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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Historical Novels
In offering 10 outstanding examples of historical fiction from the past year, we have broadened our purview to reflect librarians’ interest in readers’ advisory and, more specifically, their need and desire to easily and comfortably guide readers from one genre to another. Consequently, this year’s Top 10 list reflects how authentically, as well as dynamically, history can be used in mysteries, fantasies, westerns, and romances-to say nothing of literary fiction, which, of course, can be viewed as another genre of historical fiction.
Alexander, Bruce. The Price of Murder. Putnam, $24.95 (0-399-15078-1).
The late Alexander’s detective series starring Sir John Fielding, the blind magistrate of Bow Street Court in mid-eighteenth-century London, is among the best historical mystery series around; in this, the tenth in the series, Fielding’s adventures begin with the discovery of a seven-year-old girl’s body.
Coplin, Keith. Crofton’s Fire. Putnam, $21.95 (0-399-15112-5).
This debut novel by a writer who is rather more mature than the typical first novelist is a soldier’s story set at various famous nineteenth-century battles the world over. It becomes a rambunctiously entertaining mix of western and war novel, wrought with humor and a bit of romance in addition to realism.
Estleman, Loren D. Port Hazard. Tor/Forge, paper, $24.95 (0-765-30190-3).
Deputy U.S. Marshal Page Murdock is assigned to California’s Barbary Coast to head off the militant wing of the Sons of Confederacy, a group that is assassinating anyone who impedes its efforts to revive interest in secession from the union. A wildly entertaining romp with great period atmosphere.
Gooden, Philip. Mask of Night. Carroll & Graf, $24 (0-7867-1312-7).
Gooden proves once again his reputation as an outstanding history-mystery writer. In the latest volume in his series starring a poor player in Shakespeare’s acting company, such circumstances as the plague and Queen Elizabeth’s declining health necessitate the players’ removal from London to set up shop in Oxford.
Harris, Robert. Pompeii. Random, $24.95 (0-679-42889-5).
A popular thriller writer places his own imagined skulduggery within the context of one of the most famous natural disasters in history, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. With rich historical detail and scientific minutiae, Harris vividly brings to life the ancient world on the brink of unspeakable horror.
Hoyt, Sarah A. Any Man So Daring. Berkley/Ace, paper, $23.95 (0-441-01092-X).
William Shakespeare, again-this time, his extensive encounters with the world of Fairy and the elven king Quicksilver have changed him profoundly, sparking a talent so brilliant that he has become the preeminent playwright of his time. An excellent story, with beautiful prose.
Jones, Edward P. The Known World. HarperCollins/Amistad, $24.95 (0-06-055754-0).
Jones offers another angle on the complexities of slavery and social relations in this profoundly beautiful and insightful novel about free blacks who own slaves in antebellum Virginia. Booklist’s Top of the List for Fiction for 2003.
Robins, Madeleine. Point of Honor. Tor/Forge, $24.95 (0-312-87202-X).
In Regency England, there were very few career options open to a woman with a ruined reputation. Politics, deception, danger, and romance all come together beautifully in this superb first novel, which has been categorized as a romance but includes elements of historical fiction and the detective story.
Tóibín, Colm. The Master. Scribner, $25 (0-7432-5040-0).
This distinguished Irish novelist boldly offers a fictional depiction of the last two decades of the life of the great god of American letters, Henry James; the result is a beautifully nuanced psychological portrait.
Turtledove, Harry. The Victorious Opposition. Del Rey, $27.95 (0-345-44423-X).
The conclusion to American Empire, part of Turtledove’s magisterial saga of an alternate America, demonstrates the author’s continuing mastery of historical fiction on the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels.
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