Check out some of the new historical mysteries at the Field this month, which combine the intricate problem-solving of a good mystery with the rich details of a good historical novel.
If you read and enjoyed Girl Waits with Gun, Amy Stewart’s novel based on the real life exploits of one of the first female deputy sheriffs, then you will be delighted to hear that there’s a sequel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, which follows the continuing adventures of Constance Kopp as she breaks barriers for women crime fighters with the aid of her indomitable sisters, Norma and Fleurette. In this novel, Constance’s position is threatened by the appearance of a German-speaking con man in the period just prior to America’s entry into World War I, and so she springs into action, tracking him down through New York City as well as her native Bergen County, New Jersey, and once again dealing with crime, politics, sexist attitudes (though they wouldn’t have been called that at the time), the ambitions and intrigues of her sisters and the fascinating development of the relationship between Constance and the (married) county sheriff, Heath. For a vivid and fun look at a period often ignored in American history, you could hardly do better than to enter the company of Constance Kopp in this series.
Going back a little farther in time, and skipping across the ocean to Great Britain, let us introduce you to Laetitia Rodd, the protagonist of Kate Saunders’ new book, The Secrets of Wishtide. Laetitia is the 52 year old widow of an archdeacon, living fairly quietly in Hampstead with her landlady, Mrs. Benson (who boasts that at one time she rented to John Keats, the poet!). She’s also a highly discreet private investigator, getting her cases from her barrister brother in nearby Highgate and solving them with a mixture of her native intelligence, highly honed discretion and her perfect cover as a grieving widow. When her brother asks her to look into the matter of the son of a highly respected family with an inappropriate love interest, Laetitia goes undercover as a governess for the family, and is soon indispensable to them. The mystery deepens as she begins to see more and more of the family’s lives and secrets, and she realizes this family has more to hide than most people, and what looked like a simple case becomes anything but. If you enjoy reading about the Victorian world and getting a good look at what it was like to be a woman in that era, you’ll get a kick out of Laetitia and look forward to upcoming books in this series.
Sometimes a historical mystery can shed light on present day issues and problems, and Thomas Mullen’s Darktown is one of those mysteries. It’s a police procedural set in the city of Atlanta in the post WWII, pre-Civil Rights era, when a white police department is forced by pressure from above to hire black officers. But, the time and place being what they are, these black officers are in no way treated like their white colleagues: they can’t drive squad cars, they can’t enter the station through the front door, they can’t make an arrest unless there is a white officer with them. Trying to do a good job as a police officer under these circumstances is extremely difficult, and when a black woman is beaten to death after having been last seen in a car with a white Atlanta police officer, two black officers from very different backgrounds risk everything they’ve built of their lives to investigate and solve her murder.