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Historical Fiction Books - Kari Bovée Historical Mystery books featuring amateur female sleuths

7 Historical Mysteries Featuring
Amateur Female Sleuths

I love an amateur female sleuth. Both reading and writing them!

As a historical mystery author, I like to travel back into time and imagine what it must have been like to live in different time periods in history. What were the obstacles? Was life really simpler? What went on in the minds of the many empowered women who so inspire me today? I like to take those characters and put them in a situation they probably never had to deal with—like a murder or crime—and try to figure out how they would have written the story by their words and actions. This process has led to the birth of Grace Michelle, amateur female sleuth of the 1920’s (see Grace in the Wings below).

As a reader, the process works in reverse — and is equally enjoyable. Here are a few of my favorite historical mystery books featuring amateur female sleuths!

Grace in the Wings

In this new historical mystery series, award-winning author Kari Bovee introduces readers to a charming new amateur female sleuth–Grace Michelle.

New York City, 1920. Grace Michelle has everything she wants: a home, a family, and a future career as a costume designer for famed showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.’s Ziegfeld Follies. Pretty good for a girl who once lived on the streets of New York City. But when her sister, Sophia, the star of the show, is murdered, Grace’s safe and protected life is shattered.

 

Bellfield Hall, Or, The Observations of Miss Dido Kent

1805. An engagement party is taking place for Mr Richard Montague, son of wealthy landowner Sir Edgar Montague, and his fiancee Catherine. During a dance with his beloved, a strange thing happens: a man appears at Richard’s shoulder and appears to communicate something to him without saying a word. Instantly breaking off the engagement, he rushes off to speak to his father, never to be seen again. Distraught with worry, Catherine sends for her spinster aunt, Miss Dido Kent, who has a penchant for solving mysteries. Catherine pleads with her to find her fiance and to discover the truth behind his disappearance. It’s going to take a lot of logical thinking to untangle the complex threads of this multi-layered mystery, and Miss Dido Kent is just the woman to do it.

Amateur Female Sleuth Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Amelia Peabody, that indomitable product of the Victorian age, embarks on her debut Egyptian adventure armed with unshakable self-confidence, a journal to record her thoughts, and, of course, a sturdy umbrella. On her way to Cairo, Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has been abandoned by her scoundrel lover. Together the two women sail up the Nile to an archeological site run by the Emerson brothers-the irascible but dashing Radcliffe and the amiable Walter. Soon their little party is increased by one-one mummy that is, and a singularly lively example of the species.

Strange visitations, suspicious accidents, and a botched kidnapping convince Amelia that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. Now Amelia finds herself up against an unknown enemy-and perilous forces that threaten to make her first Egyptian trip also her last . . .

Amateur Female Sleuth Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Mangle Street Murders

March Middleton has moved to Gower Street to live with her curmudgeonly guardian, Sidney Grice, London’s most famous personal detective. She is intelligent, witty, and talkative. He thinks young women should be seen and not heard. But he grudgingly allows her to join his latest murder case: A young woman is dead and her loving husband is the only suspect.
Their investigations lead the pair to the darkest alleys of the East End: Every twist leads Sidney Grice to think the husband guilty, but March is convinced that he is innocent. And as the case threatens to foment civil unrest, Sidney Grice finds his reputation is not the only thing in mortal danger . . .

Amateur Female Sleuth Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

And Only to Deceive

For Emily, accepting the proposal of Philip, the Viscount Ashton, was an easy way to escape her overbearing mother, who was set on a grand society match. So when Emily’s dashing husband died on safari soon after their wedding, she felt little grief. After all, she barely knew him. Now, nearly two years later, she discovers that Philip was a far different man from the one she had married so cavalierly. His journals reveal him to have been a gentleman scholar and antiquities collector who, to her surprise, was deeply in love with his wife. Emily becomes fascinated with this new image of her dead husband and she immerses herself in all things ancient and begins to study Greek.

Emily’s intellectual pursuits and her desire to learn more about Philip take her to the quiet corridors of the British Museum, one of her husband’s favorite places. There, amid priceless ancient statues, she uncovers a dark, dangerous secret involving stolen artifacts from the Greco-Roman galleries. And to complicate matters, she’s juggling two very prominent and wealthy suitors, one of whose intentions may go beyond the marrying kind. As she sets out to solve the crime, her search leads to more surprises about Philip and causes her to question the role in Victorian society to which she, as a woman, is relegated.

Amateur Female Sleuth Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Absolution by Murder

The King of Northumbria has requested the services of a wise counsel to decide the people’s religious future. Among the select priests, elders, and scholars from Ireland and Rome is Sister Fidelma of Kildare. Trained as an advocate of the courts, she was expecting to rule on issues of law. Instead she was plunged into unholy murder.

Dead was the Abbess Étain, a leading Celtic speaker, her throat slashed. With the counsel in an uproar and civil war threatening, the desperate king has turned to the sharp-witted Sister Fidelma for help. With the aide of her dear friend Brother Eadulf and her faith in the truth, she must act in haste before the killer strikes again.

Amateur Female Sleuth Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog

In a remote Russian province in the late nineteenth century, Bishop Mitrofanii must deal with a family crisis. After learning that one of his great aunt’s beloved and rare white bulldogs has been poisoned, the Orthodox bishop knows there is only one detective clever enough to investigate the murder: Sister Pelagia.

The bespectacled, freckled Pelagia is lively, curious, extraordinarily clumsy, and persistent. At the estate in question, she finds a whole host of suspects, any one of whom might have benefited if the old lady (who changes her will at whim) had expired of grief at the pooch’s demise. There’s Pyotr, the matron’s grandson, a nihilist with a grudge who has fallen for the maid; Stepan, the penniless caretaker, who has sacrificed his youth to the care of the estate; Miss Wrigley, a mysterious Englishwoman who has recently been named sole heiress to the fortune; Poggio, an opportunistic and freeloading “artistic” photographer; and, most intriguingly, Naina, the old lady’s granddaughter, a girl so beautiful she could drive any man to do almost anything.

As Pelagia bumbles and intuits her way to the heart of a mystery among people with faith only in greed and desire, she must bear in mind the words of Saint Paul: “Beware of dogs–and beware of evil-doers.”

Amateur Female Sleuth Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’d like to keep this list current with new suggestions. Who are your favorite amateur female sleuths? Comment below. I’ll ad ’em to the list!

Girl with a Gun – An Annie Oakley Mystery

Fifteen-year-old Annie Oakley is the sole supporter of her widowed mother and two siblings. An expert markswoman and independent spirit, she hunts game to sell to the local mercantile to make ends meet instead of accepting a marriage proposal that could solve all her problems.

After a stunning performance in a shooting contest against the handsome and famous sharpshooter Frank Butler, Annie is offered a position in the renowned Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Finally, she has a chance to save the nearly foreclosed family farm and make her dreams come true. But then her Indian assistant is found dead in her tent, and Annie is dubious when the local coroner claims the death was due to natural causes. When another innocent is murdered, Annie begins to fear the deaths are related to her. And to make matters worse, her prized horse, Buck, a major part of her act, is stolen.

Annie soon discovers that the solution to her problems lies buried in a padlocked Civil War trunk belonging to the show’s manager, Derence LeFleur. And so, with the help of a sassy, blue-blooded reporter, Annie sets out to find her horse, solve the murders, and clear her name.

FOR FANS OF:
Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie Barron, SoHo Crime, February 2016
Girl Waits with Gun, Amy Stewart, Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt, May 2016

Review of the Week: 1/16/20

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Rebecca says:

“This is a great prequel to Girl with a Gun about Annie Oakley, the first and-ads woman with a Gun in the west! And this is the first book I’ve read of Author Kari Bovee. I truly thought the emotions she brought about were realistic and gut-wrenching. I can understand how these horrific events could have made a victim Out of Annie, but instead, she weathered them, and went on to support herself and her family. I look forward to reading the next novel by Kari Bovee!”

Read more Shoot Like a Girl reviews here: >> https://amzn.to/2NMv3PN

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Books Kari Bovee Indie Book Awards

Review of the Week: 1/8/2020

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Ian Says:

 

Grace in the Wings a historical mystery series - Historical Fiction Book by Kari Bovee

Review of the Week: 1/1/2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Kristin Says:

Grace in the Wings a historical mystery series by Kari Bovee“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Grace in the Wings. The intriguing mystery behind Sofia’s death kept me turning the pages as well as the fantastic romance between Grace and Chet. I liked how the author used real-life characters such as Flo Ziegfeld and Fannie Brice. I didn’t know a lot about the roaring twenties before reading this book, but I’m looking forward to learning more. I’m also looking forward to reading more books by Kari Bovee. I hope she continues the series.”

Read more Grace in the Wings Reviews here: https://amzn.to/2SScdtV

Review of the Week – 12/4/2019

Tiffany Says:

HIstorical Fiction Books sleuth award winning kari bovee

I was introduced to Kari Boveé and Girl With a Gun, with interest to produce the 3 book series for streaming networks. This wonderful world of historical murder mystery fiction has been transposed into a well written pilot screenplay to be developed as a mini-series.

There are no shortages of stories and the ways in which they can be told. When working through the lens of fiction the imagination has no limits. Sprinkle in historical persons of interest such as Annie Oakley and you have yourself an intriguing and informative read.

Kari Boveé has created a twist to the past by invoking the nostalgia that followed the Nancy Drew mystery books I grew up reading. Annie was the first American female superstar and I think it is time to revisit her rise to fame in a new and entertaining way. Bringing Annie to life in a fictional format has the power to engage a new audience that adds intrigue to dive further into the facts of her story.

As a reader, do not dive into this journey with the intent of striping away absolute documentary fact. Instead, cozy up on the couch with your hot cocoa and prepare to step back into the old west with some familiar characters as you work to discover “who done it?”

For those who adore the read and entertainment value of Girl With a Gun, you will be further entertained on screen once this creative work is put to motion picture.”

Buy on Amazon

Girl with a Gun (An Annie Oakley Mystery #1)


Mary Todd Lincoln – Judged Unfairly by History?

By many historical accounts, Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of the 16thPresident of the United States, is portrayed as emotional, irrational, difficult, and spoiled. In all fairness, she might have been these things, but the explanations for the reasons behind these behaviors varies.

As a teenager, Miss Todd’s contemporaries described her as kind, intelligent, well-educated and vivacious.

Mary Todd LincolnMary grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, a town her family helped found. The daughter of a wealthy merchant or banker (accounts vary), Mary had every luxury a young girl in the 1800s could want. Her parents, Robert Todd and Elizabeth Parker Todd raised their children in comfort and refinement. However, wealth did not provide much happiness for Mary after the death of her mother who died while giving birth to her seventh child. Robert Todd soon remarried and Mary, at age six, did not get on well with her step-mother.

Despite her unhappy home life, Mary received an excellent education and excelled in school where she mastered the French language and studied dance, drama, music, and social skills. She also showed a keen interest in politics.

As a young woman, Mary moved to Springfield, Illinois to live with her married sister, Elizabeth Porter Edwards. Outgoing and social, she soon became popular among the blue-bloods of Illinois and had many beaus. Among them, a young lawyer Stephen A. Douglas, the man who would run against her future husband for the presidency. But, Mary chose Abraham Lincoln, much to the concern of her family who thought she married beneath her.

Mary and Abraham shared a love of literature and politics, and their endearment for one another lasted until his untimely death.

Though very much in love, the Lincoln’s experienced more than their share of loss with the death of two of their sons; Edward (Eddie) at age four, and William (Willie) at age fourteen. William died while the Lincoln’s lived in the white house, three years before his father.

During her time as First Lady, Mary came under intense scrutiny. Coming from a Confederate family didn’t help her cause. Mary’s family had been slaveholders and several of her half-brothers served in the Confederate army during the war. Some accused her of being a Confederate spy. Fiercely loyal to her husband, she always supported his views and his quest to end slavery and save the Union.

For much of her adult life, Mary suffered from migraines and depression. The migraines became more frequent and more intense after a carriage accident during her time in the white house. Mary’s depression worsened after the death of the couple’s son Willie in 1862. Despondent and overcome by grief, Mary experienced wild mood swings and was prone to temperamental outbursts—sometimes in public. To assuage her grief, she also explored spiritualism and used mediums to reach out to her dead sons, and later her dead husband. All of this added up to a kind of “female hysteria” in the public’s opinion.

Mary also came under criticism for her spending habits. During Lincoln’s presidency, she completed a lavish redecorating of the white house. Probably not a good idea as money was needed to fight the war. She also spared no expense in expanding her wardrobe to include fine silks and lace. Perhaps as first lady, she felt she needed these things to be presentable on the arm of her husband while he went about the business of being President, but others didn’t see it that way.

As one could imagine, when her husband was shot at point blank right in front of her and then later died from his wounds, the state of Mary’s mental health did not improve.

As a widow, Mary returned to Illinois to be nearer to her two surviving sons, but when Thomas (Tad) died in 1871, grief overwhelmed her again. Her son Robert Lincoln became alarmed at his mother’s increasingly strange behavior. He had her committed to an asylum, but her depression did not improve. She experienced fever, headaches, gait problems, delusions and hallucinations. After a year in the asylum and many imploring letters to her lawyer and finally the Chicago Times, Mary was released to the custody of her sister. Shortly after, she took up residence in France to escape further public scrutiny, and her estranged son Robert, who controlled her finances.

Her health continued to decline and after four years in Europe, she returned to her sister’s household and died in 1882.

Many historians contribute Mary’s odd behavior for some thirty years to bipolar disorder, but it has also been suggested that she suffered from pernicious anemia—a vitamin B12 deficiency. She might have suffered from both.

It is hard to imagine what it must be like to be the wife of a president, or a country’s leader, especially during a Civil war. Given the difficulty of Mary’s life before she became First Lady, and certainly with the pressures she endured after with the death of three children and her husband, in addition to physical and emotional health issues, it’s no wonder she seemed a little off her rocker.

Although not one of the most popular First Ladies in history, Mary Todd Lincoln can be remembered as a devoted wife and mother, and loyal to her role in the white house. Despite illness, incomprehensible grief, and public disapproval, she showed fortitude in keeping up the good fight and enduring despite it all.

annie oakley mystery series kari bovee novel authorAre you a historical fiction fan? Do you love a good adventure and a strong female lead? Check out my Annie Oakley Mystery Series here!

 

 

Nellie Bly – Mad, Committed or Both? (Part Two)

(Continued from 4/8/18 – Find Part One here.)

Bly remained at Blackwell’s Island for ten days. What she saw, she could never forget. Doctors seemed oblivious to their patients’ illnesses. Orderlies and nurses abused their charges. They served their patients spoiled food. There was no access to warm clothing or clean linens. In short, the place was a rat-infested hell-hole. Bly herself had to endure one of the “treatments” which consisted of buckets of freezing water poured over her head. She and the others had to sit for twelve to fourteen hours straight-backed benches, unable to talk or move. Many of the women there were foreigners, not insane. Their inability to communicate in English rendered them “crazy.”

When her ten days were up, Joseph Pulitzer sent an attorney for Nellie’s release.

Bly’s story, done in a series, rocked New York and the world at large. Her writings forced Blackwell’s and other asylums around the country to change the way they treated and provided for their patients. Bly herself became an overnight sensation as the world’s newest and most provocative “investigative journalist.” She later compiled the articles into a book called Ten Days in a Madhouse.

Nellie Bly
(Wikipedia)

In 1889, Bly would make the news again. She had just read the fictional book, Around the World in Eighty Days, by the French writer Jules Verne, and she wanted to see if she could make history again. She suggested to her editor at the New York World, that she try to beat the record set by Phileas Fogg, the possible inspiration for Verne’s novel. A year later, she boarded the steamship the Augusta Victoria, and Bly was on her way to complete the journey. She took with her the dress on her back, an overcoat, several changes of underwear and toiletry essentials.

The itinerary included England, France, Brindisi, the Suez canal, Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. She traveled by steamer and railway. While in France, she met Jules Verne, and while in China she visited a leper colony. In Singapore, she bought a monkey.

Despite occasional setbacks due to weather or other complications, Bly returned to New York seventy-two days later. She had beat the record. However, a few months later by a man named George Francis Train beat her record. He completed the journey in 67 days. Still, Bly’s accomplishment had been duly noted.

Bly married at 30 years of age. Never one for convention, she married a man 40 years her senior, a millionaire named Robert Seamen, the owner of a manufacturing company called the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company. Nellie joined her husband in running his business and retired from journalism. She then became one of the leading women industrialists in the United States. She herself invented and patented a unique milk can, and a stacking garbage can.

The couple had a happy marriage, but Seaman died in 1904 leaving Bly with control of his company. Bly continued her quest for social reform and installed fitness gyms and libraries at the company and provided health care for her employees. However, the cost of these additional perks took a toll and her inheritance dwindled. In her later years, Bly returned to her journalistic roots. She covered women’s issues in World War I and also wrote extensively about the suffragette movement.

At age 57, Bly died in 1922 from pneumonia. But her legacy lives on. Articles, books, television shows and movies have been made about the courageous woman who, committed to her causes and the plight of women around the world, had herself committed to an insane asylum to affect change in her own life and reformation around the globe.

annie oakley mystery series kari bovee novel authorAre you a historical fiction fan? Do you love a good adventure and an empowered female lead? Check out my Annie Oakley Mystery Series here!

 

 

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Empowered Women of the West – Dr. Nellie MacKnight (Part One)

Women studying medicine at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1892.
Cowgirlmagazine.com

San Francisco 1891

“Subjects, bodies for dissection, were divided into five parts—the head, two uppers and two lowers. By some ironical twist of circumstance, the first dissection assigned to me was a lower. The dissection of the pelvic organs was to be done in company with the young man who was assigned to the other lower. It was a male subject.

 … It came time for the quiz section in anatomy. The quizmaster was a dapper young graduate, much impressed with himself and his authority. He was of the group who hated the incursion of women into what he considered the distinctly masculine territory of medicine…The quizmaster walked over to our dissecting table.

 “Why has nothing been done on your subject?” he questioned.

 The young man hesitated, glancing at me.

 The quizmaster turned on me. “Have you the other lower on this subject?” His words were like a steel file.

 “Yes,” I replied, the blood rushing to my face.

 “Do you expect to graduate in medicine, or are you just playing around with the idea?”

 “I hope to graduate.” I tried to make my voice sound firm, but instead, I realized it sounded ridiculously weak and feminine…

“If you have any feelings of delicacy in this matter, young woman, you had better leave college and take them with your, or fold them away in your work basket and be here, on your stool, tomorrow morning. We don’t put up with any hysterical feminine nonsense in men’s medical schools.”

This, from the autobiography of Dr. Nellie MacKnight, is an account of one of her earliest assignments at San Francisco’s Toland Hall Medical School. One of only three women in her class, this naïve, but bold young girl would go on to graduate with flying colors and become one of the West’s most beloved and respected doctors.

But, medicine was not the profession Nellie MacKnight ever thought she’d choose. In fact, it wasn’t her choice at all. . .at first.

Dr. Helen MacKnight Doyle
Rangeandriverbooks.com

In Petrolia, Pennsylvania in 1873, Nellie came into the world as one of three children born to Smith and Olive MacKnight. Her two siblings died shortly after their birth, leaving Nellie to grow up an only child to a stern father, and an over-protective mother who lavished her with attention. An expert seamstress, Olive loved to dress Nellie in beautiful dresses made with her own hands. Though he loved his wife and daughter, Smith, found his profession as a surveyor dull, and his life in Pennsylvania uninspired. He desired to move out West in search of gold and riches, and in 1878, did just that, leaving his wife and daughter in the care of his parents in New York. He promised once he’d made his riches, he would send for the two of them. He never did.

Nellie found life at her grandparent’s farm happy and fulfilling. From her grandfather, she learned about horses and how to care for animals. From her grandmother, she learned more domestic chores, and also how to make remedies for certain illnesses. Her mother, Olive, did not fare as well. News from her husband that he’d purchased a mine with great potential raised Olive’s spirits momentarily until he stated that he would not send for her and Nellie until the mine “paid off.”

Despondent over the news, Olive fell into a depression. Life became harder when typhoid took Nellie’s grandmother and her favorite uncle. Fearing for Nellie’s health, Olive made the decision to move the two of them to her father’s home in Madrid, Pennsylvania. In order to keep herself and Nellie clothed, and Nellie in school, she took a job at the Warner Brother’s Corset Factory as a seamstress. Nellie excelled at her studies, and took a particular interest in literature and hoped to, one day, become an author.

Long hours and tedious work at the corset factory took its toll on Olive. Letters from her husband telling her that the mine had still not yielded any gold further distressed her. To relieve her pain and the stress caused from supporting herself and her young daughter—and the continued absence of her husband—she turned to laudanum, a tincture of opium. One night, in her drug-induced euphoria, Olive decided to end it all and overdosed. She left a note for ten-year-old Nellie encouraging her to “be a brave girl. Do not cry for Mamma.”

(To be continued next week)

Sources:

Roses of the West, by Anne Seagrave

Enss, Chriss. “Wild Women Wednesday: Dr. Nellie Mattie MacKnight.” Cowgirl Magazine. October 19, 2016, https://cowgirlmagazine.com/wild-women-wednesday-dr-nellie-mattie-macknight/

 

Tower of London – A Medieval Zoo

Lion-013-2048x2048In 1066 England suffered its only foreign invasion when the Duke of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings, squashing King Harold II and his troops. Firmly settled on English soil, and the new ruler of the land, the new king, who becomes known as William the Conqueror decides to build an enormous fortress to show his power to any defiant Londoners and to deter other foreign invaders. In 1076 he constructs the Tower of London, or the White Tower, at 90 feet high with 15’ thick solid stone walls strategically positioned on the banks of the Thames. In the 13th century, the Tower is further fortified with double surrounding walls and a moat built over 18 acres.

In the 1930’s a team of archeologists digging in the long dried up moat excavated the startling remains of a leopard, 19 dogs and two of the recently extinct Barbary Lions – the same medieval lions whose sculptures grace London’s Trafalgar Square. Further research revealed that over 60 species, up to 280 exotic animals, resided on the grounds of the Tower for over six hundred years.

The first animals to arrive were the Barbary Lions in 1235. Twenty years later an African Elephant took up residency as a prize from the Crusades. To ward off the London chill, his keepers kept him in a large stable and plied him with a gallon of red wine a day. The tradition of gifting the crown with foreign species continued and the menagerie grew to include tigers, zebras, kangaroos, monkeys, ostriches and even a Norwegian White Bear who was kept muzzled and chained, but often walked to the Thames to fish for his dinner.

For three centuries, visitors to the Tower had to go past the exotic menagerie to tour the castle and grounds. The animals served as a royal status symbol and showed the world the importance of the English monarchy. In the 18th century, the admittance price was three and a half pence, but if you brought a cat or dog to feed to the predators, you were admitted for free.

The confinement of these wild and exotic animals was a constant challenge and several times the large cats would escape and often kill the other animals and occasionally attack a tourist. In 1832 it was decided the animals had to leave. They were sold at auction as fixtures and fittings. Today, detailed wire sculptures of the famous beasts are strategically placed on the grounds so the modern tourist can get a sense of what visiting this unusual zoo must have been like.