historical fiction

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The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris

In 1780s London Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a native of Philadelpia, has been studying anatomy for seven years and is gaining a reputation for himself as a skilled and dedicated anatomist.   Thomas would be more than willing to continue to pursue his studies purely to gain more knowledge of the human body but when Lady Lydia Farrell requests his aid in discovering whether her brother, Earl Crick, was poisoned he finds himself drawn out of his laboratory and into a court room.  Lady Farrell is desperate to find the truth as the local rumor mill has cast her husband as the murderer.

A Sunless Sea by Anne Perry

The latest William Monk mystery follows the well established pattern of an early arrest but with lingering questions and a scramble for more information during trial.  With these books I find I'm not so much concerned with "whodunnit" as I am with the background history of the time period.  This story deals with early pharmacy reform and the the use, abuse and increasing addiction to opium in the 1860s.  I always enjoy Anne Perry's stories for their period detail.

Archive 17 by Sam Eastland

Our story starts with Russia on the verge of bankruptcy and Stalin looking for a way out of ruin.  In his desperation, Stalin sends Inspector Pekkala in search of Tsar Nicholas’ legendary missing gold.  Pekkala returns to Eastland’s pages for the third time in this adventure taking place in a fledgling Soviet Union.  Eastland is able to portray the friction and intrigue between the various factions playing for power in a young Russia.  Pekkala is a great character and Eastland an excellent storyteller.

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder.

Continuing and expanding on the adventure, steampunkery and general Victorian madness of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack Hodder’s protagonists Sir Francis Burton and his assistant poet Algernon Swinburne deal with catastrophic threats to "life as we know it". A seemingly routine robbery leads to a dubious claim on an aristocrat’s estate and quickly morphs into wraith-induced rioting in the streets of London.

Seance in Sepia by Michelle Black

Flynn Keirnan finds an odd 19th century photograph in a book bought at an estate sale.  She learns that it is a "spirit photograph" showing the victims and alleged murderer in the infamous Chicago "Free Love Murders" of 1875. The multilayered story is told in parallel tracks of the present day search for information and the events of 1875 as they unfold. Real life early feminist and advocate of Free Love, Victoria Woodhull, is called in to provide testimony for the accused, adding an interesting historical background to the story.

Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody

WWI widow Kate Shackleton has had some modest success locating missing soldiers in the years since the end of the war. Now an old friend from her days in the VAD has asked for her help.  Tabitha's father, the owner of a woolen mill, disappeared one day in 1916 and she refuses to believe he is dead and wants him at her upcoming wedding.  Kate uncovers much more than she, or Tabitha, ever bargained for in this mystery set amid the mills of England's Midlands.

Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith

Leo Demidov returns for Smith’s third installment about the ex-KGB officer.  This book picks up later in Demidov’s life, after he has left the service and is fighting the ghosts of his past.  Demidov’s wife and adoptive daughters have gone to New York as part of a Cold War good faith mission.  What happens in New York changes his life and those of his entire family.  Smith has created a great character in Demidov and I hope this isn’t his last mission.

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Can’t get enough Sherlock Holmes?  It seems that the famous inspector has made quite a comeback for himself.  The House of Silk offers the first Holmes novel to be authorized by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate in 125 years.  Narrated by Watson, this is an excellent Holmes story.  The mysteries and deductions abound.  Horowitz uses excellent pacing as the clues are slowly revealed.  I quite enjoyed this book and hope to see more from Horowitz (author of the Alex Rider books and Foyle’s War TV series). 

The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

Emily, Lady Polbrook is dead, strangled in her bed and her husband, Lord Randal Polbrook left the house in a tearing hurry in the small hours of the morning.  No one in the household believes the Marquis to be guilty but with the Bow Street Runners looking for him they need proof of his innocence. Mrs.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre

This first novel in LeCarre’s Karla Trilogy is definitely worth a read, especially as it is being remade into a movie later this year.  Set at the height of the Cold War, LeCarre’s hero, the British Secret Service Agent George Smiley, is forced out of retirement and placed in charge of finding the Soviet mole within the British ranks.  The excellent pacing and intrigue will keep you turning the pages until the mole is uncovered. 

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