21 March 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-11: Historical Fiction

This week's Weekly Geek Challenge relates to historical fiction and to a period that I love. And of course in my case, it will relate also to crime fiction.

Here is the challenge:
Let's take a magical history tour this week, with a focus on Historical Fiction. That is, contemporary novels with a historical setting. {I've now selected from the choices}

Is there a particular era that you love reading about? Tell us about it--give us a book list, if you'd like. Include pictures or some fun facts from that time period, maybe link to a website that focuses on that time. Educate us.

This challenge has come at a very opportune time in my reading. One of the periods that I seem to read a lot of fiction set in is the decade or so immediately after World War One, i.e. 1919-1932, and particularly, although not exclusively British crime fiction.

Here are a few titles to think about. The links are to reviews I've recently written, but I'll also give a short summary here.

TOUCHSTONE by Laurie R. King
The main story is set against the impending General Strike of 1926, a time when many are hoping for the collapse of the British government, and some sort of Revolution. For many of the characters the agenda is one of high political ideals, of a possible role for themselves in a new order. For Harris Stuyvesant though the agenda is personal. It is also a story of manipulation, but it wasn't until the last 20 or so pages that I thought I knew what was going to happen, and the identity of the bomber.

, Rhys Bowen
Georgie, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, related to the king of England through his grandmother Queen Victoria, is 34th in line to the English throne. Georgie is the product of her father's second marriage to a "bolter", and at 21 is living in Castle Rannoch with no real income and no prospects.
She determines to take charge of her own future when she overhears a conversation between her half brother Binky and his wife Fig about the Queen's intentions to use Georgie as marriage bait for a visiting Romanian Royal. Georgie decides to make her escape to Rannoch House in London despite the fact that she will have no maid or other help in the house with her. Queen Mary hears that she has come to London and commissions Georgie to be her eyes and ears in the Prince of Wales' escalating affair with an American woman.
The sequel is A ROYAL PAIN
These are pretty light and frothy reads, with a backing of genuine research.

And of course, my current project, the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, allows me to wallow in the historical setting of the 1920s. Agatha Christie was such a good observer of what is happening to the society in which she lives.

Here are some other books to think about:

MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE by Kerry Greenwood. My rating 4.6
A Phryne Fisher Mystery read by Julia Davis. At the end of World War 1 in Paris, Bert, Cec and 5 other Australian soldiers witness a murder when a man is pushed under a Paris train. Now, in Australia in 1928, two are very recently dead and Bert and Cec believe they are being targetted. Phryne was in Paris in 1918 and remembers the train incident. It also brings back memories of the man she was infatuated with then. Now she learns that he has recently arrived in Melbourne.

THE SHIFTING FOG (aka THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON) by Kate Morton. My rating 4.7
Set mainly during World War I and immediately after it. Six months before the war starts young Grace Bradley, 14, takes up a position as a housemaid at Riverton Manor. Eighty four years on, she is contacted by a young female filmmaker who is making a romance film about the death of Robbie Harrison, a young poet, who suicided at the house during a mid summer's eve party in 1924. Many will argue this is not a murder mystery, but you'll have to decide for yourself.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
This novel is set some time after the first in the Maisie Dobbs series. Maisie is now an established detective with rooms of her own and an assistant. It's now the early Spring of 1930. Her friend Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad is investigating a murder case in Coulsden, while Maisie has been summoned to Dulwich to find a runaway heiress. The woman is the daughter of Joseph Waite, a wealthy self-made man who has lavished her with privilege but kept her in a gilded cage. His domineering ways have driven her off before, and now she's bolted again. Waite's instructions are to find his daughter and bring her home. When Maisie looks into the disappearance she finds a chilling link to Stratton's murder case, and to the terrible legacy of The Great War.

PARDONABLE LIES by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs to confirm that his son, an aviator in the Great War, did actually die when his plane crashed in France. It was something his wife never accepted and it was a torment that drove her mad. Lawton believes his son is dead and is expecting Maisie to confirm just that. Maisie was in France during the War herself as a nurse and it is where her friend Simon was wounded and brain-damaged, so going back to France is no easy thing for Maisie. She takes on an extra mission - to find out for her friend Priscilla Evernden what happened to one of her three brothers who were also killed there. I would call this book a comfortable, rather old-fashioned read, which are the qualities that I liked in the first book in the series, and which led others to dislike the book.


Bernadette said...

The Aussies are getting in early with this week's challenge Kerrie. I'm going to look for the Rhys Bowen books among my mum's collection because I am sure she's mentioned those before. Cheers.

Kerrie said...

these two are very recent. perhaps she reads the Molly Murphy mysteries or the Constable Evans ones.

claire said...

I've been hearing a lot about Laurie King lately. She was unfamiliar to me until last month. I should check her out and see what I'm missing.. Btw, I may not read much crime fiction (if at all), but I really love your Weekly Geek posts. Have a happy week!

Louise said...

What an excellent post and highly interesting as well.

I haven't read much historical fiction for ages (or "older" mysteries for that matter) and right now I cannot think of any period that I particularly like to read. I am pretty contemporary these years I think. I used to adore reading stories (also mysteries) set in Medieval England, and if I can find the hours to write it, I may do a Weekly Geeks post about that.

Anonymous said...

Our chosen time periods overlap! I've got Maisie Dobbs on my list, too.

Ali said...

You're such a great resource for mysteries, Kerrie! I don't end up reading many so I always look forward to what you're going to say. (I almost focused this WG on mysteries, btw--maybe the next one I do). Thanks for sharing these!

pussreboots said...

Touchstone sounds interesting. My post is here.

Maree said...

Great list. I haven't read any Maisie Dobbs, but I keep seeing the books at the library.

marineko said...

I don't really read mystery books (like them less than historical), but there are a few that I've loved, and more that I'd like to try! My dad is a big fan of mysteries and detective stories, so I have been thinking about reading some of his Agatha Christies or Alexander McCall Smiths (the latter not really big on the mystery part, but my dad loves McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency series).

Gavin said...

Fun post, Kerrie. There are three I am adding to my list right now. The list is getting ridiculous!

sally906 said...

I've just finished Deanna Raybourn's second historical mystery - SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY. I have her 3rd on order. The first book was SILENT IN THE GRAVE - a very good series

Marg said...

I am just about up to Murder in Montparnasse. It sounds good!

I love HF, and so this is a must do Weekly Geeks for me! Only problem is narrowing down which period to do!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love historical detective novels myself. If I'm not reading Ancient Rome ones, I usually go to Christie or D.L. Sayers. I must have a look at your recommendations.

susan said...

An in-depth post. If someone asks me for a recommendation for these kinds of books, I now know where to come. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Great post... sounds like lots of good reads in there. I'll have to make some notes! :)

Sherrie said...

Great post. Lots of good books to read. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!!



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