If you’re like me, you’ve read every novel in Elizabeth Peters’ beyond-delightful Amelia Peabody mystery series about eight times over.
The wit! The adventure! The exotic locations, archaeological mysteries, and prolific corpses!
Egyptologist Barbara Mertz (who wrote under the name Elizabeth Peters) was kind enough to give us nineteen (and a bit) Amelia adventures before heading off to kibbutz with Osiris and company herself.
So what’s a voracious reader to do, once she’s reached the end of the list?
- Try out these other cozy mystery series that feature wonderful historical detail, varied and memorable secondary characters, and a brave, stubborn, brilliantly witty protagonist.
Not all of these are Victorian. None involve archaeology. This is largely because they aren’t the further adventures of Amelia, Emerson, Ramses and Nefret. (You may, however, stumble across the odd cat… though none so intimidating as the inimitable Bastet.)
What they will do is sweep you off to another time and place, ensnare you with page-turning suspense, and occasionally cause you to snort tea out your nose.
Enjoy. (Until we figure out how to clone departed authors.)
Vicky Bliss – Elizabeth Peters
Yes. She wrote other books. Vicky Bliss isn’t historical fiction – though as she started writing the series in the 1970s, they’re chock full of what now reads as charming period detail. But they are witty mysteries featuring a tough, self-deprecating sleuth, written in Peters’ inimitable style. Instead of Egyptology, you’ll find yourself absorbing all sorts of nifty pieces of art history, while Bliss stalks (or stumbles upon) murder and mayhem in a variety of exotic settings.
Once you’ve worked your way through those, you’ve also got librarian and aspiring romance novelist Jacqueline Kirby, and a whole pile of spooky supernatural thrillers written under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels.
But assuming you’ve already devoured all that, we’ll move on.
Start with: Borrower of the Night
Lady Julia Grey – Deanna Raybourn
Lady Julia Grey takes up sleuthing over the not-quite-dead-yet body of her husband. As a member of the notoriously eccentric March clan, Julia has rebelled by marrying someone dull and respectable, playing the part of an unremarkable society lady. (Don’t worry. That doesn’t last long.) Edward’s death quickly plunges her into a far more adventurous life, one intriguingly intertwined with that of brooding, mysterious private inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. Julia’s stories are witty enough to clear your sinuses, thanks in no small part to a veritable circus of brilliantly realized secondary characters.
Start with: Silent in the Grave
Her Royal Spyness – Rhys Bowen
Think Downton Abbey with more dead people and a much smaller clothing budget, and you’ll be on the track of Rhys Bowen’s hilarious cozy mystery series featuring sleuth Lady Georgiana Rannoch. Georgie is sister to the Duke of Rannoch and thirty-forth in line for the the throne, but she’s broke enough to be on the beans-and-toast diet, and can’t remedy the situation by getting a job without horrifying her royal relatives. In between avoiding marriage to repulsive European princes and figuring out how to make her own sandwiches, Georgie displays her talents for tracking down murderers, alongside the charming and elusive Darcy O’Mara.
Start with: Her Royal Spyness
Flavia de Luce – Alan Bradley
Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is a chemistry prodigy with a mania for poisons (and for wreaking very creative forms of revenge on her abominable older siblings. Poison ivy-infused lipstick, anyone?) When her quiet English village starts turning up the usual share of mysterious corpses, Flavia’s morbid delight is truly infectious. You’ll love joining her as she rattles about the countryside on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, irritating the local law enforcement and generally outsmarting all the adults in the room.
Start with: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Parasol Protectorate – Gail Carriger
So what if it only vaguely looks like Victorian London? Gail Carriger’s steampunk mystery-adventure series echoes so much of what you love about Amelia and Emerson, from the rampant wit to the breathtaking suspense. Alexia Tarabotti is a heroine cut from pleasingly familiar cloth: stubborn, clever, bold, and fiercely loyal. She also happens to be lacking a soul. A delightful tension evolves between her and the loud, gorgeous, opinionated werewolf Lord Maccon (also sound familiar?) as the pair banter their way through mysteries and conspiracies, with help from flamboyant vampires and cross-dressing inventors.
Start with: Soulless
Chasing a threat born in smoke.
Archivist Ellie Mallory holds the map to a city that shouldn’t exist… but she can’t find it without help from a man determined to uncover all her secrets. Can they stop a dangerous enemy from unleashing an ancient power?