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MTW: Historical Mysteries and Thrillers Theme

Welcome to the third of four themed posts about MysteryThrillerWeek, an annual event celebrating the Mystery and Thriller genres!

Over two-hundred authors are participating in this global event. To help readers and authors better connect, a variety of themed lists – sub-categories of both genres – have been created.

Today I’m thrilled to share with you eight books from the Historical Mysteries and Thrillers Theme, books which transport you back to Amsterdam during World War Two, Victorian England, the American Revolution, a slave ship sailing round the Horn of South Africa, the Roman Empire, the Middle East during the 1st century C.E., America in the early 1900s, and the Wild West.

Authors Michael Smorenburg, Edwin Herbert, J.B. Richards, Khristina Atkinson, Marie Silk, Maggi Andersen, and Jane Jordan have kindly provided a description of their historical setting and story. I’ve also included information about my own historical fiction novel. Click on the book cover to link to Amazon where you can read an excerpt and learn more about the author.

These are but a few of the 20+ books currently listed in the Historical Mysteries and Thrillers category.

Be sure to sign up as a Super Fan on the MysteryThrillerWeek website to be kept up-to-date of all the fun games, prizes and giveaways taking place during the event, February 12 – 22, 2017.

I look forward to seeing you there!

But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the wonderful books in this category…


The Praying Nun: A True Story by Michael Smorenburg

At the southern tip of Africa lies a ship graveyard.

The reason is obvious: Before Suez, much of the world’s trade had to round the perilous waters where Africa interferes with ill-tempered southern ocean. Here you will find Cape Town, one of the world’s most majestic cities built around Table Bay, a bay that forms a funnel with its mouth yawning wide open to swallow the winter onslaughts. The result of wind-driven ships and treacherous weather is predictable; the highest density of shipwrecks anywhere on the planet.

Indeed, Cape Town’s city center is built on a mile of reclaimed land pushed out over what used to be the ancient anchorage a century and more ago. So that, when today’s civil engineers build our skyscrapers and burrow down to the bedrock of that foreshore to sink their anchorage, they find the sites of tragedy and shipwrecks in their foundations.

Let’s give this some context: Take a globe of the world and check out the distance Spain, Greece and Southern California are from the Equator – now look at the tip of Africa… we are the same distance south of the Equator as those great regions are north of it.

Around a headland from the city is another smaller bay, just a mile wide. That headland soars to 3,000-feet in towering height; it is the fabled Table Mountain. At three-times the age of the Himalaya it is one of the world’s oldest mountains and a World Heritage Site.

This smaller bay is called Clifton, and it surely is the most comely and magnificent setting for a suburb on this planet. Fingers of reef stretch from the beach seaward, lying eternally in wait to snag the keel of any unsuspecting ship’s captain. And, in 1794, one of these reefs got lucky, tearing the hull out of a slaver with 400 unfortunates chained in her holds.

The bones of that tragedy lay undetected until a friend and I found them nearly thirty years ago; in 2015 the Smithsonian identified them as the wreck of the São José Paquete Africa.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 4th when Michael will share more about his exciting find in the post, A Graveyard for Ships.


Mythos Christos by Edwin Herbert

The year 391: Roman Emperor Theodosius issues a decree that only one religion would hence be recognized—Christianity. Pagan worship will no longer be tolerated. Even to move one’s lips to a false idol is deemed a criminal offense. At the behest of Alexandria’s archbishop, the Christian mob swarms the city, gleefully destroying all things pagan.

When the Neoplatonist philosopher and teacher Hypatia of Alexandria witnesses the razing of the Serapeum, a seven-century-old temple to the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, along with its annex library, she wonders if the Great Library of Alexandria will suffer a similar fate.

Hypatia takes measures to preserve selected scrolls and codices from any subsequent purges, especially what the Church considered forbidden knowledge—certain telling documents concerning the hidden origins of Christianity. In order to prevent the uninitiated from discovering her trove of manuscripts, she sets up a series of burials governed by actual linguistic and geometrical riddles which must be solved to gain access. Only a philaletheion, a truth-seeker steeped in Platonist mysticism and Pythagorean mathematics, could hope to solve her sequence of puzzles.

21st century: A young American Rhodes Scholar and student of paleography, Lex Thomasson, is asked to join a team of Vatican archivists to help them advance through what they came to realize was Hypatia’s long dormant treasure hunt. Utilizing a cipher known as gematria, Lex demonstrates his unique talents by unlocking the secrets along the trail. Soon, however, Lex becomes suspicious of the group’s motives and flees, only to find them and a hired cabal of assassins converging on the final cache. The archaeological adventure continues from Alexandria to Eleusis, Delphi, and finally Heliopolis.

Mythos Christos is really two tales in one, and the scene alternates between the timelines. The reader will be intrigued to learn some curious mathematical relationships that exist in the very names of the Greek gods and, weirdly, even within some of the Gospel narratives themselves.

Those who choose to read Mythos Christos may wish to first visit my website at and download the printable gematria key to help you understand the solutions to the riddles.


Miriamne the Magdala by J.B. Richards

For over 20 years, I’ve researched the lives of Jesus and Mary Magdalene—as well as the religious, political, and cultural climate of the Middle East during the 1st century C.E. My perception of Jesus, The Christ—called “Yeshua” in his native Aramaic tongue, and Mary Magdalene (aka Miriamne), as well as my insight into their times, inspired me to write about them not in a religious context, but in the sphere of their everyday familial lives, putting the focus on young Yeshua’s Destiny and the impact of his earthly Mission on his beloved Miriamne, his family, and friends.

What happened to Yeshua during that 20-year period familiarly called the “Missing Years” is one of History’s greatest mysteries! What we do know about Yeshua’s era is that any young Jew growing up in Roman occupied Galilee would have had the ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice foremost on their mind. Both Yeshua and Miriamne would have grown up quite aware of the absolute tyranny of Roman rule. With the Pax Romana—the Roman Peace—of paramount importance to the Empire, anyone threatening to disrupt that all-important peace would have been dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly. Prior generations of Jews—Yeshua and Miriamne’s parents and grandparents—would have been outraged by the ineptitude of the Jewish authorities to protect their own people from the horrors exacted by their foreign overlords. And with over 2,000 crucifixions having recently taken place in Galilee, a strong sense of national pride and cultural identity would have been instilled in each subsequent generation of God’s Chosen People. All awaited the arrival of the Messiah. He would exact justice and restore the Jewish homeland!

The tale of Christ’s “missing years”, and the story of the girl, who would become his closest confidante, most important apostle, and one true love, has never before been told in such an intimate and compelling manner. One thing is for certain; Once you read “Miriamne the Magdala”—and the subsequent chapters in The Yeshua and Miri Novel Series—you will never see Jesus and the Magdala the same way again!


The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery by Jennifer S. Alderson

Amsterdam in the 1940s, during the height of the city’s occupation by Hitler’s troops, forms the historical setting for The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery. Extensive research into the plight of homosexuals and Jewish artists in Europe during World War Two, as well as the complexities inherent to the restitution of artwork stolen by the Nazis, was crucial to writing this book – and quite interesting!

I was inspired to write it while studying art history in the Netherlands and used my adopted hometown of Amsterdam as the setting. This was a period of time which I knew shockingly little about before I moved to the Netherlands. Amsterdam is dotted with plaques and memorials to this turbulent period and writing this novel was a way for me to process all that I’d learned about the history of the country I now call home.

The narrative switches between present day and wartime Amsterdam, enabling the reader to learn more about past events and predicaments as seen through the eyes of my characters. This allowed me to fully explain and explore the emotional and psychological impact the Nazis’ atrocious policies and actions had on individual Dutch citizens. The story will appeal to those interested in learning about aspects of World War Two history not often discussed in textbooks or history books.

I hope you enjoy following along on Zelda’s journey and helping her solve this art mystery!

Set in the Netherlands, The Lover’s Portrait is the contemporary story of American art history student Zelda Richardson, who finds clues to the whereabouts of a collection of masterpieces hidden somewhere in Amsterdam, secreted away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer. Her discoveries make her a target of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the lost paintings. As the list of suspects grows, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.


Hopelessly, Completely, MADLY in Love by Khristina Atkinson

Jesse Dalton is a young and green deputy when Lexi Weston rushes into the Sheriff’s Office one afternoon and announces her husband has been shot.  Sheriff Vaughn isn’t around, so he eagerly questions the couple.  His goal in life is to be the sheriff one day.  He learns that two men aren’t very happy about Luke Weston marrying Lexi and questions both suspects.  He has a hard time keeping his eyes off of the auburn haired beauty with emerald eyes and understands their attraction to her.

Lexi runs away from Silas Reilly and Cooper Grayson when she can’t choose between the two men to visit her grandmother, Maggie Weston in Louisville.  Her step-grandson, Luke, is Lexi’s constant companion while she’s staying at their home.  They frequent the Ohio River to watch the steamboats.  After a tornado hits Louisville, the new stadium is quickly repaired and the two of them are able to take in an opening season baseball game for the Grays.  The second Kentucky Derby is exciting for them to watch.

Jesse comes back into Lexi’s life in an official capacity as the sheriff when Lexi wakes up and finds a painting of herself hanging on her bedroom wall.  She’d posed for an artist, Jasper Marx, in Charleston, South Carolina after she was determined to see the Atlantic Ocean.  He spots her frolicking in the waves and must have her model for his next masterpiece.  After her portrait was finished, she lost a chunk of time after drinking a cup of tea he prepared for her.  She fears Jasper took advantage of her.  He claims he’s only in town to visit with his old and dear friend.


Davenport House 4: Heiress Interrupted by Marie Silk

More to the story is revealed in this fourth book to Davenport House. Nellie Whitmore is accustomed to life as a carefree heiress, but her claim to the family fortune is at risk because of a new heir. Nellie is sent to Britain to be married before word spreads of her changing circumstances. What begins as a luxurious voyage becomes a fight for survival when the ship is caught in the midst of the War, forever changing the people who live to tell about it.

Friendship is kept afloat by telegrams between London and Davenport House. Mary Davenport announces exciting news, and the servants prepare for more changes downstairs. Ethan is anxious to move to Philadelphia, but becomes overworked while the estate is in search of a new groundskeeper. Relationships become strained when the unthinkable shakes the foundation of the house, and the ladies are left to evaluate the risks of keeping secrets.

Don’t forget to check back here on January 23rd when Marie will share more about her fascinating research trip sailing the Atlantic.


A Dangerous Deception by Maggi Andersen

I love the Regency for its history, the ton, the balls, the fashions, the furniture, art, architecture, and the larger than life characters which inhabited it. It was noted for its elegance, refinement, and cultural achievements which shaped British society, but there was a darker side filled with political upheaval, bloodshed and warfare.

Squalor existed beneath the glamour and gloss. Particularly after the Napoleonic War ended, when the English economy suffered and many were poor and desperate. Unhappy with Liverpool’s government, conspirators met in quiet corners and plotted, and many feared a revolution like the one in France. In the rookeries and dingier, less affluent areas of London, thievery was rife and drinking and gambling flourished. London was a dangerous place.

My spies inhabit the darker side as well as the glamorous balls and soirees. I considered the years after the Napoleonic wars had ended to be the perfect period in which to set my spy series: The Spies of Mayfair. In the first in the series, A DANGEROUS DECEPTION, Guy, Baron Fortescue has come to England to claim his title and estates. After killing a man in a duel, Guy’s father fled England before Guy was born. A relative has taken care of Rosecroft Hall during the long years while the family was away.

Once on English soil, attempts are made on Guy’s life. Might it be his relative, Eustace Fennimore behind it, who has become very comfortable leading a baron’s lifestyle? Guy is drawn into a web of deceit, and finds himself working for the Crown, while falling in love with the feisty, aspiring poet, Horatia Cavendish.

Horatia is determined to keep alive her handsome fiancé, who has proven more than willing to play the part of her lover even as he resists her attempts to save him.


The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Jane Jordan

The Beekeeper’s Daughter is a historical thriller that begins in the year 1698, although, the majority of the book is set during the Victorian Period.  The location for this book is on Exmoor in the South West of England.

Exmoor is an inspirational place for writers.  The landscape is dramatic with great cliffs that plummet into the sea, deep wooded verdant valleys and large expanses of purple clad moorland.  A place where thick creeping mists can quickly roll in from the sea, and turn the beautiful countryside into a hauntingly eerie landscape.  Add to this an ancient castle, a preserved medieval village and a myriad of folklore and legends that intrigue locals and tourists alike.

The first time I visited Exmoor I fell in love with the romance of the place.  As a writer, I have attempted to capture the emotional experiences of living and working there. In parts, it still is an untamed place that still retains an air of a much slower and bygone era.

I also write about the city of Bath, famous for its Georgian architecture at a time when it was fashionable to take the waters at the highly-regarded Pump room, or to be driven in horse drawn carriage to an elaborate ball.

Annabel Taylor is the beekeeper’s daughter, and this is a story of her unwavering love for Jevan, the Blacksmith’s son. Her connection to Jevan is sensual and dangerous, but her ability to charm bees is the dark undercurrent that weaves throughout this thriller.

After Jevan shatters her world by leaving Exmoor, Annabel forms a friendship Alex, the heir to the foreboding Gothelstone mansion.  She is oddly drawn to Alex despite their social divide, she knows his attention is merely a distraction from her true love.  Alex has other ideas.

When Jevan returns, a destructive love triangle follows. Annabel is ensnared into the dark legacy of the Saltonstall family, and when the lives of those she loves most are threatened, she must use her inherent power and destroy a powerful witch.


If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up to receive the latest posts from my blog by entering your email address into the form on the right-hand sidebar. From now until February 22, this site will be inundated with MysteryThrillerWeek guest posts, articles, features, interviews, giveaways and much more. I look forward to seeing you there!


Jennifer S. Alderson

Hello! I am the author of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series, the Zelda Richardson Art Mystery series, and Adventures in Backpacking novels. I love to write and blog about travel, art, museums, expat life, and great books. Thanks for stopping by!

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Hamish

    whoah this blog is fantastic i really like studying your
    posts. Keep up the great work!

  2. Walter

    Great post! We will be linking to this great post on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  3. Karen Y Wood

    Thanks for posting this. I enjoy your blog.

    1. Jennifer S. Alderson

      Thank you, Karen Y Wood, for letting me know! That is quite the compliment, coming from such an esteemed writer! Have a great night.

  4. Jane

    Thank you Jennifer, this page is wonderful.

    1. Jennifer S. Alderson

      I’m thrilled to have you on my site for a ‘cameo’ appearance! Your book description is intriguing and I love your cover. Good luck with MTW!

  5. Marie Silk

    Thank you for this lovely feature, Jennifer! All the books look amazing :).

    1. Jennifer S. Alderson

      Thank you for participating, Marie Silk! So many wonderful books to be read…

Comments are closed.