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At some point, most people need someway to ‘escape’ the daily grind of real life. Many (including me) binge their favorite tv series or indulge in a weekend movie marathon. As a book lover I often find myself putting my phone in another room, curling up in my reading chair, and sitting down with a cozy book. As a serious ‘creature of habit’ I almost always pick up a Victorian mystery when I feel the need to escape my own 21st century life and enter into a complex mystery in another time and place.
My love affair with the Victorian mystery most likely began in a college literature class. We were required to read several of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes short stories and I simply adored the mystery short story and became absorbed into the 19th century London setting. I have since read all of the Sherlock Holmes short stories and have branched out into the Victorian mystery novel/series (including a number of mystery novels based in 19th century Scotland).
The 19th century saw the inception of modern forensics and criminal investigation, Scotland Yard was established, and detectives were being consulted to assist in solving particularly disturbing crimes. In most Victorian mystery novels, the police and detectives have to not only discover the ‘truth’ behind the mystery but they also encounter a wide variety of prejudices due to the well established social hierarchy which often hampers the detectives ability to get to the ‘truth.’ I find great satisfaction in the ‘little person’ triumphing over pointless social norms and bias in pursuit of a greater good. I also enjoy the cleverness of the detectives and the savvy way they get people to tell them more than they intend.
Ultimately, the Victorian mystery ticks a number of boxes for me…
- Transports me to a different (and interesting) time and place
- Provides a complex and intriguing mystery
- Ideally, includes interesting and quirky characters for me to love (or hate)
- Wraps up a story with a satisfying ending in one book
- If it’s a series, provides a satisfying ending while setting up the next book in the series
When it comes to ‘escapist reading’ everyone’s preferences are different, but most of us have that one kind of story that we keep coming back to because it ‘ticks our boxes.’ If you’re interested in delving into some Victorian mystery novels here are a few I would recommend:
- Sherlock Holmes Mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the short stories are fantastic!)
- The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell
- A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas (Lady Sherlock Mysteries Series)
- The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton (The Detective Lavender Mystery Series)
- The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club Series)
Read on my friends!