Historical Thrillers

A Bitter Veil by Libby Fischer Hellmann

By Derek Gunn

It all began with a line of Persian poetry…

Libby Fischer Hellmann has been writing professionally since 2002 and is well-known for her Ellie Foreman and Private Investigator Georgia Davis series of books. She is co-founder of Fischer Hellmann Communications, which specializes in video production, speech writing, and spokesperson training. In A BITTER VEIL, Libby’s prose flows, her characters breathe, and readers will find themselves flicking through the pages and spending more time than they had planned riveted to the book. A number of reviewers said A BITTER VEIL is a significant departure from Libby’s usual books, and it most certainly is.

A BITTER VEIL is a novel of love, revolution, and how culture can force people together and rip them apart with ruthless abandon. The book is well-researched, and the people and the geography come alive. Culture, religion and politics all feature heavily but only serve to impact characters’ views or actions.
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Operation Ruby Slipper by John Meyer

John Meyer’s first book about Judy Garland, HEARTBREAKER, was a day-by-day account of his attempt to help the singer through her last year. Now, OPERATION RUBY SLIPPER drops Garland into occupied Europe at the height of the Second World War. She’s to locate—and photograph—a reclusive Nazi scientist who is working on nuclear-powered batteries for Hitler’s U-Boats.

ITW spoke to Mr. Meyer in his Manhattan home.
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The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

By Sandra Parshall

M.J. Rose’s new novel, THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES, arrives on a wave of extraordinary praise, including a starred PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review that called it a “deliciously sensual” tale featuring “characters with rich internal lives in a complex plot that races to a satisfying finish.” NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Douglas Preston described it as “Amazing…utterly engrossing. Elegantly written, with unforgettable characters.”

Like Rose’s previous suspense novels, THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES blends elements of several genres. Mixing history, international intrigue, an eternal romance, murder mystery, and a touch of the paranormal, the story spans several centuries and circles the globe, but at its heart is a modern heroine, young Jac L’Etoile. Along with her brother, Jac is heir to a famed French perfume dynasty. When her brother hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives, then suddenly goes missing—leaving a dead body behind—Jac is plunged into a world of intrigue and danger. While investigating her brother’s disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L’Etoile has espoused since 1799. Does Cleopatra’s lost book of fragrances still exist? Does it contain the recipe for a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation?
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Code Name: Caleb by John A. Bray

By Virna DePaul

In CODE NAME: CALEB, a teenage Union soldier is brought back by the National Detective Service as an undercover operative. Johnny is sent to New York to infiltrate a criminal enterprise counterfeiting US currency, then travels to Canada where a murderous Confederate spy ring is plotting an armed uprising to take over New York City and hold it hostage.

Johnny’s dream is to return to childhood sweetheart, Deidre, who kept him alive as a destitute youth, but there is more than the daily risk of sudden death keeping him from her as he enters the very heart of the conspiracy. Suspected by some plotters, he is seduced by Letitia, a beautiful woman – herself a key member of the gang – whose orders are to expose him.
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From the Ashes by Jeremy Burns


Jeremy Burns is a rule breaker.  If there’s such a thing as poetry in death, Jeremy has found it as he rivets your eyes to each sinister page, describing what assassination looks like, tastes like and feels like.  In the first fifteen pages you hope the killer will be foiled.  You keep saying to yourself, it won’t happen, it won’t happen, it won’t happen.  And then you hold your breath until it does.

The book is FROM THE ASHES. And Jeremy Burns is part of a great experiment by Fiction Studio Books to get good authors noticed and into the hands of people who like reading works by good writers.  Published January of 2012, the experiment is working.  Jeremy has already generated buzz from Barnes and Noble Booksellers.  But perhaps the biggest buzz will be in what he chooses to write.  Jeremy says, “I decided to look at the historical record and see what mysteries no one had yet covered, and I created a strikingly plausible scenario that fits in rather eerily with the established history.”
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A Quiet Vendetta by R.J. Ellory

By L. Dean Murphy

When Catherine Ducane disappears in New Orleans the cops react fast and in total secrecy with the FBI—she’s the governor’s daughter, after all. But the case quickly grows strange. Her bodyguard turns up horribly mutilated, but the kidnapper doesn’t want ransom. He wants time alone with a New York detective who has a truckload of personal issues. By the time the pieces fall into place, it’s too late. Award-winning A QUIET VENDETTA is both the epic story of one mobster’s life—ranging from Cuba to Chicago and Miami to LA—and equally a powerful thriller of rage, love, and loss.
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The Secret Crown by Chris Kuzneski

By George Ebey

Chris Kuzneski is the author of an exciting series featuring intrepid adventurers Jonathon Payne and David Jones.  Beginning with their stunning debut in THE PLANTATION, Payne and Jones have done everything from unraveling ancient conspiracies to uncovering lost treasures.  Now they are back in what might be their most harrowing adventure yet.

Bavaria, 1886: King Ludwig II is declared insane by his government and forcibly removed from the throne. A day later, Ludwig’s corpse washes up in the shallows of Lake Starnberg. Rumors swirl about the tragedy, but few know why the eccentric king was really killed— and what secret was silenced by his death.
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The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

By Miranda Parker

O MAGAZINE named Nancy Bilyeau’s THE CROWN (January 2012, Simon & Schuster) one of the “16 Books to Watch for in January 2012,” because “the real draw of this suspenseful novel was its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.”

When Joanna Stafford, a young novice, Dominican nun, learns her cousin is about to be burned at the stake for rebelling against King Henry VIII, she makes a decision that will change not only her life, but quite possibly the fate of a nation. Charged with a mission to find a hidden relic believed to possess a mystical power that has slain three Englishmen of royal blood in the last 300 years, Joanna and a troubled young friar, Brother Edmund, must seek answers across England. Once she learns the true secret of her quest, Joanna must finally determine who to trust, and how far she’s willing to go to protect her life, her family and everything she holds dear.
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Escape From Paris by Carolyn Hart

By Don Lafferty

Driven by journalistic aspirations in the style of Georgie Anne Geyer, a young Carolyn Gimpel Hart took a left turn toward fiction, and inspired by strong, courageous women, has gone on to author more than forty novels, become a founding member of Sisters in Crime, and was deemed by her colleague, author Nancy Pickard, heir apparent to the Grand Dame of the traditional mystery novel, Agatha Christie.

But you better think twice before looking down your nose at this “Cozy” author.

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A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander

By Andrew Zack

When I started to read the description of Tasha Alexander’s latest novel, A CRIMSON WARNING, my first reaction was Huh?  This is a thriller?  But as I read further, things started to come together and I thought, What a great twist!  I wish I could say I was familiar with her series, but I’m not.  One of the downsides of working in the publishing industry is that you rarely get to read anything published!  I read manuscripts, proposals, sample chapters, and query letters all the time, but rarely finished books.  But I think I’d really like to get into this series.
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Cold Glory by B. Kent Anderson

By Paula Tutman

B.Kent Anderson has a wonderfully beautiful way to turn a gentle phrase on an ugly time in history-the Civil War.  His words lilt and melt in your mind as you read them.  Part history lesson, part poetry and part thriller, Anderson has joined the three with as much richness as the South joining the North.

In his latest novel, Cold Glory, Anderson rebuilds the time in history in which General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to General Ulysses S. Grant.  He plants himself as a fly on the wall to hear the fictitious final conversation and to read a secret agreement between the two warriors, enemies, co-conspirators.  And the book, Cold Glory is born.
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Horizontal Collaborator by Adrianne Sainte-Eve

By Michael Haskins

“Horizontal Collaborator” takes place in Europe, from the turn of the twentieth century through World War I.  Readers are introduced to the eccentric lifestyle of the Hungarian nobility, which still has its roots in the feudal system, and is sharply contrasted to the childhood of Gabrielle Violette Clary, the story’s protagonist, an illegitimate peasant born in the countryside of Lorraine in France.

Violette, a streetwise Parisienne, revels in the unconventional café life of the period.  She scratches out a living as a barmaid in Montmartre, amid surroundings that attract artists and bohemians as well as a wide variety of other characters, some intelligent, worldly people, and some who are merely bizarre.  During her youthful adventures, she has a brief affair with a Hungarian Hussar officer, who figures later as an influential character in the story.
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The Ronin’s Mistress by Laura Joh Rowland

by Ian Walkley

To write a historical novel in a foreign setting is challenging. To write a fifteen story mystery series about a detective in feudal Japan is an achievement only one American author can claim. Her name is Laura Joh Rowland.

The Ronin’s Mistress, Laura’s latest in the Sano Ichiro series (release date Sept 2011, St Martin’s Minotaur), sees Sano become embroiled in the biggest, most scandalous true-life story of the period—the revenge of the 47 ronin.

On a snowy winter night in 1703, the 47 ronin murder the man they blame for the wrongful death of their master. It’s Sano’s job to get to the bottom of things and help the government decide what to do with the 47 ronin. And in case that sounds straight forward, it isn’t. To this day there are still unanswered questions about the events that led up to the master’s death and the reasons why the 47 ronin waited almost two years for revenge. Meanwhile, Sano must also save his political career after the demotion he suffered during his previous adventure (The Cloud Pavilion).
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Motor City Shakedown by D.E. Johnson

By Nick Daniels

In the second instalment of his thriller series, Dan Johnson plunges readers into Detroit’s first mob war, into an underworld populated by gangsters, union organizers, crooked cops, and lawyers.

Motor City Shakedown, which releases this month, promises to be an exciting read:

Detroit, 1911. Seven months have passed since Will Anderson’s friend, Wesley McRae, was brutally murdered, and Will and the woman he loves, Elizabeth Hume, barely escaped with their lives. Will’s hand, horribly disfigured from the sulfuric acid he used to help save them, causes him constant pain, forcing him into a morphine addiction. He lives for nothing except revenge against the people who contributed to Wesley’s murder—first among them crime boss Vito Adamo.
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City of Secrets by Kelli Stanley

By Jeff Ayers

Kelli Stanley is one of the best historical mystery writers in the business.  Whether she is writing about ancient Rome or San Francisco at the beginning of the 1940’s, Stanley can immerse the reader in that time.  Her latest novel is her second set in SF, CITY OF SECRETS, and a follow up to CITY OF DRAGONS.

I recently had an opportunity to interview Kelli for TheBigThrill:

What sparked the idea for CITY OF SECRETS?

I first heard about the Holocaust when I was a child. Though I’m not Jewish, relatives on my mom’s side (she’s Polish) perished in the camps. I distinctly remember hearing the term “concentration camp” when I was probably three or four.

In high school, I tried to understand the cause, the psychosis behind it, how an entire country could perpetrate such an unimaginable, unspeakable crime.  Later, when I was in college and studying in Europe, I traveled to Dachau, and visited the tiny hiding place where Anne Frank spent her tragically short life.
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Secrets of the Dead by Tom Harper

Abby Cormac spent ten years trying to put the world’s worst criminals behind bars. Burned out, she thinks she’s left it all behind – until a terrible act of violence shatters her life once more. In a luxurious villa on the Adriatic coast, her lover Michael is murdered and Abby is left for dead.

Terrified and alone, Abby vows to bring Michael’s killer to justice. But when her investigation brings her into contact with the one of the Balkans’ most notorious gangsters, she soon realises that Michael wasn’t the man she thought she knew. He had discovered a secret – a legacy of betrayal and murder hidden by a conspiracy of silence.

Her private battle leads her from London to Germany, to Rome, and into the wild frontiers of the Balkans. But powerful enemies are watching her every move, and will do anything to ensure that the secrets of the dead never come to light…
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The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss

By George Ebey

David Liss is the bestselling author of seven novels, including A Conspiracy of Paper, The Coffee Trader, and The Whiskey Rebels. He also currently writes the series Black Panther: The Man Without Fear and Mystery Men for Marvel comics.

His latest book, The Twelfth Enchantment, tells the story of Lucy Derrick, a young woman from Regency England of good breeding and poor finances: after the death of her father, she is forced to maintain a shabby dignity as an unwanted boarder with her unpleasant uncle, fending off marriage to the local mill owner, Mr. Olson. But her prospects of even that unwanted match are complicated by the appearance of a beautiful stricken man who appears on the family doorstep begging her not to marry Mr. Olson just as he collapses. This appearance seems to open the door to a series of increasingly strange occurrences surrounding Lucy. Soon it becomes clear that there is more at stake than her own happiness — and that she is caught between two forces, one ancient and one modern — and that the soul of her very country is at stake.
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Louise’s War by Sarah R. Shaber

By Ethan Cross

Sarah Shaber is an award winning novelist described as having a “historian’s eye for the telling detail” and the ability to “capture the essence of Washington in 1942 with its paranoia, its secrecy, and its potential to let women reinvent themselves at a volatile time.”

In her new novel, Louise’s War, a young widow named Louise Pearlie has come to Washington DC to work for the legendary Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. When she discovers a document concerning the husband of her college friend Rachel Bloch-a young French Jewish woman she is desperately worried about-Louise realizes she may be able to help Rachel escape from Vichy France. But then a colleague whose help Louise has enlisted is murdered, and she realizes she is on her own, unable to trust anyone.
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The Vault by Boyd Morrison

by George Ebey

Boyd Morrison’s previous book, The Ark, featured former army combat engineer, Tyler Locke, and his quest to unearth the mystery behind the legendary Noah’s Ark.  Now Boyd is back with his exciting new follow up, The Vault.

This time around, Tyler Locke’s routine commute on a Washington State ferry is interrupted by a chilling anonymous call claiming that his father has been kidnapped and that a truck bomb is set to detonate on board in twenty minutes. When Tyler reaches the bomb on the boat’s car deck, he is stunned to find classical languages expert, Stacy Benedict, waiting for him. She has received the same threat and her sister has also been taken. In order to disarm the bomb, they must work together to solve an engineering puzzle—a puzzle written in ancient Greek. Preventing the explosion is only the first step. They soon learn the entire setup is a test created by a ruthless criminal who forces them to go on a seemingly impossible mission: uncover the legendary lost riches of King Midas.
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A Game of Lies by Rebecca Cantrell

By Diane Holmes

Rebecca Cantrell is the kind of historical, thriller author you discover with a rush of admiration, awe, and a devilish delight.  You feel lucky, as you sneak away to read, because she writes the kind of atmospheric, original, unexpected tale that takes an expert hand, and boy, does she have it.

This juicy thriller is set in the world of 1936 Berlin Olympics, Nazis, and hidden propaganda.  Series character, Journalist and part-time British spy Hannah Vogel is back posing as travel reporter Adelheid Zinsli and lover of SS officer Lars Lang.  Hannah has been collecting Nazi secrets from Lang and smuggling them back to Switzerland. Wanted by the SS, her travel in and out of Germany has always been fraught with danger, but this trip is especially treacherous as she reports on the Olympic Games (in both her roles).

Hannah agrees to meet her mentor, Peter Weill, at the Stadium, but before he can reveal information that will expose the Nazis, he dies in front of her. She must discover who killed Weill and get his secret package out of the country before the Olympics end and the Nazis tighten their noose…and before her true identity is revealed. And her partner may be the very one about to expose her…
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The Traitor’s Emblem by Juan Gomez-Jurado

by Andrew Zack

In the publishing business, we often talk about the value of subsidiary rights when selling or acquiring rights to publish a book.  Yet many authors are relatively ignorant of what exactly subsidiary rights are.  In a nutshell, they are the right to publish the book in other countries, as well as in Audio, Large Print, Book-Club editions, etc.  As well as the big ones like film and television.  Of these rights, translation rights can be among the most valuable and publishers often negotiate hard to get those rights, especially if they think the book will “travel.”

Many thrillers written by American authors are deemed too “American” for the foreign markets.  Imagine a novel about a militia in Michigan, for example.  While it might be a great thriller, will it appeal in France, Germany, Italy, and the UK?  I think not.

Hence, the pool of “international” thriller writers is smaller than one might imagine, which makes the success of Spanish writer Juan Gómez-Jurado all that much more impressive.  Published in over forty countries, he is the author of three acclaimed novels, GOD’S SPY, THE MOSES EXPEDITION, and the forthcoming THE TRAITOR’S EMBLEM (Atria Books; $24.99; July 19, 2011).
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The Breath of God by Jeffrey Small

A murder at the Taj Mahal. A kidnapping in a sacred city. A desperate chase through a cliffside monastery. All in the pursuit of a legend that could link the world’s great religious faiths.
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The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

by Sandra Parshall

Steve Berry became, in his own words, “an expert on rejection” during the years he spent learning his craft and trying to get published, but since the publication of his first thriller, The Amber Room, his career has never faltered. After three stand-alone thrillers that sold well, he introduced his series character, Cotton Malone, an antiquarian book dealer whose former life in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and the Justice Department keeps drawing him back into dangerous investigations in exotic locales. The Jefferson Key brings Malone home to the U.S. to uncover a diabolical plot that has changed the course of history more than once.
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The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland

by Tracy March

Karen Maitland’s latest medieval thriller, The Gallows Curse, highlights a perilous time of political and religious turmoil rife with mischief and murder. The U.K.’s Metro calls The Gallows Curse “a wildly atmospheric and wonderfully gruesome adventure.”

The year is 1210. A vengeful King John has seized control of the Church, leaving corpses unburied and the people terrified of dying in sin. In Gastmere, Norfolk, the death of the Lord of the Manor devastates the village when his loyal friend devises an unusual means of cleansing sin from the soul of his master. He uses a young servant girl who becomes the unknowing focus for decades of hatred. She makes a decision that puts her life in danger, and all the lives of those around her.
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The Curse-Maker by Kelli Stanley

By Jeff Ayers

Winner of the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award as best historical mystery of the year in 2008 for NOX DORMIENDA, Kelli Stanley has not slowed down or rested on her laurels.  She started a new series set in 1940’s San Francisco featuring PI Miranda Corbie, and now the follow up to NOX is out, titled THE CURSE MAKER.  She writes as if she has access to a time machine and her insight into history puts her near the top of the historical genre.
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The Irish Princess by Karen Harper

By Tracy March

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Harper’s latest historical thriller, The Irish Princess, twines an adventurous young woman’s quest for revenge with her longing for forbidden love. Publisher’s Weekly says, “Harper is in fine form, using strong-willed Irish noblewoman, Elizabeth (Gera) Fitzgerald, to explore the court of the aging Henry VIII and the brutal political struggles of the time.”

In The Irish Princess, Gera’s family, ‘the uncrowned kings of Ireland,’ are devastated by the orders of King Henry VIII—most imprisoned or executed. Vowing revenge, Gera works her way into the Tudor court and plans to kill the king, but she did not plan on falling in love with one of the king’s men, the Lord High Admiral of England. Nor did she expect to meet her match in the wily Princess Elizabeth Tudor of England.
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For A Roman’s Heart by Denise A. Agnew

Br Tracy March

Romantic Times Book Reviews calls Denise A. Agnew’s romantic suspense novels top-notch, and she has received their coveted Top Pick rating. Her latest historical thriller, For a Roman’s Heart, immerses readers in the turmoil of Britannia in 167AD—a brutal era where a woman uses her wits to survive, and a hardened Roman soldier finds his scarred soul vulnerable to a woman’s strength.
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The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry

In The Emperor’s Tomb, New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry’s newest, the tomb of China’s First Emperor, guarded by an underground army of terra-cotta warriors, has remained sealed for more than 2,000 years. Though it’s regarded as one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, the Chinese government won’t allow anyone to open it. Why?

That question is at the heart of a dilemma faced by former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone, whose life is shattered when he receives an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar Web address. Logging on, he sees Cassiopeia Vitt, a woman who’s saved his life more than once, being tortured at the hands of a mysterious man who has a single demand: Bring me the artifact she’s asked you to keep safe. The only problem is, Malone doesn’t have a clue what the man is talking about, since Cassiopeia has left nothing with him. So begins Malone’s most harrowing adventure to date—one that offers up astounding historical revelations, pits him against a ruthless ancient brotherhood, and sends him from Denmark to Belgium to Vietnam then on to China, a vast and mysterious land where danger lurks at every turn.
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Narrows Gate by Jim Fusilli

By Aaron Brown

With his new novel, Narrows Gate, author Jim Fusilli has blazed a path that may open up a bold new outlet for writers to share their stories.  He’s done so by becoming the first writer to sell a book to Audible (a large audiobook publisher and distributor) without the book first appearing in print.  And it’s fitting that the book treading this new ground is one described as “outstanding in every way” and “a big, broad-shouldered novel, equal parts Ellroy, Puzo and Scorsese.”
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The Insane Train by Sheldon Russell

While researching headlines at the historical society, award-winning author Sheldon Russell discovered all the elements for a mystery. In the early 1900s, an Oklahoma mental institution burned to the ground, killing several patients. Having nowhere else to go, the survivors were moved by train to a former military post that had been given to the state. The Insane Train (St. Martin’s Minotaur), the second installment in the Hook Runyon mystery series, launches Nov. 9, 2010.
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