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The Historical Mystery

In previous posts, this blog has featured various subgenres of the mystery genre, such as the psychological thriller, the noir, and the cozy. Another is the historical mystery, which combines historical and mystery fiction in a distinct subgenre. These works are set in a time period at least 50 years before the time of the author.

Although this subgenre has existed since at least the early 20th century, Agatha Christie’s Death Comes as the End published in 1944 was the first full-length historical mystery. Most, however, credit Ellis Peters's Cadfael Chronicles (1977–1994) for popularizing the subgenre. In 2010, Publishers Weekly, an American weekly trade magazine targeting publishers, librarians, booksellers, and literary agents, wrote: “The past decade has seen an explosion in both quantity and quality [of the historical mystery]. Never before have so many historical mysteries been published by so many gifted writers. And never before have they covered such a wide range of times and places."

If you haven’t yet read a historical mystery, or at least read one lately, let me recommend a Miriam bat Isaac mystery. The stories are set in first-century CE Roman-occupied Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria was then the cultural crossroads of the Middle East: a Greek city administered by the Romans but influenced by Eastern mysticism and Egyptian technology. Come experience its splendid streets and sinister allies. To choose one, just click here.


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