Your favourite medieval mystery series?

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Your favourite medieval mystery series?

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Ago 5, 2006, 5:07 pm

Mine is probably Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series, set in 7th-century Ireland. His lawyer-nun sleuth heroine comes over as a little smug at times, but Tremayne obviously knows his stuff and they're generally fun reads. (I worked out whodunit in Absolution By Murder but thought The Subtle Serpent particularly good.

I really liked Viviane Moore's Blue Blood, it had a nice setting (the building of a French cathedral) and the backstory made me suspect a tribute to Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, I didn't find her subsequent "Chevalier Galeran" mysteries interesting or memorable and gave up halfway through A Black Romance.

I guess there are more Cadfael fans than Cadfael haters on here, so please don't hate me - I've tried to read Ellis Peters's work, but I didn't like the writing, it just didn't 'flow' enough for me. Kate Sedley's "Roger the Chapman' series was OK at the time of reading but not particularly memorable, and Susanna Gregory's "Matthew Bartholomew" series is quite dry and unfriendly imho.

Opinions? Recs?

Ago 6, 2006, 2:48 pm

I never really got into Sister Fidelma. Cadfael was the first medieval detective I read so I suppose that's why he's stuck with me. I've read one or two of Michael Jecks' books, but they seemed a bit samey for me to stick with. I do like Susanna Gregory though - I've got quite a few of those.

My favourite has to be Lindsey Davis's Falco - her Roman details are pretty much spot on. I also liked the short lived series based on Robert Carey in Carlisle by Patricia Finney under the name PF Chisholm. The first is A Famine of Horses.

Ago 28, 2006, 7:22 pm

I've been interested in the Michael Jecks books but haven't read any yet. Do they go in any particular order? I haven't been able to tell.

Editado: Set 12, 2006, 9:00 am

Jecks' books are in series, the first of the series being "The Last Templar." If you pick that one up, there will almost certainly be a list of the others, in sequence. Or you could go to his web page which also lists the books in order. . . .

Set 2, 2006, 12:02 pm

Candace Robb's Owen Archer series, set in late 14th century York. Colourful, believable and likeable characters. Brother Cadfael never really appealed to me, despite my being a fan of the 12th century historical backdrop.


Set 11, 2006, 6:48 pm

Thanks, pmorris. His website does have them all in order!

7SJaneDoe Primeira Mensagem
Set 25, 2006, 9:53 am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Editado: Set 25, 2006, 12:18 pm

My favourite is Sharan Newman's Catherine LeVendeur series - it's set in 12th century France.

Set 25, 2006, 10:22 am

Try square brackets instead of parentheses and the touchstone should work. You should be able to go back and edit your message 7.

Set 25, 2006, 12:25 pm


Set 25, 2006, 5:18 pm

My favourite is Sharan Newman's Catherine LeVendeur series - it's set in 12th century France.

A favourite of mine too. I thought the first book was brilliant, but the subsequent books have been up/down for me. Still good enough to read, but I'm not rushing through them either. :)

Set 26, 2006, 12:39 am

Hello to the group...

Bibliotheque was kind enough to invite me to join, and I've made some postings to existing topics.

I do enjoy good historical mysteries, and I can certainly echo the accolades lauded on the Brother Cadfael and Sister Fidelma books, as well as many others.

One of my favorite and prolific historical mystery author is P.C. Doherty.

He's a written ALOT of books (under pseudonyms like Michael Clynes,Vanessa Alexander, and Anna Apostolou.

His web site,, lists a complete bibliography, and if you haven't heard of this author, I think that you'll him a great read.

Also, I sense a certain American - European bent to the historical mysteries mentioned on this site.

So, I'd like to stick up for Robert S. Van Gulik's eminent Chinese Detective of the 7th Century (of the Western Common Era) T'and Dynasty.

There's a complete bibliography of Judge Dee books at

Judge Dee might be a little heavy handed (and predictable in later works), but he and his band of "henchmen" always get their man (or woman.)

Most of the books are in print in paperback.

I just want to say that this seems like a great group, and I'm getting way, way too many new books to read.



Ago 2, 2008, 12:58 am

Just thought I'd mention a medieval mystery I just finished ~ Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. It's the first in an apparent series (I say apparent because at this point there are two mysteries about the same character, and I think there might be a third in 2009). It's about a woman doctor/forensic pathologist from Salerno who is sent to Cambridge by the King of Sicily (who is overlord of Salerno at the time ~ 12th century) at the request of Henry II of England after someone starts brutally murdering the children of Cambridge. The townspeople have blamed the Jews of the city for the killings, and the Jews have been hiding out in the sheriff's castle to avoid being lynched. Henry wants the Jews (who substantially feed the royal coffers with taxes on their lending operations) to be either exonerated or, if guilty, brought to justice and the murders stopped (in that order). I literally could not bring myself to put it down until long past my bedtime, finished it in three days, and can't wait to get my hands on the next in the "series."

Ago 17, 2008, 3:54 pm

Is there a 12-step program for Historical Mysterism. I counted the other day - I'm following 48 series most of which are Historical Mysteries. Most of these I love but some I just have this thing that I have to keep reading them because....just because; which is why I may need intervention.

Ago 18, 2008, 1:35 pm

I read a lot of medieval mysteries, and I think the best is the Mathew Bartholomew series by Susanna Gregory. Very well researched and really gives you the feeling of life and times in the middle ages. It's set in Cambridge, where Mathew is a physician and teaches at one of the colleges. The first book is A Plague on Both Your Houses. (Note that Gregory's writing gets much better after this first book.)

Set 17, 2008, 3:00 am

Just read my first four Cadfael books. They were entertaining, but it was extremely easy to solve the mysteries. I had usually figured out the perpetrator and often the motive and some of the details by the time the crimes were discovered! With all the fans Ellis Peters has, I was surprised at this.

#1 bibliotheque
I just looked back at your first message. I can't imagine how you could think of Susanna Gregory's Mathew Bartholomew series as being "quite dry and unfriendly"? She's got great plots--the mysteries are intriguing and complex (certainly nothing you will easily figure out before Mathew and Brother Michael do the same), her characters (including the city of Cambridge) are well developed and interesting, and she tells a great story. Certainly her research appears to be meticulous, but her writing brings the times to life and adds immeasurably to the stories.

Umberto Eco is the only author who equals or exceeds her in really transporting us into the medieval world.

Set 25, 2008, 7:24 am

Medieval mysteries are my favorite subgenre ever. It's hard to pick favorites--I've tried most of those mentioned here. It's funny how we all like what we like and don't like what we don't. LOL Ellis Peters got it all started for me with Cadfael years ago, and that is probably still my favorite over all.

One that I don't see mentioned anywhere yet is Alan Gordon and his "Feste the Fool" series. Feste is a jester in the Fool's Guild and travels all over Europe and the Middle East in late 1100's and early 1200''s acting as a spy and general solver of mysteries. Wonderful stories, rich in cultural detail and well-written with a bit of a wicked sense of humor thrown in. The first one is Thirteenth Night if I remember right.

Another I don't see listed is Sharon Kay Penman with her four-book Justin de Quincy medieval series in which the protagonist ends up being a 'queen's man' (which is the title of the the first one, The Queen's Man ) for Eleanor of Aquitaine. I wish she would write more of them! I like her straight historical fiction, though at times it can be repetitive and plodding--these mysteries were not like that at all.

Another I don't see mentioned yet is Bernard Knight with his Crowner John series--Sir John de Wolfe is the first ever coroner in Devon in late 1100's. Coroner was a very different job then than it is now! The main character is a flawed, grumpy, philandering war veteran but I like him--and he's got a well-fleshed cadre of regular supporting characters that's great too. The first in that series is The Sanctuary Seeker

Anyone an Alys Clare fan? I quite enjoy her Abbess Helewise and Sir Josse d'Acquin series set at fictional Hawkenlye Abbey.

How about Caroline Roe's Isaac of Girona series, featuring a blind Jewish physician in Spain in the 1350's, just after the Black Death goes through Europe. I quite like them.

Okay, I just thought of another one I don't see listed...anyone else reading and enjoying Pat McIntosh and her series set in Scotland featuring Gil Cunningham ? I've only read the first two so far--they're not easy to come by, and I've had to resort to the library for the most part--but thoroughly enjoyed them.

All right...NOW to the favorites among those mentioned already:

Kate Sedley with Roger the Chapman
Candace Robb with Owen Archer (I didn't care for her Margaret Kerr series much, though)
Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma
Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew (I didn't care much for the first Thomas Chaloner book, tho.
Sharan Newman's Catherine LeVendeur

And some newer series I've recently started reading--can't call them favorites yet, but have enjoyed these enough to plan to continue reading:

Maureen Ash has a series featuring Bascot de Marins who is an ex-Templar knight in 1200's. The first is called The Alehouse Murders and I've got the second one here also.

I second the mention of Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death featuring female physician Adelia who must conceal the fact that she IS a physician because it just 'wasn't done' back then. I've got the second one here and need to get to it soon.

Sarah d'Almeida writes a series based on Alexandre Dumas's musketeers, the first is called Death of a Muskateer There's currently four of these available and I've read the first and got the next two waiting.

The authors I've tried and couldn't "get into" for whatever reason: Michael Jecks , Margaret Frazer, and I've tried several of P.C. Doherty's series (he writes under a number of pseudonyms) and just found the writing style to be dry and boring in all of them. Other folks love him, though!

Silverbooks, I don't want a 12-step program...I am fine right where I am and enjoying myself too much to want to quit historical mysteries! LOL I haven't counted the number of series I'm reading at the moment, but I'm sure it's at least 50 if you count all historical mysteries from all time-periods. :)


Set 25, 2008, 4:29 pm

Spuddie, I also enjoyed the first of Alys Clare's Hawkenlye Abbey series, Fortune Like the Moon. Haven't read any more in that series yet.

Another medieval series that hasn't been mentioned is Priscilla Royal's Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal. The first book is Wine of Violence set at the start of Richard the Lionheart's reign in, I believe, 1199. She is assisted by one of Richard's knights, so it has a similar setup to Alys Clare's series.

The Medieval Murderers have a series done jointly by Bernard Knight, Michael Jecks, Ian Morson, Susanna Gregory, and a couple others. The books are serial stories with action taking place over the centuries of the medieval era and moving thru the locales of each of the authors' characters. The first book is The Tainted Relic. Good intro to several medieval authors if you want to sample their work before deciding to begin a series.

Which reminds me, Ian Morson's Falconer series is another of my favorites. It's set in Oxford.

Out 22, 2008, 9:25 pm

#17...Spuddie, I agree with you on so many of the authors you listed, especially Ariana Franklin and Sharon Kay Penman. I've also got the "Fools Guild" series on my TBR list, although I've wondered if I should read "Twelfth Night" first, since my understanding is that the series is based on the Shakespeare play. Must brush up on the Shakespeare!

Did not care for the Sister Fidelma series, though. Tremayne has some weird writing quirks, IMHO. He's constantly describing characters' facial expressions, including how they blink. It just annoyed me after awhile.

Nov 4, 2008, 8:29 am

I have a number of favorites.

1) The Cadfael Books Don't worry, I don't hate those who can't get into them. They are older and as such, the language is very dated.

2) The Fool's Guild Cycle Spuddie mentioned these, by Alan Gordon. They are funny and suspenseful and just lovely, and they touch on so many places, like France, Constantinople, Dalmatia, Denmark, and Outremere. There are currently seven books in the series that I know of.

3) Someone mentioned P.C. Doherty. My favorite of his pseudonyms is C.L. Grace, writing the Kathryn Swynbrook Mysteries. Set in Canterbury during the War of the Roses, they follow a female physician as she solves crimes and tries to navigate the warring factions.

Editado: Dez 13, 2008, 2:38 pm

I love the Alan Gordon mysteries. Yes, the first is Thirteenth Night, which follows Shakespeare's Twelfth night.

I was able to get a copy of the first Bernard Knight Crowner John mystery when I was in Enland. But it's hard to get here in the US. I'm not much on buying online; but if I really want them...

There's also a series about Heloise and Abelard as religieux, which I liked, but found somewhat slow going.

The Sister Fildelma and Owen Archer series are great, too.

Dez 21, 2008, 9:12 pm

My favourite mystery series that comes only just within the 'middle ages' (right at the end) is (the presumably late) Robert Farrington's 3-book Henry Morane series:
'TUDOR AGENT' (1974), &
As was usual for the period, clerk/scrivener Henry Morane also goes on spying missions and even goes into battle. Morane's loyalty is to the last Plantagenet, King Richard III (suspected by some to have had his own nephews killed in the Tower of London), which gives him a huge problem when Henry Tudor wins the Battle of Bosworth.
Mr Farrington brings out the flavour of the times, with its treacheries an torturous politics and my one regret is that he never wrote fourth, fifth novels in this terrific series.

Dez 22, 2008, 3:38 am

I've just read the first two of Pat McIntosh's Gil Cunningham mysteries: The Harper's Quine and The Nicholas Feast and enjoyed them both very much. They are set in 1492 Glasgow, Scotland and Gil is a young lawyer. I'll be looking for the next few, I think there are at least 5 books out so far.

I started reading Chaucer and the House of Fame by Philippa Morgan. Not exactly sure what I think of it yet. There seem to be several Chaucer mysteries by various authors out there...

Jan 5, 2009, 11:03 pm

I really appreciated Spuddies post opening up new territory for me.

I have done Cadfael, some of the Knights Templar, A Crooner John. Love our Owen Archer, not so much our Roger Chapman. Remember one Matthew Bartholomew but do not remember if I liked it or not.

If we get into Renaissance/Elizabethan, Edward Marston who has his Domesday book series in this period, has his Nicholas Bracewell which starts at The Queen's Head and then there are other Shakespeare using sleuths. But Nicholas Bracewell is a good read.

OPening the discussion to others of this later period gives us many more we can discuss.

Editado: Fev 10, 2009, 3:41 am

I just read a the first book in what may be a new series--

Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson. Set in 1384 London. Crispin Guest is a former knight who was stripped of everything when he was embroiled in a treasonous plot against the young King Richard II (the powerful Duke of Lancaster interceded for his life). He's been barely surviving on the streets of London for the past eight years, hiring himself out as a finder of men and items. I really enjoyed the mystery and the characters. A second book is expected out sometime this year...

RE: Cadfael... I didn't mind them, but I read them because there really was nothing else out there (this was way back when...). It's so nice to have a variety of historical mystery series out there!

Fev 5, 2011, 9:50 am

I love so many in this genre. As with lots of you I started with Brother Cadfael, but I stumbled upon Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew series, and I have to say that this is my favourite of all. The books are set in and around Cambridge England in the 13 century. These books are long and quite complex really. And there's lots of murder and mayhem, but I really enjoy them. I also really like P.C. Doherty's Hugh Corbett series which is set quite a bit earlier (during the time of Henry II). These books are set in places all over England as Hugh goes on the King's business everywhere in England. I love this genre and this era so very much that it's hard to pick a favourite really.

Fev 5, 2011, 10:13 am

I think Spuddie's list is a copy of my pile of books to read - I think I've read and kept most of the authors. There is also a set of books by Margaret Frazer about a troop of travelling players the latest of which is A play of piety set in the early reign of Henry 6. The one I've just read is set in Normandy just after the death of the Duke of Bedford. It begins the rise of the Woodville family - which is not music to the ears of a good Ricardian!
The death of Ariana Franklin was announced in the paper the other day, her real name was Diana Norman under which name she also wrote historical novels. She was the wife of Barry Norman the film critic - which will mean nothing to those of you from overseas but watchers of the BBC will know well. There are four books by Ariana Franklin published under different titles in Britain and America

Fev 5, 2011, 12:54 pm

So sad to learn about the death of Ariana Franklin/Diana Norman. I really enjoyed her four medieval mysteries and was so looking forward to the next.

Just looked at Ariana Franklin's LT author page. Could her true real name be Mary Jane Russell?

Fev 13, 2011, 6:44 pm

New to the list, but could't resist adding my current favorite which is P.F. Chisolm's Robert Carey series. Her other series published under her real name, Patricia Finney are remarkably entertaining too. Lots if swashbuckling, great characterization, and intriguing puzzles. Hope theere will be more.

Fev 20, 2011, 9:41 pm

Currently reading Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie, it is the last in the series that Staarted with Medicus. It's pretty good, love the humor. Was so sad to hear about Diana Norman! Also disappointed, that was one hell of a cliffhanger ending in the last Mistress of the Art of Death novel

Fev 28, 2011, 9:16 pm

@ 30, me too on Caveat Emptor Got it for Early Reviewers, but can only read a chapter a night and they are only 3 page chapters...

Editado: Out 25, 2011, 8:04 am

The Owen Archer series is great fun. I need to consult a sequential list by publication date so I can locate the titles I have not read.

Editado: Out 25, 2011, 10:52 am

Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series is my current favourite but I really enjoy C. J. Sansom's Tudor mysteries featuring Matthew Shardlake.

Out 25, 2011, 1:04 pm

Right now I am reading a lot of Michael Jecks, P.C. Doherty & Edward Marsten & I am liking them all about equally-but just wish that the library would buy more of the books! They get a couple of each series-just enough to get me hooked-but then don't get any more! Darn! Have found some of them in used book stores, tho! Right now I am reading The Oath by Michael Jecks (touchstones is being contrary). This one is extremely dense & longer than his others have been. 8^)

Out 25, 2011, 8:03 pm

Re. touchstones - I have found that if they don't work all I need to do is to click on 'edit' and then 'post message' and they suddenly appear.

Out 26, 2011, 12:01 pm

I like so many of the series it is hard to choose just one author but I will put forward Margaret Frazer who is writing two medieval mystery series, Sister/Dame Frevisse and the Joliffe Players.

Two series mentioned above that I dislike are Cadfael and Sister Fidelma. I find them impossible to get into and I have tried a number of times. Much to slow.

I like Candace Robb, Kate Sedley, Ariana Franklin, Sharan Newman and many more.

Jul 22, 2012, 7:52 pm

My favorite, at the present anyway (I reserve the right to change my mind), is a split between two. First is the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters. These take place in 12th century England during the civil war. Secondly, I like the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J.Sansom that takes place during the dissolution of the monasteries by Cromwell under Henry VIII. Btw, if anyone has any reccomendations for me based on these likes, it would be much appreciated.

Jul 22, 2012, 7:55 pm

Yes, there is a program. But, I just have to finish up these mysteries I've started before I can tell you about it.

Jul 29, 2012, 5:32 am

>27 cimorene: jdgarner68

I would recommend the three Giordano Bruno mysteries by S.J. Parris. Imo almost as good as Sansom and a joy to read. (Approximately the same period too.)

Jul 29, 2012, 5:56 am

I loved the Giordano Bruno series as well. Highly recommended.

Editado: Fev 25, 2013, 6:02 pm

Oooooh! So many good book series, ideas and choices listed here! I've gotten lots of ideas for new books for my collection. Does anyone here know of any medieval series that takes place around Hertfordshire England? My ancestors are from there and it would be interesting to get a feel for what life was like in that area back in the day.
Incidentally, I am reading the first in a series written by Adriana Koulias called The Temple of the Grail ( France, 1254). It is reminiscent of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose in that several concepts are discussed and compared, from points of views of both Greek philosophers- ( pagans Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) and the church. As in The Name of the Rose, logic, rules of logic, symbolism, theology and philosophy all play strong roles in working out the clues and deducing the answers to the mystery. Plus they all get hopelessly lost in a huge labyrinth. I am really liking this book.

Jun 14, 2015, 5:05 am

1. the Brother Cadfael series
2. the Judge Dee series
3. Leonard Tourney's Matthew and Joan Stock series

And of course, The Name of the Rose.