I’ve always been passionate about American history, especially the Revolution and founding of the United States. When I think of what immigrants endured just to travel to our shores, it gives me chills and waves of gratitude at the same time.
When I was about 13, the John Jakes Bicentennial Series was published, and I read every one of those books. I started to think of famous history book characters as real people then.
Fast forward to Hamilton the Musical, and suffice it to say, I lost count of how many times I watched it on the Disney Channel. The whole production was pure magic, but the character who captured my heart, mind, and imagination was Eliza Hamilton. I was compelled to find out more and write about her. To say that The Lace Widow: An Eliza Hamilton Mystery, is a passion project is an understatement.
Even though U.S. history is fascinating, mystery novels set in Early America are not the usual. Instead, historical mystery readers have many fabulous Victorian, 1920s, and World War II mysteries to choose from.
Here’s a list of my favorite mysteries set in Early America.
Hudson’s Kill: A Justice Flanagan Thriller by Paddy Hirsch. Set in 1803 New York City, this book blew my mind. Paddy Hirsch is an NPR journalist, and the man can tell a story. He takes the reader into an early New York City murder investigation and brings to life shadowy communities within the city. If you’ve ever wondered how they investigated crimes before the internet, phones, heck, even widespread electricity, you’ll be fascinated by this story, not to mention the well-crafted mystery.
The Turncoat’s Widow: A Revolutionary War Mystery, Book One by Mally Becker. This book is very different from Hudson’s Kill, but it’s just as good. It’s set in 1780, several years before, and the main character, Rebecca Parcell, is not an investigator. Like Eliza in my book, she’s an amateur sleuth and recently widowed, trying to make sense of the world as a widow. A widow’s life was precarious, especially one whose husband had secrets the government takes an interest in. The reader can’t help but love Rebecca as she navigates the mysteries she’s confronted with.
Donna Thorland’s Renegades of the Revolution series is categorized as historical romance, but it’s steeped in mystery – starting with the first one (which I loved), The Turncoat. I love how she portrayed the women of the American Revolution throughout this series–not as mere standbys, but more as active participants. She focuses on different historical women throughout the series, with famous characters sprinkled throughout. Mystery readers would appreciate the spy factor and intrigue woven throughout this very well-written series.
Sup with the Devil (An Abigail Adams Mystery) by the much beloved Barbara Hamilton. All of the mysteries in this three-book series were well-crafted and well-written, of course, though I think Sup with the Devil was my favorite. I mean there’s a bit of a pirate treasure theme in it and what’s not to love? Besides, Abigail Adams was a woman of agency and, by all accounts, was well-respected and admired. Readers can easily immerse themselves in the drama of the American Revolution in this series.
Any of these well-crafted mysteries will not just give you a taste of life in Early America, they will satisfy your mystery-loving hearts.