Biography of a Crime

Today is National Biography Day. On this day in 1763, Samuel Johnson had a meeting with John Boswell and a beautiful biography was born.

Mystery writers have given the biography a bloody twist. Historical figures investigating crimes make for entertaining reading and hopefully even more entertaining discussion. There’s the built in topic of how accurate and/or realistic was the author in depicting the life, personality, and times of the investigating luminary. Not to mention the methods that are used to solve the puzzle.

If you’re looking for some historical mysteries featuring real characters try one of these titles, a scant few considering how many more are out there.

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard features a young Edgar Allan Poe, assisting a retired New York City detective who takes a fatherly interest in the moody young alcoholic with poetic tendencies. The two men are investigating the murder and dismemberment of a cadet at West Point.

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl features a cadre of American scholars, Henry W. Longfellow, James Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and J.T. Fields, all of them Dante scholars. The young band of intellectuals are investigating a serial killer who is using Dante’s Inferno as inspiration for his murders.

The Escape Artist by Ed Ifkovic features a young Edna Ferber before she became a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Edna is a girl reporter with the lucky break to interview Harry Houdini during a visit to his small home town. After the body of a young woman is discovered, Edna and Harry team up to solve the crime.

Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story by Kim Powers features the death bed confession of Truman Capote as he telephones his long-time friend Harper Lee and they discuss their shared experience involving the Clutter family and their estrangement over Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. A literary mystery.

Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft by Nancy Means Wright. This isn’t the Mary of Frankenstein fame, but her mother, a staunch defender of the oppressed and advocate for women’s rights. Before she became notorious for her outspoken views, Mary was a governess. In this fictionalized account, she investigates the murder of an illegitimate member of the local aristocracy.

There are also series featuring Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Beatrix Potter, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte, just to name a very few. Be sure to bring along a biography of the “investigator” for fun fact checking during discussion.

 

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

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