Newest Crime (Historical) Reviews

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The Painted Queen: an Amelia Peabody Mystery by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess

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Amelia Peabody is a no-nonsense lady who endures all manner of murder attempts, kidnappings and sundry other crimes while on various archaeological digs in Egypt with equanimity and composure. She is either revered or feared (or both) by villains, museum curators, family and workmen alike for her caustic tongue and the steel-reinforced parasol she brandishes at the first sign of danger. And yet, once the evil-doers have been locked up, precious objects returned to their owners and all injuries bandaged, she still insists on all the decorum of the English abroad: formal dress for dinner and only the politest and least contentious topics for dinner-table conversation. Full review...

Operation Goodwood: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan

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In this, the fifth novel in the Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series, we have reached 1955. There is less emphasis on rationing now: time has moved on from the post-war privations we saw in our first encounter with Mirabelle and her warm, cheery companion Vesta in 1951, a time when tearing a stocking was a disaster of the first order. Various types of prejudice are still rife, however, and Sara Sheridan is a real expert at dropping in that small, lightly sketched detail which tells us we are still in a Britain overshadowed by the aftermath of conflict. A woman who walks alone into a bar will not be served; the British Empire is still front-page news, and the colour of a person's skin is still an almost insurmountable barrier to equality of opportunity. Full review...

She Be Damned by M J Tjia

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London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim. The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate. With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider whom she can trust, before the killer strikes again. Full review...

The Irregular: A Different Class of Spy by H B Lyle

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London 1909: Revolution is spreading throughout Russia and Europe. Meanwhile Britain, a land growing accustomed to peace, is becoming a magnet for spies and disruption. Vernon Kell, Head of War Office Counter-Intelligence, knows that the country's equilibrium depends on the discovery and disposal of the growing number of foreign spy networks. Unfortunately his masters in government can't see what he can and Kell's own agents are being killed off too fast for him to collect evidence. That's when he meets Wiggins. This is a man with a superlative background: trained by Sherlock Holmes and, years back, a star of Holmes' child Irregulars. Now Kell is getting somewhere… Let battle commence! Full review...

An Unlikely Agent by Jane Menczer

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London, 1905. Margaret Trant lives with her ailing, irascible mother in a dreary boarding house in St John's Wood. The pair have fallen on hard times, with only Margaret's meagre salary from a ramshackle import-export company keeping them afloat.When a stranger on the tram hands her a newspaper open at the recruitment page, Margaret spots an advertisement that promises to 'open new horizons beyond your wildest dreams!'. After a gruelling interview, she finds herself in a new position as a secretary in a dingy backstreet shop.But all is not as it seems; she is in fact working for a highly secret branch of the intelligence service, Bureau 8, whose mission is to track down and neutralise a ruthless band of anarchists known as the Scorpions.Margaret's guilty love of detective fiction scarcely prepares her for the reality of true criminality, and her journey of self-discovery forms the heart of this remarkable novel, as she discovers in herself resourcefulness, courage, independence and the first stirrings of love. Full review...

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson

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Agatha Christie wrote some tantalising crime thrillers back in her day, and here Andrew Wilson makes her a victim to a plot not unlike one of her own. It's all about the mystery, and it really drives the story forward. Agatha is ambushed by a strange man at the train station; she is given a proposition that confuses her and secretly intrigues her. Indeed, for this man wants her to commit a murder. Full review...

Continental Crimes by Martin Edwards (editor)

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It's not clear whether the short story has gone out of fashion, relegated to the pages of certain types of women's magazines, or whether the magazines in which the format still holds its own are themselves not as high-profile as once they might have been. Perhaps they never were, perhaps we only know about them in retrospect. Whatever the truth of that it would seem that the golden age of the short story, coincided delightfully with the golden age of crime. Full review...

Prussian Blue: Bernie Gunther Thriller 12 by Philip Kerr

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Bernie Gunther is not your typical hero. In 1939, he was stationed in Berlin as a police officer handling murder cases and occasionally doing work for some high-ranking Nazis. Although never a Nazi party member himself (he was a known member of the Social Democratic Party), he understood that the best thing he could do for himself at that time was to make himself indispensable to men like Reinhard Heydrich and Martin Bormann. So when he is assigned to solve a murder that has occurred at Hitler's Berghof in the Bavarian mountains, he knows that he needs to do it quickly and discreetly – not just for justice's sake, but for his own. He is given exactly one week to apprehend the suspect, and he hopes that with the help of his friend Friedrich Korsch, an investigator with the Krimialpolizei (or Kripo, for short) he just might get lucky. Full review...

None So Blind by Alis Hawkins

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When a body is accidentally uncovered nearby in 1850, Harry Probert-Lloyd the London barrister has recently returned to his father's house in West Wales due to deteriorating sight. That means Harry is on hand to press for justice, since he knows whose remains they must be. Unfortunately he's up against a few formidable opponents from the past, not least the Rebecca rioters, members of an illegal group from a few years earlier, and officially it looks like justice might not be on the cards. With the assistance of a local clerk, John Davies, Harry takes up the investigation himself, but it seems like both of them know more than they are willing to admit. Will the outcome be worth stirring up all those secrets for? Full review...

The Age of Olympus (Duncan Forrester Mystery 2) by Gavin Scott

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Whilst part of an SOE mission to kidnap a German commander in Greece during the war, Duncan Forrester came across an ancient Cretan stone, which he hoped could lead to the deciphering of Linear B. The war is now officially over (although a lot of people are still fighting it, mentally if not physically) and Forrester has returned to Athens with his lover, Sophie Amfeldt-Laurvig, intent on getting the necessary permissions to go to Crete and retrieve the stone. It was whilst they were in Athens that Forrester was the unwitting witness to the poisoning of a Greek poet and where he found himself pursued by a man wearing a mask. Strange as all this might seem, Forrester is convinced that the poet was not the intended victim: it should have been a general who has been approached to lead ELAS, the military arm of the Greek communists. He's the sort of charismatic man who could sway a lot of people to follow him adn that would mean certain war. Full review...

A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy

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Psychologist Alan Kennedy's fifth novel continues the story he began with Lucy by Alan Kennedy. In the autumn of 1942, Captain Alex Vere and Justine Perry are among the men and women picked up and taken to a stately home in Scotland, where they are trained in spy skills. After this first encounter, Alex is smitten yet uncertain if he will ever see Justine again. The spy's life is dangerous and unpredictable, after all. Six weeks later, though, they meet up again in southwest France, where they have been sent to collect Simone, a Special Operations Executive agent. It's Alex's first mission (Justine's fourth) and all goes horribly awry. Alex ends up in custody at the Gendarmerie, facing a German who knows he has a false passport. Full review...

The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh

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Prudence Pinsent flings her novel across the room. Unutterable bilge is her description of the typical country house murder mystery of romantic novels. The deliberate irony of this is that The Incredible Crime is precisely one such novel. Full review...

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

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Bristol 1792: Lizzie married well. John Diner Tredevant is a property developer who has reached the zenith of his life's work: building a terrace of prestigious houses overlooking the Avon Gorge. In a time of turbulence as France reaches the dawn of revolution, Britain, including Diner, fears it may spread. This puts Lizzie in a difficult position since her mother and step-father both believe in propagating pamphlets and ideas of egalitarianism for and to all, including women. In other words, they think nothing of spreading ideas of the sort that fanned the French flames. However, that's not Lizzie's only problem… there is a darkness in her husband's past of which she's unaware. Full review...

The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis

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Lindsey Davis is one clever lady. Having enthralled readers for years with the adventures of Marcus Didius Falco, the Ancient Roman informer (or, to put it in more modern terms, private eye) she sustains our interest by allowing Falco to take a well-deserved and politically strategic retirement while his adopted daughter Albia takes over the family business. Her wit is dry as dust, she has a highly desirable (well, he's called Manlius: what else could he be?) love-interest and as a Briton, her take on Roman bureaucracy and pettifogging officialdom is just as sharp and funny as her cynical dad's ever was. A new main character, a new way of doing things, which somehow manages to retain all the best elements of the original Falco. Genius. Full review...

Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne and Sam Taylor (translator)

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Sergeant Bowman wasn't just a hard man, he was something else: a dangerous man. If, indeed, there was someone who was ideal for a suicide mission, it was him. Working as a soldier for the East India Company in the rural, remote, outlaw hotbeds of Asia in the 1850s, he's tasked with taking a boat of unknown prospects up the Irrawaddy to try and combat local warlord Pagan Min. It doesn't go well – to start with, he's supposed to run the rule over ruffians saved from the gallows, but can't command them until he's forced his way to having the knowledge of the mission he needs first, only for all hell to break loose. But get back he does, only to find that while his nightmares about what really happened are met with equally dark goings-on, the official record suggests the mission never actually existed… Full review...

Corpus by Rory Clements

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A suicidal overdose and the murder of upper class Cecil Langley and his wife are two events that may be unconnected. However this is England in 1936, a magnet for opposing forces and their first moves in preparation for the coming conflict, assisted or prevented by a royal crisis (depending on which side you're on). Cambridge history professor Tom Wilde may fall into the middle of this accidentally to begin with but his curiosity has been piqued enough to ensure he's not walking away. Full review...

The Mask of Command (Twilight of Empire) by Ian Ross

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Warning: spoilers ahead for previous books in the series. 305AD: Castus Aurelius, following the death of his predecessor, has been promoted to commander (or vir perfecctissiums) of the Roman forces at the Rhine. He's also been ordered to take Crispus, Constantine's son and heir, for the character-building experience. That complicates matters as when Castus isn't trying to keep Crispus alive, he's finding it difficult to increase his own chance of survival, especially considering how the last Rhine commander met his end. Full review...

Finisterre by Graham Hurley

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The Second World War is almost lost but in a last, desperate roll of the dice the German High command launch Operation Finisterre. In America the apparent suicide of a scientist working on the atom bomb and off the coast of Spain the shipwreck of a German submarine, become catalysts as the plans spiral out of control, leading to a shattering climax. 'Finisterre' is a crime thriller packed with grit, suspense and style. Full review...

1588: A Calendar of Crime (A Hew Cullan Mystery) by Shirley McKay

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A lot of crime happens in St Andrews during 1588 and therefore in the life of law lecturer and local investigator Hew Cullen too. As we travel through the year with him, his recently wedded English wife Frances, doctor brother in law Giles and his sister Meg, the wise woman, we also encounter some of his most interesting cases. In fact there's one to match each of the year's big festivals: Candlemas, Whitsun, Lammas, Martinmas and Yule. Full review...

The Knife Slipped by Erle Stanley Gardner

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Before we begin, I must confess. Confess that I am a hardboiled noir addict. Therefore, I approach each grisly tale of murder, private detectives and femme fatales with a sense of wonder but also scepticism. Surely, I think this one can't be as good as the last, it must have flaws, poor characters and lack the necessary grit to be a true hardboiled noir masterpiece? so you can imagine my trepidation when opening the Knife Slipped. I was wrong, wonderfully wrong. This book for me is the essence of the hardboiled noir genre and E.S. Gardner is a marvel. Full review...

An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney

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It was when Tully gained a step-mother that her education really started. That was the beginning of the road to discovery. The discovery that she can realise ghosts for others, that she can escape the cruelty of an alcoholic father and the discovery of the income and pleasure her body can generate. That, in turn, leads to the rather classy Fairy House brothel and, now, the condemned cell in Newgate Prison. As she awaits her fate, Tully writes her autobiography An Almond for a Parrot and allows us to read over her shoulder. Full review...

The Black Friar: Damian Seeker 2 by S G Maclean

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When a dead monk is discovered walled into a disused monastery the local gossip is awash with remarks on the miracle of his well-preserved body all these years after the monastery was abandoned. Investigator and Captain of Cromwell's guard Damian Seeker has other ideas. This is a recent non-clergy death. This is Carter Blyth, a man on such a secret mission that even Cromwell didn't know about it. This will add complications to the already convoluted and dangerous path that Seeker will take to solve the crime, one of the complications being very close to home. Full review...

The Devil's Feast by M J Carter

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London, the early 1840s: the newly-opened Reform Club is the focal point for the Liberal elite, where Whigs and Radicals can co-exist in harmony. Or such was the intention. With a celebrity chef in its up to the minute kitchen, however, the club seems to have more of a reputation for its dinners than its politics, and when a man dies horribly after eating one the Reform could have a problem on its hands. Particularly when it begins to look like murder. Luckily William Avery agrees to look into the matter with some urgency, but – as everyone keeps asking him – where on earth is his professional investigator friend Jeremiah Blake? Full review...

Associates of Sherlock Holmes by George Mann (Editor)

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The world-famous consulting detective Sherlock Holmes needs no introduction; a redoubtable protagonist with an appeal that shows no sign of waning. Associates of Sherlock Holmes, however, moves the spotlight away from our hero and focuses on the exploits of some of the minor players who have featured in his adventures over the years. Here we get a chance to reacquaint ourselves with friends and foes alike, all keen to give their own, unique perspective of the indomitable investigator. Full review...

The Graveyard of the Hesperides by Lindsey Davis

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Our heroine Albia's grey-eyed and broad-shouldered love interest in this, the fourth of the Falco New Generation crime novels (Falco himself has got on the wrong side of Emperor Domitian, and has very sensibly retired to the coast) is called Manlius – that alone should be enough to tell you reams about the wickedly sly sense of humour Ms Davis displays in her novels. The setting is once again Ancient Rome, and Ms Davis provides enough local colour to create a world so convincing you could almost be there. In fact, the descriptions are so vivid that, as you pull in your skirts or bewail the fate of your brand-new sandals to follow our gutsy heroine into picturesque slums like the Brown Toad bar or Mucky Mule Mews, you could be forgiven for suspecting you've wandered into somewhere far more familiar, like, say, the back streets of Brum. Full review...

Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

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Kate Shackleton felt that she needed a holiday and since it was August when nothing ever happened, she decided that it was the ideal time to visit her friend Alma and goddaughter Felicity in Whitby. The timing was good too - Mrs Sugden was going to visit her cousin in Scarborough and Jim Sykes was taking his family to Robin Hood's Bay. Perfect! Well, it would have been except for a couple of things... Full review...

Behold A Fair Woman by Francis Duncan

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Mordecai Tremaine is in need of a holiday. According to the blurb the island of Moulin d'Or seems to be just the destination – except the island isn't called that. Moulin d'Or is the district in the north west of the unnamed Channel Isle to which our hero has been invited by some friends of less than a year's standing: an unlikely start in itself. Full review...

Death's Bright Angel (Matthew Quinton’s Journals 6) by J D Davies

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Captain Sir Matthew Quinton of King Charles II's navy sets out for another day at work. He and his men are charged with helping to subdue the Dutch town of Westerschelling. It's only afterwards that the true consequences hit him, along with some other consequences that are and will be open to conjecture. For the year is 1666 and London is about to face a disaster that will be discussed and theorised over for centuries… Fire! Full review...

A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3) by Antonia Hodgson

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John Aislabie thinks that Thomas Hawkins has arrived at Aislabie's country mansion to investigate murder threats. That's part of it but Thomas' main reason is to carry out a command from Queen Caroline connected to the recent South Sea Bubble scandal. The command was phrased nicely enough, but the sinister intent was clear: Tom's failure or refusal means loss of Kitty, the person he loves most in the world. Those murder threats are a little concerning though… Full review...