Historical Fiction Mysteries

Well, the sick husband passed the cold along to me so I’ve spent a lot of time in bed for the past 72 hours.  I finished the Wyeth biography (really terrific read) and then puttered over the books to decide what to read next.  I found two mysteries that seemed like perfect sick bed reading: The Apostate’s Tale by Margaret Frazer and The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton, which features Abigail Adams.  I’ve finished the former and am half way through the latter.

Dame Frevisse is the sleuth in The Apostate’s Tale, the 18th book in the Sister Frevisse series.  She’s a nun at the priory of St. Frideswide.  The portrait of life in a 15th century priory was well drawn, and her characters were compelling.  She let us into the thoughts of both Dame Frevisse and the apostate nun who returns to the priory, dragging the outside world with her.  The side tale of a young woman considering becoming a nun is interesting in its portrait of life choices for women in that time.

The main problem I had with the book was that I had solved the mystery long before she did.  There was lots of internal questioning that seemed tedious and repetitive and you wondered that she hadn’t put it all together since the path seemed pretty clear.  But I’m willing to forgive that since the prose was good and I read these more the historical views rather than the mystery.

The Abigail Adams mystery is promising.  Whereas the Frevisse mystery did not refer to politics at all, this story is completely tied up in politics, set as it is in 1773 Massachusetts.  The Boston Tea Party looms on the horizon.  Both real and fictional characters include British army officers, Sons of Liberty, wealthy merchants and slaves.  Of course, Abigail is the sleuth and she manages to charm merchant and Army officer alike.  The author depicts daily life with careful detail and is particularly insightful about the relationships of owners and masters and their slaves and servants.

I have not had any luck figuring out the mystery.  There are lots of players and it can be a bit complicated with family connections.

Not sure what’s next after this one…I haven’t made much of a dent in the pile that I assembled in December.  John Adams still sits there.  Maybe that’s the natural follow up, a nice blending of my two latest themes: biographies and mysteries.  It’s just so imposing.  Similarly, I’m interested in the history of London that’s on the pile, but it just seems like too  much of a commitment.  I wonder if you tend to read shorter books in a year when you’re doing something like the 75-book challenge?  I do take that a bit into consideration.