Book Reviews · Reading

History + mystery + middle grade = my perfect book


It’s no secret that I’m a fan of history. My PhD research is deeply connected with the suffrage campaign and the late 19th/early 20th century. I think I’m probably happiest in the archives. I also think that this love for history was forged in the fictional books I read vociferously as a child.

For that reason, middle grade books set in a time other than other own is a irresistible draw for me. About a month ago, my friend Rachel posted a photo on instagram and recommended a series of books.

I was instantly intrigued. Mainly because a good mystery is one of my favourite elements in any book. So, I brought the first Flavia De Luce book, and fell in love. I’m now on book 4 (OH, how I LOVE good book series with loadsa instalments!) It reminded me just HOW good a historical mystery middle grade series can be, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites in this blog post.



I know I know, I have gushed about these books many a time, but GUYS–they’re so good! This series is set in an 1930s English boarding school, and follows Daisy and Hazel, two intrepid detectives who seem to always find themselves entangled in a murder.

These stories feel like home to me. They’re deftly crafted and feature a fab female friendship, and they also have throwbacks to those classic stories set in this era. HOWEVER, Robin challenges some of the more problematic aspects that often appear in such books. Our heroine, Hazel Wong, is Chinese and faces explicit instances of racism throughout the stories. Over the course of the six books released so far, her growth in confidence and abilities has been so lovely to watch.

The seventh book is due to be released in October (EEK), and it’s just been announced that Robin is writing an eighth book! These books are so good that every time a new one is released, I re-read them all. For a book about murder + mystery, I think that says a lot about the charm of the MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE series.

Someone will take their final bow . . .39300354

Fresh from their adventure in Hong Kong, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells are off to the Rue Theatre in London to face an entirely new challenge: acting.

But danger has a nasty habit of catching up with the Detective Society, and it soon becomes clear that there is trouble afoot at the Rue. Jealousy, threats and horrible pranks quickly spiral out of control – and then a body is found. Now Hazel and Daisy must take centre stage and solve the crime . . . before the murderer strikes again.



If cold blooded murder isn’t your cup of tea, why not try Katherine Woodfine’s excellent THE SINCLAIR MYSTERIES. Set in the Edwardian era, our heroines are Sophie and Lil. Sophie is an employee at the fabulously decadent Sinclair’s Department Store, and Lil is an aspiring actress. Together they solve mysteries and crack codes in London, and fight against the dastardly and mysterious villain, known only as the Baron.

These books are whip smart, and deliciously cozy. The Edwardian setting is detailed and FEELS SO REAL — and that’s coming from someone who spends most of her time reading/researching the early 20th century. Whilst the Sinclair Mysteries concluded last year with a seriously satisfying finale (see my review here), FEAR NOT–Katherine is releasing PERIL IN PARIS, a new series which stars Lil and Sophie, in just a few months.


It’s 1911, and the young detectives of TAYLOR & ROSE are turning their talents to ESPIONAGE.

On a case for the mysterious SECRET SERVICE BUREAU, the daring MISS SOPHIE TAYLOR and MISS LILIAN ROSE must leave London for the boulevards and grand hotels of Paris.

But DANGER lurks beneath the bright lights of the city – and INTRIGUE and MURDER lie in store. As aeroplanes soar in the skies overhead, our heroines will need to put all their spy skills to the test to face the PERIL that awaits them…


unnamedEmma Carroll is THE QUEEN of history. Her books are always beautifully written and infinitely interesting to read. Her World War Two set, LETTERS FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE is gripping, heartbreaking at times, a celebration of hope & just wonderful. My fav of her books so far has to be SKY CHASERS, which just blew me away when I read it last year. Set in 18th century France, it follows Magpie–a pickpocket living on the streets, who becomes involved in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon for the first time. One of the most important parts of any historical set book is getting that setting to be realistic. Emma does this effortlessly. Reading one of her books feels like you’re diving into the past.

I am VERY excited about her upcoming release. From its description alone I just know I’m going to love it.

It’s November, 1922. In a valley in Egypt the tomb of a long dead pharaoh is about to36382907.jpg be discovered. The world watches and waits for news with baited breath. Thirteen-year-old Lilian Kaye is eagerly following the story. One morning the news takes a sinister turn: a man- a famous Egyptologist- disappears. All that remains of him are his feet. Then Lil’s grandfather is taken suddenly ill, and when a mysterious package turns up for him from the Egyptologist, Lil starts to believe there is truth to the rumours of a pharaoh’s curse.




Have you got any recs for middle grade history books? PLEASE tell them to me, I always love finding more!

One thought on “History + mystery + middle grade = my perfect book

  1. I loved The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan when I read it a few years ago. Only kind of a mystery, but very engaging, and based loosely on a real heroine in history which makes it even more interesting.

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