protagonist. Set in late 1920s Australia, cocaine Blues is the first of many novels featuring this sexy, witty and clever private detective.

  29. Tammy says:

    I loved Theodora Goss’ The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and her follow up book. It’s historical mystery with fantasy elements, but an enjoyable read.

  30. Heather Bill says:

    “The Agency” series is so exciting! This series is completely okay to share with your teens. That doesn’t happen often, and I wanted to let you all know that. I was thrilled to see Y.S Lee on the list.

  31. Louise says:

    For those who love Maisie Dobbs, have you tried the Kate Shackleton series? Very similar. In fact so similar that I sometimes get them muddled – I’ve read all the books in both series.

    And for those who love Phryne Fisher, have you seen the tv series? I think they do a wonderful job of bringing the books to life. And the costumes are exquisite!!

  32. Jackie says:

    I haven’t read this genre at all but what I love is that I just filled my TBR list (like Shawnna) with a lifetime full of awesome recommendations! Love this!

  33. AngD says:

    I love Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily. That’s been my favorite series since it started. I’ve also come to enjoy the Lady Darby series. It’s fantastic!!!

  34. Megan Clark says:

    This is probably my favorite list I’ve seen on your site (and I love your lists!). I love the Veronica Speedwell series and Girl Waits with Gun. I can’t wait to read all of these!

  35. Jennie Geiman says:

    The Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters bumped off Harry Potter as my favorite series when I was in middle school. I had started to get bored with middle grade and YA wasn’t really around yet so my mom thrust Crocodile in the Sandbank at me saying, “If Indiana Jones had witty, bossy aunt, Amelia would be it.” I have read that series so many times! Plus the author is an Egyptologist in real life!

  36. Marilyn says:

    I enjoy Rhys Bowen’s mysteries. I have read several of the Molly Murphy Mysteries and one Royal Princess Mystery. I like the Mrs. Jeffers Victorian Mysteries by Emily Blightwell, too.
    Marilyn

  37. Caryl Kane says:

    Hello Anne! I recently read and enjoyed the Maisie Dobbs series. I’m bookmarking this page! Thank you for compiling this amazing list.

  38. sue says:

    If you are looking for something a little bit older The Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin is fantastic! These books are set in Medieval England and feature Adelia Aguilar as the heroine. She is an Italian doctor sent to England to aid King Henry II in solving some unexplained murders. Unfortunately, to be a female practicing medicine at that time in England ran the risk of witchcraft accusations, so she must conceal her identity. Sadly the author died many years back so there are only 4 books in the series, but they are wonderful at immersing the reader in that period of time and highlighting the challenges and limitations that women faced.

  39. Wendee Rosborough says:

    This is a list I’m pretty excited about. I’ve been in the mood for a mystery that isn’t too dark or scary. These seem awesome hand have a historical draw too. I’m excited!

  40. Jenny Womack says:

    Deanna Raybourn has another series that fits well in this company, The Lady Julia Gray series (I’m listening to one now!) And I adore the Speedwell series. I’m a fan of several you’ve listed & now know I need to check out the others! My poor TBR is growing faster than Pinocchio’s nose!

  41. Glen says:

    Mercy me, And help. I just wrote a page full of series to look into and the list left out several series that I already read. Have pity, or mercy, or something. A check list we could print, with all theses series on it would be lovely, and so useful. At least I wrote theses down in pencil so they can be erased, on other pages of the reading journal I put printed out! I may have had a writer/series to add (especially Dana Stabenow’s series about Kate Shugak (not necessarily cozy, but definitely fitting in this list otherwise!) it at present I’m overwhelmed and have to order some book from the library!

  42. Diane C. says:

    I loved The Hannah Trevor trilogy by Margaret Lawrence. They are set just after the American Revolution in a small town in Maine. Hannah Trevor is a midwife with an illegitimate daughter who solves mysteries. These are by no means cozy mysteries – they are deep and complex, just like all the characters, and the writing is beautiful and rich, though a little dense in parts. I think the books might be out of print- I had to get them through interlibrary loan, but they were definitely worth the wait.

  43. Donna says:

    I suggest the Amory Ames series by Ashley Weaver. The mysteries are investigated by a society lady who can’t help but be curious about everything she encounters, and her husband, a bit of a cad who would prefer to stay out of other’s business. Start at the beginning – my favorites were probably the first and third books. Number six just came out this month.

  44. Emily says:

    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is the first title I thought of when I read through your list. What an amazing book, even for those who don’t normally read YA. Highly prized book in our household.

  45. Deidre Burwell says:

    Dear Modern Mrs. Darcy,
    You make my world a happier place. Your book picks knock my socks off. When you suggest titles that I have loved I feel included in the MMD podcast. Three cheers to you and your staff.

    Deidre Burwell

  46. Erica says:

    Loved this list! I really enjoyed Jane Steele, A Curious Beginning, Girl Waits with Gun, And Only to Deceive. I’m would also highly recommend A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Diane Freemen. It was a funny, engaging mystery featuring an American widow in London who refuses to acquiesce to her in-laws who are trying to control her for her money. Reminds me a bit of Rayburn’s Lady Julia series (which I loved!) but it has the added advantage of giving the outsider’s perspective of Victorian England.

  47. Debbie says:

    I’m excited to find so many new-to-me series in this genre, one of my favorites! I’ll add that I really like Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, along with Molly Murphy; Susan Elia Macneil’s Maggie Hope series, Anna Lee Huber’s Verity Kent series, and Sara Rosett’s High Society Lady Detective series.

  48. Kim C says:

    Great list; I’ve found so many books to try! One series I haven’t seen mentioned is T.E. Kinsey’s Lady Hardcastle mysteries. Lady Hardcastle and her lady’s maid Armstrong worked together during the war (WWI, I think) and are very progressive – driving even when women don’t, and things like that. They’re both feisty and smart, and the books are quick reads. First one is A Quiet Life in the Country.

    For comparison, I also LOOOOOVE Flavia de Luce, who’s already been discussed in the comments. 🙂

  49. Terry says:

    Great list! I also love the “originals” of this genre – Miss Marple, Harriet Vane (Peter Wimsey series), and Mary Russell (Laurie King author), Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries (I was skeptical too, but they are very good) and I don’t think anyone mentioned Harriet Westerman from the Westerman/Crowther series by Imogen Robertson. Fun reads all!

  50. Kathy says:

    Thank you for this great list. So glad to see you included Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Series. Just finished the 7th,Murder on Lenox Hill and really enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading all in this series. Sarah Brandt and Detective Frank Malloy do not disappoint.

  51. Laura Wright says:

    I have many of these series in my library. I would add that I have been enjoying the Violet Carlyle series on my Kindle. I can hardly wait for each book to come out on Kindle Unlimited.

  52. Jess says:

    An older series, but still a fun protagonist is Amelia Peabody, written by Elizabeth Peters. Set in the archaeological heyday of Egypt, Amelia stubbornly pursues the male-dominated research field.

  53. Sara S. says:

    Thank you, thank you for this!! I fell in love with the Veronica Speedwell series and have been jonesing for other historical mysteries. I also love the Lady Hardcastle series by T.E. Kinsey so much as well! The interaction between the two main characters, Lady Hardcastle and her maid Flo, make me laugh often. And I love that they are a bit lighthearted. The audio is my favorite way to read it! I will definitely be checking these out while I wait for more Veronica Speedwell and Lady Hardcastle.

  54. Claudia Templer says:

    I love the Maisie Dobbs books! They are delightful in audio—my husband and I enjoy listening to them on our road trips!
    I just finished A Curious Beginning with the feisty Veronica Speedwell. So fun! Thank you Anne for a great list!

  55. P.J. Coldren says:

    How many years ago must a mystery be set to be considered historical? Larry Sweazey writes about an indexer set in the 1960’s – that’s history for a LOT of people.

    Is it possible to get just a list of these mysteries? I’d like to take it to my library so I can start working my way through/down the list. Thank you.

  56. AJ says:

    Thank you for this list! I have been searching for strong female protagonist mystery series so I pretty much added…all of them. Do you have the same type of love of modern mysteries? I’ve struck out with the last several ones I picked up.

    • Anne says:

      It means the sexy stuff happens on the page (that is, as if the bedroom door were open) instead of off the page (as in, the bedroom door is shut and you can’t see anything happening).

  57. Christine says:

    Amelia Peabody series
    Maggie Hope series
    Aunt Diminty series
    China Bayles series

    Laurie King’s books featuring Sherlock Holmes wife. ( I am completely drawing a blank on the protagonist name. )

  58. Edith says:

    I have read and loved many of the series listed in the post and in the comments. I would also suggest the Flavia Alba series by Lindsey Davis, set in the ancient Roman Empire. So much fun!

  59. Katie says:

    This has to be my favorite genre. Thanks for so many new recommendations! For audiobook fans, the Maisie Dobbs narrations are so fantastic that I only read them via Audible. But also Barbara Rosenblat’s narration of the Amelia Peabody series is my most favorite of all audiobooks. She really understands the wit, sarcasm, and personality of Amelia and I can’t even think of Emerson without hearing her voice! Be sure to check them out!

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