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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Medieval Mysteries

I love history and reading novels about a certain time period helps bring history to life.  And, if you as curious as I am, novels send you off to see what is true and what isn't about historical personages, events, politics, culture, etc.

Reading historical novels, especially historical mysteries, can be fun and educational.  Part of the fun is finding characters that you enjoy.

Some of the medieval mysteries I've enjoyed the most include:

Arianna Franklin's series about Adelia Aguilar

Cassandra Clark's Sister Hildegaard series

Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series

Michael Jecks' Knights Templar series (just finished two of this series)

Susan McDuffie (just finished A Mass for the Dead set in 13th c. Scotland)

Denise Domning's Season of the Raven (review in previous post)

Others I've read:

Ellis Peters' Caedfel series (I've read a few of these over the years)

Karen Maitland

Alys Clare

Jeri Westerson

Susannah Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew series

Some of the things I've learned:

In Domning's  Season of the Raven, the protagonist is a Keeper of the Pleas, a position established by the Articles of Eyre in 1194.  In Jecks' Knight Templar series, the protagonist is a Keeper of the Peace in the 1300's.  After researching both titles, it appears that over time, the responsibilities of the Keeper of the Pleas may have been split into the role of coroner and the role of a justice of the peace.  The requirements remained the same, however:  they had to be Knights, men of substance, and have an income of 20 pounds a year.  Domning weaves the qualifications seamlessly into the story.

I've also learned about murdrum, the origin of "hue and cry," the system of hundreds in terms of an inquest, and more.

What next?

I've downloaded a few more medieval mysteries to try by some different authors:  Wine of Violence by Priscilla Royal  and The King's Hounds by Martin Jensen.  Not that I'll be reading medieval mysteries exclusively, but it will be a reading itinerary for a while.

Do you have a favorite medieval mystery series?


  1. I haven't read many books about this period, and none of them were mysteries. You've given me a list to get started though! :)

  2. Becca - I hope you find one you like!

  3. I loved the first of the Adelia Aguilar series, but wasn't so keen on the later one's. Did you know that Franklin's daughter, Samantha Norman, has written a sequel to her mother's work that is due out later in the year?

  4. thinking in fragments - Yes, I agree the first one was by far the best of Aguilar's series. And no, I didn't know that her daughter was writing a book for the series. I will want to read it!

  5. I love historical mysteries but my favorites are those set around the 1800s. I have read a couple of these and have enjoyed them - especially the Brother Cadfael books. Thanks for this list. I should check out more of these!

  6. Oh and I totally forget to mention the Oliver Potszch series - the first one is The Hangman's Daughter. I love the atmosphere.

  7. Oh, another author to add to my list! I'm reading one by Priscilla Royal now, and I really like it.

  8. Thank you for this comprehensive list, Jenclair. I see a few authors' names I recognize, but none I have read. Making a note and adding to my wish list right now . . .

  9. I have to admit that I'm surprised at how many authors have chosen a medieval setting for their mysteries. I have a lot more authors to try!

  10. I love this genre and have to agree with another commenter that the Hangman's Daughter series is great, I look forward to each new book in the series.

  11. deborah - I've added The Hangman's Daughter to my list! Two people supporting the series is a good indication. Thanks!