If you find secret corridors and hemlock poison more interesting than gunfire, you may enjoy this collection of mysteries set in medieval England, Scotland and Ireland. Each of the books listed below is one of a series that revolves around a particularly engaging sleuth for whom the plagues, politics, and superstitions of the medieval world are normal facts of life and the best tools available for solving crimes are a keen intellect and a strong understanding of human nature.
Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne
The 17 books in the Sister Fidelma mystery series begin with this tale of murder investigated by our heroine Fidelma, who is both a nun and a “dlaigh,” or “advocate,” permitted to practice law in the Irish courts. The religious divisions, political climate and surprising degree of gender equality found in seventh-century Ireland shine in the background as our clever and diplomatic detective unlocks secrets and saves the day.
Monk’s Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters
Much-loved sleuth Brother Cadfael brings his skills as an herbalist to bear when a visitor to Shrewsbury Abbey exhibits symptoms of a dangerous poison. Though this third Brother Cadfael mystery is set in a monastery, others take place in exotic settings and in the days before Cadfael took his vows. Nearly two dozen books lie in store for the Cadfael fan.
The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer
Misery sweeps the abbey in the wake of domineering Domina Alys’s ascension to Prioress, as her unfair rules and unwise decisions threaten ruin to the nuns and their beloved home. When a family feud leads to murder, it is up to Sister Frevisse to find the true killer and restore sanity to St. Frideswide. This is the seventh book in Frazer’s Edgar award-winning Sister Frevisse mystery series.
The Queen’s Man by Sharon K. Penman
In book one of the Justin de Quincy mystery series, Richard the Lionhearted has gone missing and his ruthless brother John plots to usurp the throne. Evidence emerges to suggest that Richard may yet live, and our endearing hero is sent by Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to uncover the truth. Fans of Penman’s plot twists and period detail will enjoy a long list of sequels.
Fortune Like the Moon by Alys Clare
Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionhearted also feature in this 12th century mystery. When a nun of Hawkenlye Abbey meets a brutal end, Richard’s childhood friend Sir Josse d’ Acquin collaborates with clever Abbess Helewise to find the killer and clear Richard’s name. Two more mysteries by the same author await readers who enjoy this detecting duo.
The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell
Young Thomas of Hookton is a gifted archer who, through skill and luck, narrowly survives the destruction of his coastal village by Norman Raiders. Seeking the opportunity for revenge through travel with the English army, Thomas soon learns his past contains dark secrets and perhaps even a connection to the Holy Grail. This is book one of a trilogy filled with detailed descriptions of medieval battle.
Falconer and the Great Beast by Ian Morson
William Falconer, Regent Master at Oxford University, and his old friend Friar Roger Bacon find themselves surrounded with excitement and intrigue when a visiting tartar leader is murdered, racial strife threatens the general peace, and an elephant belonging to Henry III arrives on the scene. Using a blend of guile and science — somewhat taboo in the 12th century — the pair collaborate to apprehend a murderer. Detailed scenes of medieval life may hold particular appeal for fans of the period. Fifth book in the William Falconer Medieval Mystery series. For adult and young adult readers.
The Devil’s Hunt by P.C. Doherty
Disaster strikes 14th century Oxford, causing King Edward to send his former Chief Clerk, Sir Hugh Corbett, scrambling to restore order. The severed heads of beggars are found hanging from trees, faculty members are murdered, and treasonous proclamations begin to appear around town. Can Sir Hugh find the killer? Book 10 in the Hugh Corbett Mystery Series.
The Burgundian’s Tale by Kate Sedley
Robert the Chapman, a peddler with a knack for solving crimes, stars in this eponymous mystery series set in 15th century England. A family man whose infant child has recently died, Robert is called to London by the Duke of Gloucester to investigate a murder and the tangled chain of inheritance it sparks. English social classes and family dynamics of the period are showcased in vivid detail. This is the 14th book in the series.
The Last Templar by Michael Jecks
This Medieval West Country mystery series stars Lord Simon Puttock, a Bailiff, and Sir Baldwin Furnshill, the only surviving member of an order of warrior monks who were slaughtered by a greedy king. The two meet over a body found in a burned cottage, as Sir Baldwin pronounces a murder.
(If you like these books, you might enjoy our Historical Mysteries list. Or tell us about your favorite Medieval mysteries!)