Historical Celebrity Sleuths?

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Historical Celebrity Sleuths?

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Ago 2, 2006, 9:52 am

I also wanted to ask everyone what they thought of the trend of taking a historical figure and making *them* the sleuth. You know the sort of mysteries I mean: "Jane Austen And The Gory Dispatch", "Samuel Johnson and The Scottish Atrocity", "The Richard III Mysteries", etc.

Have you come across any worth reading? They make me want to cringe at the sight of them, but I'd hate to miss out on something worthwhile...

Ago 2, 2006, 5:49 pm

I understand why you might cringe... I tried the Jane Austen books but didn't like them. However, I do enjoy Karen Harper's Elizabeth I mysteries -- but then I'm sort of a geek who reads anything (fiction or not) about ER I.

Haven't seen the Samuel Johnson or Richard III series though. I wonder if I'm missing out on something. *g*

Ago 2, 2006, 6:08 pm

OK, maybe I made up the Richard III mysteries :) You have to admit, though, the idea of Laurence Olivier in a bobbed black wig limping around on the trail of a killer would actually be kind of cool.

Karen Harper sounds worth reading - just read an interview where she says she follows Elizabeth's tracked movements and builds the history around those. I'm impressed! I'll give her a go and let you know how I found her - thanks!

Ago 2, 2006, 6:51 pm

Your image of Olivier/Richard III made me laugh.

With the Harper books, the first in the series is The Poyson Garden and it's helpful to read them in order as relationships develop, etc. Heck, if I still had a copy of it on my shelf, I'd offer it to you, but alas, it's gone overseas already.

Fiona Buckley also writes a series set in the court of Elizabeth I. In that series, however, ER I is not the main sleuth, but one of her ladies-in-waiting, Ursula Blanchard is. I enjoy this series as well and often waffle over which one I like better (Harper or Buckley).

I will be curious to see what you think of Harper's mysteries when you do try one out!

Ago 2, 2006, 7:18 pm

Oops, it looks like I should've posted my George Herman message in here instead.... His sleuth is Leonardo da Vinci. I find it works fairly well (and I have a history background) without my having to turn my brain off!

Ago 2, 2006, 8:27 pm

I've read Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries and enjoyed them for the most part, though I always read them with a grain of salt. I think the best written are early in the series and mimic Austen's style of writing very well. I'm attempting to write Regency at the moment and it's very difficult to come off without sounding campy. The last few in the series falter I think because Barron seemed to be faltering with "real" Jane verses the Jane she had invented.

Ago 2, 2006, 10:15 pm

I've read The Secrets of Life by Margaret Doody and I've got Aristotle Detective and Aristotle and Poetic Justice in my TBR pile.

Aristotle isn't really the detective, more an advisor to the real detective, our hero, Stephanos, a former pupil of Aristotle's who attempts to apply Aristote's teachings on logic to the crimes he comes across.

Ago 5, 2006, 8:19 am

I enjoyed Walter Satterthwaite's Wilde West in which Oscar Wilde is a suspect/sleuth during his trip to the U.S. West. Also Miss Lizzie where an elderly Lizzie Borden lends a hand solving a a crime.

Out 7, 2006, 3:32 pm

Isn't there a series starring Benjamin Franklin as a detective, or am I just dreaming?

Out 7, 2006, 7:47 pm

Hi, Waiting ~ I vaguely remember something like that, but it could just be that we are having the same dream. :)

Out 7, 2006, 7:52 pm

We weren't dreaming! I found one of the books in the series on Amazon.com ~ Benjamin Franklin and a Case of Christmas Murder (Great Mystery (University of Pennsylvania)) by Robert Lee Hall (Paperback - Sep 2001).

Editado: Mar 22, 2007, 2:05 pm

</font>A few more. 0

Mark Twain as detective:

+ Death on the Mississippi by Peter J. Heck

Louisa May Alcott as detective:

+ Louisa and the Missing Heiress by Anna Maclean

Beatrix Potter as detective:

+ The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

Beau Brummell as sleuth:

+ Death on a Silver Tray by Rosemary Stevens

I've read this series and it isn't too bad.


+ A Mystery of Errors by Simon Hawke

Elvis Presley (LOL):

+ Kill me Tender by Daniel M. Klein


+ Chaucer and the House of Fame by Philippa Morgan

Abr 9, 2007, 12:28 pm

Margaret Doody's "Aristotle Detective" uses the same idea as the Nero Wolfe stories do: Stephanos, the main character, does most of the actual legwork, while Aristotle is, like Nero Wolfe, the brain that actually solves the mystery. Although, unlike Wolfe, Aristotle does go and gets his hands dirty when it's necessary (e.g. in the graveyard scene).

Out 15, 2007, 4:58 am

I think there's also one with Alexander the Great...

Oh, there's Eleanor Roosevelt as sleuth in books by Eliott Roosevelt

Sir John Fielding in Bruce Alexander's books

I've read a few of these celeb sleuth books. The ones that are less serious work better (Rosemary Stevens's Brummell over Stephanie Barron's Austen, for instance), since the lives of many of these people are fairly well-documented and leave little room for such sleuthing. If it's more of an "alternate history/fantasy" type feel, I can better suspend my disbelief.

Some historical figures will be naturally more believable in an amateur sleuth role than others, of course. (But Jane Austen? In a period where women of her class were so limited in what they could do in society?)