10 spooky historical thrillers

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Del Rey

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the bestselling author of Mexican gothic come Velvet was the night, a stylish noir about crime, passion and murder set against a backdrop of protest and political drama in 1970s Mexico. When a dreamy secretary’s neighbor goes missing under suspicious circumstances, she finds herself searching for the missing woman , meet a lonely gangster and delve into Leonora’s secret life of radical and dissident students. Kirkus is calling Velvet was the night “a black masterpiece.”

It is said that if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. The stories told in the halls of historical thrillers are the main suspects that this saying is true. Over the centuries, deadly secrets are buried and then discovered; dangerous obsessions lead to unspeakable acts; and disappearances shake up communities and reveal the ugly truths we try to cover up.

If you’re new to the historical thriller genre and looking to dive into those troubled waters, you might be wondering what distinguishes a historical thriller from a historical mystery or historical thriller. Of course, all three take us to the past. A mystery follows a protagonist trying to uncover the truth behind a murder or crime; the danger levels in which they are found are generally mild. A suspense will gradually reveal the danger and bet on the tension and uncertainty to destabilize both the protagonist and the reader. A Thriller in French, ahh… that’s where the danger lies. The gloves have been removed, dear reader, and our protagonist is in great danger because of the lag.

This list is dedicated to historical thrillers that bring us protagonists with unusual skills, unseen motivations, and a relentless quest for answers. Let us take you through four centuries in five different cities: London, New York, Boston, Vietnam and Venice.

cover image of The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle

The poisoned bed by Elizabeth Fremantle

London, 1615. A murder took place at the court of King James I. The suspects ? Lord Robert and Lady Francis, married, ambitious. Robert went from rags to one of the richest and most powerful men in the land; Francis has escaped an abusive marriage and is determined to forge a better life with Robert. Neither will give up on who actually committed the murder. The king is convinced that they both did it, but there is a complication: Robert is also his lover. Can he sentence Robert to death? Who will pay the ultimate price for poisoning?

witch hour cover image by chris bohjalian

Witch hour by Chris Bohjalian

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is stuck in the New World with an abusive and alcoholic husband in a community that neither condones nor acknowledges divorce. Mary desperately wants to leave and opposes the colony’s oppression and hypocrisy. But Mary’s problems are only just beginning. “Tainted” objects are found in his garden; a boy whom she treats with herbs dies; a servant flees their house in terror. Whispers of witchcraft surround Mary, and she must find out who is trampling her before being sent to the gallows.

frannie langton confessions cover by sara collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

London, 1826. Frannie Langton is accused of the murder of her employers, a scientist and his French wife. She’s due to stand trial, and the whole town is in turmoil over the scandal, but there’s a problem: Frannie doesn’t remember what happened that night, or how she was showered with their blood. We delve into Frannie’s past to find out how she got here, from her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, to her apprenticeship with an extremely unethical scientist, to what led to her job (and a relationship prohibited). Frannie’s testimony will do more than solve the crime in question.

cover image of the doll factory by elizabeth macneal

The doll factory by Elizabeth Macneal

London, 1850s. The Great Exhibition arrives in the city, and Iris has come to see it appear before his eyes: a respite from her monotonous and uninspiring life by painting the faces of dolls. She meets a taxidermist named Silas, and although the encounter is totally forgettable for Iris, it marks the beginning of an obsession with Silas. All Iris wants to do is fulfill her dream of becoming an artist, and she has no idea Silas is following her every move, waiting for her chance to get closer …

Lydia Kang's The Impossible Girl cover

The impossible girl by Lydia Kang

Manhattan, 1850. Cora Lee has one particular skill that is highly coveted among city anatomists: she is a resurrectionist. As someone who straddles the world of the elites and the forgotten, this is a lucrative business for Cora, and one that allows her to keep an eye on those watching. her. It’s not every day that a girl is born with two hearts, is it? Murders begin to happen all around Cora, and the group of people she trusts begins to shrink as she tries to figure out who wants her dead.

Cover image The Murder of a Gentleman by Christopher Huang

The murder of a gentleman by Christophe Huang

London, 1924. Lieutenant Eric Peterkin, a World War I veteran, was offered a membership in the city’s most elite soldiers’ club, just in time for another member to be assassinated. Peterkin knows someone else in the club is responsible, but his investigation of what happened takes him to unexpected places, from heroin lairs to abandoned war hospitals, as he dives back into the history and memories of a war they are all trying to fight. pass.

cover image of a smart woman by karin tanabe

An intelligent woman by Karin Tanabe

New York, 1954. The war is over and Katherina Edgeworth is living the American dream… on the surface. Beneath her life on Fifth Avenue with her pediatric surgeon husband and two sons, there is a longing for the excitement of her past, when she worked as a translator for the United Nations. When approached by the FBI to become an informant, she jumps at the chance. A man from his past is now a Soviet spy, and Katherina is the only person who can come close to him. However, the closer she gets to the KGB, the more people around her lose their blankets… and their lives.

cover image of the Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan

Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan

Venice, 1966. Frankie Croy never managed to match the success of her first novel, and she finally broke under the pressure. Needing to recharge, she fled to a friend’s palace in Venice, to meet a young admirer named Gilly. Gilly sneaks into Frankie’s loneliness in a way that arouses Frankie’s suspicion. Who is this woman? When is she telling the truth and what is she lying about? The Gilly mystery is thrown into an even more desperate situation when the two are swept away by the Venice flood in 1966.

cover image for Build Your Home Around My Body by violet kupersmith

Build your house around my body by Violet Kupersmith

Saigon, 1986. The daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family gets lost as she tries to run away from her angry father. Twenty-five years later, an unfortunate Vietnamese American disappears from her home in Saigon. These two cases are related, but to find out what that connection is we need to explore other seemingly unrelated incidents across half a century of Vietnamese history, all carrying the same thread that will bring us back to what happened to these. girls.

Cover image of the American spy by lauren wilkinson

american spy by Lauren Wilkinson

New York, 1986. Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI, and her career stagnates: she is a young black woman in a predominantly male and white field, and she is excluded from all high-profile cases. That changes when she gets the chance to join a secret task force to take down Thomas Sankara, the communist president of Burkina Faso. A slight problem, since she secretly admires Sankara’s ideology, and still faces the sorrow of having lost her sister. Marie spends the following year getting closer to Sankara, seducing him and accepting what it takes to bring him down.


Hope this list will satisfy your thirst for something dangerously exciting, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very last page. Want more historical sensations? You have come to the right place. Keep traveling through this rabbit hole, reader, and see what you find:


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