Your Next Great Read

Okay, I think I may have stolen that title from somewhere, but I can’t think where. Don’t report me, please… 

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon. Naturally, my inclination is to curl up with a terrific book. 

I don’t have one I’m currently reading, but I’m happy to share some of my favourite titles with you. So here goes.

In no particular order:

  • A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein. Christopher (Kit) Marlowe spies on behalf of the Crown and puts himself in peril…
  • Corrag by Susan Fletcher. The Glencoe Massacre told from the perspective of a young female outcast.
  • Blindspot by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore. A young woman disguises herself as a boy to become a portraitist’s apprentice.
  • The Devil in the Marshalsea  by Antonia Hodgson. A callow lad finds drinking, gambling, and women far more interesting than his studies in Divinity and ends up in the notorious Marshalsea Prison.
  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade  by Diana Gabaldon. I personally find Lord John to be one of Gabaldon’s most interesting characters. In 1758, a forbidden love affair goes dangerously awry.
  • The Drowned City by K.J. Maitland. In the reign of James I, a street magician accused of witchcraft is freed from Newgate Prison on the condition that he spy for the Secretary of State.
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. Sea adventures in the Royal Navy in the time of Nelson. The first in a series of twenty-one books about Captain Jack Aubrey.
  • Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. A handsome stranger with a secret enchants eighteenth-century Manhattan.
  • Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. An extramarital affair is haunted by both a mystery and a ghost, as a researcher at Cambridge attempts to finish a scholarly work about Sir Isaac Newton’s student career.
  • A Cruel Necessity by L.C. Tyler. In the era of the Commonwealth, a naive new university graduate gets tangled up in espionage for Cromwell’s government.
  • What Remains of Heaven by C.S. Harris. Regency London. A politically progressive viscount solves murders whilst attempting to solve the mystery of his own parentage. One of eighteen books in the series about Sebastian St Cyr. 
  • Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers. In Victorian London, what happened to Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s wife? Sort of… historical horror fiction.
  • The Bones of Avalon and The Heresy of Dr Dee by Phil Rickman. On the Anglo-Welsh border early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, ancient mystical aspects of the land are as much an actor as the characters. Dr John Dee is sent to find the bones of King Arthur for the queen.
  • A Test of Wills  by Charles Todd. A Scotland Yard inspector returns from The Great War shell-shocked, with the voice of a dead man in his head. The first of twenty-four titles featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge and Hamish MacLeod.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. The first of three excellent historical novels about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII’s England. (Hint: whenever the author writes ‘he’ or ‘him’, she is always referring to Thomas Cromwell.)
  • The Quick by Lauren Owen. A heartbreaking novel about vampires, of all things.
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt. Victorian England. A haunting, poetic, forbidden love-affair.
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier. A gothic novel set in early nineteenth century Cornwall. Think Wuthering Heights with murderous smugglers.
  • The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter.  In British-occupied India, a young army officer gets teamed up with a former colonial officer ‘gone native’ for a trek into the interior. 
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  Letters from Dracula, conveying how he wants to be recorded by history. I loaned this book to someone and never got it back (that in itself is a testament, I suppose–they found it good enough to keep). In my memory, the style is consistent with Bram Stoker’s…
  • Dissolution by C.J. Sansom.  Lawyer Matthew Shardlake must navigate Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries amidst murderous machinations. The first of five or six books about Lawyer Shardlake.
  • Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz.  The conflict between Sherlock Holmes and his arch-nemesis Moriarty continues…
  • The Bedlam Detective  by Stephen Gallagher.  A man must take a highly disagreeable job to keep his body, soul, and family together.
  • Tamsin  by Peter S. Beagle.  The fate of a young girl during the Bloody Assizes in the wake of the failed Monmouth rebellion. I think this is technically YA fiction, but adults will enjoy it. I loved it.
  • Long Lankin and The Mark of Cain by Lindsey Barraclough. Two adolescent  boys on summer holidays uncover a mystery and an historic injustice, further developed in The Mark of Cain. Again, YA fiction, but I was enchanted by the young protagonists. (The story’s good, too.)
  • Keeper of Pleas by A. Wendeberg. A coroner is bemused to find himself working with a prostitute to catch a serial murderer of infants. 
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell  by Susanna Clark. In Victorian England, two magicians battle one another to keep English magic alive.
  • The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. The last days of English innocence before the Great War. Heart-wrenching.
  • Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. A female forensic scientist in twelfth-century England must solve a series of murders.
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. The Black Death comes to England  in the seventeenth century. Devastating and beautiful at the same time.

Practically anything by Kate Morton. I don’t think I have ever read a book by Kate Morton that disappointed me.

There. If you can’t find a title that interests you in all that, then you have probably read more than I… and now, with what is left of the afternoon, I may just re-read one of these myself! 


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