Monday, 13 May 2013

History and Mystery

Last week I rhapsodised over Andrew Taylor's wonderful new novel The Scent of Death, and I'm tempted to place him at the head of the list of my favourite writers of historical mysteries, given that Peter Lovesey, whom I also admire greatly, has been focusing on contemporary crime for quite a few years now. There's no doubt that history-mysteries are hugely popular, and with good reason (and no, I don't mean just because forensics were easier for writers to deal with in the past!)

The History Press, as the name suggests, has a particular niche in this area, although they have sometimes branched out, for instance with the Murder Squad anthology Best Eaten Cold and other stories. They have recently published two books by fellow CWA members whom I've known for a number of years.

Joan Lock was once a police officer, and she is very strong on non-fiction. Her publications include two very interesting books dealing with aspects of the history of Scotland Yard. But Joan has also developed a distinct reputation as a novelist,and The History Press have been reprinting some titles which appeared a few years ago. The latest is Dead Born, which features her character Detective Sergeant Best. The focus of the story is on the grim subject of baby farming, One of the appealing features of this book is that it's short and very crisply written. Well worth a look.

Linda Stratmann is another novelist who first made her name with non-fiction. She wrote a fascinating book about chloroform, and a recent study of the Marquess of Queensbury won rave reviews. When it comes to novels, her series character is Frances Doughty, who makes her third appearance in A Case of Doubtful Death. As with Joan Lock's novel, the setting is Victorian London and the story concerns the death of a doctor and the disappearance of one of his staff. Again, the research that has gone into the story strikes me as dependable, but there is not an excess of it. I'm certainly hoping that The History Press, a small firm that does produce attractive books, will continue to produce entertaining and attractive novels as well as non-fiction.


Puzzle Doctor said...

What fascinates me about the genre is the wide range of styles that fit under the historical mystery umbrella - be they classic whodunit (Peter Tremayne), locked rooms (Paul Doherty), cozy (Victoria Thompson) or thriller (Ariana Franklin). My interests (as my blog shows very regularly) lies in the pre-Victorian era but I know that a lot of history-mystery buffs seem to draw a line there - just look at the nominees for any best historical mystery award, and the majority are Victorian or WWII novels - maybe these are the favoured genres with readers, but that doesn't mean they produce the best books. Certainly one list that I saw for a recent award clearly showed that the judges had not been near a small number of first rate historical mysteries published that year, given by the inclusion of one nominee.

Mild rant over. Andrew Taylor is an author that I keep meaning to get round to, so thanks for the reminder, Martin.

TracyK said...

Thanks for pointing this publisher out. I am checking it out for interesting books at this moment.

Coincidentally, I also found a US publisher by the same name. I don't think they have fiction (too bad) but some very interesting special interest history books.

Martin Edwards said...

Interesting cmmment, PD, thanks. I'm sure you will like Andreew's books.
Hi Tracy, I'm intrigued that there is a US publisher of the same name.