Crossover Appeal: World War II Mysteries

Nearly two years ago I wrote here about my fondness for two post-World War I mystery series, Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series and Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. This past year I’ve moved a bit further ahead in history and have enjoyed two new World War II-era mystery series.

Now of course many classic mystery series were written during the 1940s, and I’ve read and enjoyed a large number of them. Agatha Christie’s mysteries featuring Miss Marple (The Body in the Library and The Moving Finger, etc…) and Hercule Poirot (Evil Under the Sun and Five Little Pigs, among others) are some of my favorites written in the 1940s.But mysteries written today, and set in World War II, have gotten to be a new thing for me.

In June I wrote about my discovery of Kathryn Miller Haines’ The Girl is Murder featuring Iris Anderson, a teen sleuth living in New York City during World War II. I read the second in the series, The Girl is Trouble, not long after and it didn’t disappoint. For fans of audio books, I highly recommend the series’ narrator Rachel Botchan. She does a great job with the teenage voice of Iris, as well as the various characters Rachel encounters.

A few months ago I discovered another World War II-era mystery series by Susan Elia MacNeal. In the first book – Mr. Churchill’s Secretary – we’re introduced to Maggie Hope. Maggie is British but was raised in America. Maggie is brilliant and planned to get a PhD in mathematics until family matters forced her to go to London. In the first book Maggie works as a typist in the Prime Minister’s office. In the second, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, Maggie is placed as a spy in Windsor Castle under the ruse of being Princess Elizabeth’s mathematics tutor. I listened to the first and thoroughly enjoyed Wanda McCaddon’s narration. At times she can be overly dramatic, but it worked for me.

I’ve been so happy with these two new series that I’m looking for more mystery series set during World War II, and it would make me very happy if there was at least a promise of romance for the lead character. I get a lot of ideas for mysteries from Stop You’re Killing Me, but most series set in the 1940s seem to feature male detectives. While I read a number of mystery series with male lead characters, I prefer women in the lead. There’s also a great thread on the Romance Potpourri Forum about World War I and II books, and I intend to scope out some of the romances mentioned there that are set during World War II.

I do have leads on a few potential series. I’ve heard good things about an earlier series by Kathryn Miller Haines featuring Rosie Winter, an actress who also works in a detective agency. I have the first in the series, The War Against Miss Winter, in my TBR pile. Unfortunately, this series doesn’t seem to be available in audio, or I’d get to it more quickly.

I read some books by Mignon Ballard years ago but recently discovered that she has a new series set during World War II featuring Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, a first grade teacher in Elderberry, Georgia. The first in the series, Miss Dimple Disappears, was published in 2010, while the second, Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause, is a 2012 release. As of now the series isn’t available in audio. I’ve picked up the first in the series and plan to crack it open soon.

I’ve located two other series – with female leads – that sound promising, although I don’t know anyone who’s read them. The first is Kate Kingsbury’s Manor House Mystery series that begins with A Bicycle Built for Murder. The series features Lady Elizabeth Hartleigh Compton who lives in Sitting Marsh, England. I’m fascinated by archaeology, so the second series, by Aileen G. Baron and featuring Lilly Sampson, sounds particularly intriguing. According to what I’ve seen online, Lilly is an archaeology graduate student when the series begins. The first book, A Fly Has a Hundred Eyes, is set in Jerusalem.

Have you read either of these last two series? What about the Miss Dimple series? And have you discovered any good World War II-era mystery series that I haven’t mentioned, particularly featuring a female lead?

– LinnieGayl Kimmel

8 thoughts on “Crossover Appeal: World War II Mysteries

  1. Kelli Stanley has a couple of books set in 1940s San Francisco. Her protagonist is Miranda Corbie who is a private investigator with a shady past. These are a lot more noir then most of the others mentioned but they are very atmospheric and good. First in the series is CITY OF DRAGONS.

    Another one that is extremely good – though darker in tone – is CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein.

  2. The Miss. Dimple series is excellent. Amy Patricia Meade has written a couple of series. The first one is the Marjorie McClelland mysteries and the first book is called “Million Dollar Baby”, Marjorie is a mystery writer and solves mysteries with her wealthy boyfriend. It is set in the 30′s. The other series is the Rosie the Riveter mysteries. It is set in WWII. The first one is called “Don’t Die Under the Apple Tree”. Both series are good.

    • Thank you, Marilyn S! I’m really happy to hear about the Miss Dimple series. I haven’t seen the Amy Patricia Meade series; I’ll have to look for them.

  3. Elswyth Thane wrote a romance series in the 40′s+. It starts with Dawn’s Early Light at the War of Independance and the last 2 books are set in WWII. It follows one family through… 6 or 7 books???? I’ve had to pack mine away since we’re gutting that room at the moment.

    I’ve read Mr Churchill’s Secretary and liked it. Princess Eliz Spy isn’t getting the greatest reviews but I’ll read it as well via the library.

    I have requested Sarah Sundin’s With every Letter from the library and they are purchasing it so I’m waiting for it to arrive.

    I also purchased Carrie Loftie’s His Very Own Girl for my kobo. I’m getting really irritated with it and I’ve just started reading it. I am getting tired of the constant “woman shouldn’t be doing” and the “I am not a good medic” comments that go on and on and… they aren’t the only repeated points but the 2 that I remember most. Will keep reading, but it’s a very slow starter.

    I know I’ve read more in this time frame but can’t think of them off hand.

  4. I haven’t read either of the last two mysteries you named. I will have to try them.

    I have read = and loved = the Bess Crawford series but that is WWI. I liked The Girl is Trouble and The Girl is Murder a lot more than the author’s Winter series.

    Simone St. James fabulous The Haunting of Maddy Clare is set between the wars and is absolutely terrific.

    I did read a DIK WWII romance (Flame of Resistance Tracy Groot) the other day but alas, there was no mystery.

    • If you like WWI there’s always Laurie R King’s Holmes/Russell series and it starts with the Beekeeper’s Apprentice and moves into the time period btwn the wars.

    • I recently listened to the first Bess Crawford and really liked it. I’ll be downloading the second pretty soon.

      I have The Haunting of Maddy Clare in my TBR pile.

      I’ll have to look for Flame of Resistance, Maggie.

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