Historical Fiction with All the Thrills

by Anne M

We are well into autumn and the days are getting shorter, the leaves are falling, and there is a crispness in the air. It is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. This fall, why not transport yourself to a different time and place with a historical thriller?

The devils of Cardona

Matthew Carr

FICTION Carr Matthew
Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

"In this gripping historical thriller set in sixteenth-century Spain, a Catholic priest is murdered by a mysterious Muslim avenger as the Inquisition continues to force Moriscos to live and worship as Christians. In March 1584, the priest of Belamar de la Sierra, a small town in Aragon near the French border, is murdered in his own church. Most of the town's inhabitants are Moriscos, former Muslims who converted to Catholicism. Anxious to avert a violent backlash on the eve of a royal visit, an adviser to King Philip II appoints local magistrate Bernardo de Mendoza to investigate. A soldier and humanist, Mendoza doesn't always live up to the moral standards expected of court officials, but he has a reputation for incorruptibility. From the beginning, Mendoza finds almost universal hatred for the priest. And it isn't long before he's drawn into a complex and dangerous world in which greed, fanaticism, and state policy overlap. And as the killings continue, Mendoza's investigation is overshadowed by the real prospect of an ethnic and religious civil war. By turns an involving historical thriller and a novel with parallels to our own time, The Devils of Cardona is an unexpected and compelling read"--

Anne M's picture

If you want history with a dose of mystery than Matthew Carr’s The Devils of Cardona is your book. Judge Licenciado ­Bernardo Mendoza is sent to the Aragon region of Spain to investigate the murder of a Catholic priest. However, this is 1584, the Inquisition is in full swing, and the suspect, known only as the Redeemer, is a supposed Moor calling for the end of Catholic rule. This is a delicate situation for the King of Spain as he doesn’t want a revolt. When Mendoza arrives at the scene, he soon learns that this murder is much more personal than the historical and religious conflicts being exploited. So who is this Redeemer, is he the murderer, and what does he really want? -Anne M

Night life

David C. Taylor

MYSTERY Taylor David

New York City in 1954. The Cold War is heating up. Senator Joe McCarthy is running a witch hunt for Communists in America. The newly formed CIA is fighting a turf battle with the FBI to see who will be the primary US intelligence agency. And the bodies of murdered young men are turning up in the city. Michael Cassidy has an unusual background for a New York cop. His father, a refugee from Eastern Europe, is a successful Broadway producer. His godfather is Frank Costello, a Mafia boss. Cassidy also has an unusual way of going about the business of being a cop--maybe that's why he threw a fellow officer out a third story window of the Cortland Hotel. Cassidy is assigned to the case of Alexander Ingram, a Broadway chorus dancer found tortured and dead in his apartment in Hell's Kitchen.

Anne M's picture

In the mood for something more reminiscent of noir? In David C. Taylor’s Night Life, NYPD detective Michael Cassidy finds a Broadway dancer dead in his apartment with evidence of torture. Cassidy takes this death as a warning; he is investigating a chain of murders that greatly interests the C.I.A. and not in a good way. This is the McCarthy era and Cassidy’s family has Russian connections. How does he continue with his investigation without risking everything he has? -Anne M

The gilded hour

Sara Donati

FICTION Donati Sara

The year is 1883, and in New York City, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie—both graduates of the Woman’s Medical School—treat the city’s most vulnerable, even if doing so puts everything they’ve striven for in jeopardy...

Anne M's picture

Sara Donati takes us to 19th century New York City where Anna and Sophie Savard are working as physicians treating the poor of the tenement houses. While vaccinating a group of Italian immigrant children, she learns that a couple of young boys went missing on their way to an orphanage. On top of that, a number of women have turned up dead in the tenements. Do the vanished children have anything to do with these murders? Does the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice play a role? Will Anna fall in love with the handsome Italian American detective? -Anne M

The little stranger

Sarah Waters

FICTION Waters, Sarah
Fiction, Horror

One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

Anne M's picture

A decaying English manor and a once prominent British family facing changing times equals the perfect set-up for a little bit of horror. Waters brings her exceptional writing and character building to this dark novel. I switched between listening to the audiobook and reading the print and there were genuinely times where I had to stop listening to this because I was frightened. If you like unreliable narrators, this is one to pick up. -Anne M

Burial rites : a novel

Hannah Kent

FICTION Kent Hannah
Historical Fiction

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard. . . . BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place --

Anne M's picture

Agnes Magnusdottir and Fridrik Sigurdsson were the last people executed in Iceland. It was January 12, 1830. They were both convicted of murdering Natan Ketilsson, a noted herbalist, healer, and farmer, stabbing him to death and setting his house on fire. In Burial Rites, Kent offers her interpretation of Agnes’ final months. Agnes awaits her execution housed with the family of District Officer Jon Jonsson, which understandably causes friction in the household. What I appreciate about the novel is that the murder isn’t the center of the narrative. Rather, Kent writes well about the building of a relationship and the development of trust and understanding between people who already have their minds made up about each other. This growth is stunted by the impending execution, which hangs over the situation like a sword of Damocles. Indeed, an axe is being fashioned. I also enjoyed how Kent used government documents and letters from officials on how to deal with the prisoners and the execution into the narrative. It’s a bleak novel—but it really can’t be anything else. -Anne M