Mystery, history, historical mystery: restorative time-travel from the comfort of a chair. Three picks from my summer reading:
• Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, set in Cambridge in 1171. At last, a medieval mystery with a spunky, independent woman sleuth. Trained in Salerno, Italy, a progressive city of Jews, Christians, and Muslims where women can study and practice medicine, Ariana must solve the murders of English Christian children before the local community turns on local Jews as scapegoats—and on Adelia as a suspected witch. This is the first in a lively series of four.
• Cézanne’s Quarry by Barbara Corrado Pope, set in southern France in 1885. Two of Cézanne’s more disturbing paintings depict the knife-murder and strangulation of women with red hair. When a redhead is found dead in a quarry, Cézanne is one of two suspects. The other is the victim’s lover, an English radical who offends the establishment with lectures on Darwin and the age of the earth. This and its sequels touch on tenacious issues like religion/science and antisemitism.
• Nemesis by Philip Roth, set in Newark in 1944. How can a young playground director sustain self-respect when poor eyesight bars him from military service and he’s powerless to protect his playground kids from a raging polio epidemic? The hook for me is the pre-1950s polio mystery I’ve written about: Why couldn’t fly-swatting campaigns, quarantines, and insecticides stop the spread of polio?
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.