Whether you’re enjoying the summer heat or hiding indoors with the air conditioning on, it’s the perfect season to catch up on your reading. We love both historical fiction and pulse-pounding thrillers – so here are some books that perfectly combine the two, from the end of the 18th century to the tumultuous days of World War II.
Bound for Gold by William Martin
Rare-book dealer Peter Fallon and his girlfriend, Evangeline Carrington, are headed to California in search of a lost journal. The journal follows young James Spencer, of the Sagamore Mining Company, on a spectacular journey from staid Boston, up the Sacramento River to the Mother Lode, searching for a “lost river of gold.”
Peter and Evangeline quickly discover that there’s something much bigger and more dangerous going on, and Peter’s son is in the middle of it. Turns out, that lost river of gold may be more than a myth.
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club—poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields—are finishing America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante’s remarkable visions to the New World.
The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell’s punishments from Dante’s Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante’s literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret.
The Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch
Seven years after a financial crisis nearly toppled America, traders chafe at government regulations, racial tensions are rising, gangs roam the streets and corrupt financiers make back-door deals with politicians… 1799 was a hell of a year.
Thanks to Alexander Hamilton, America has recovered from the panic on the Devil’s Half Mile (aka Wall Street), but the young country is still finding its way. When young lawyer Justy Flanagan returns to solve his father’s murder, he exposes a massive fraud that has already claimed lives, and one the perpetrators are determined to keep secret at any cost. The body count is rising, and the looming crisis could topple the nation.
The One Man by Andrew Gross
Bursting with compelling characters and tense story lines, this historical thriller is a deeply affecting, unputdownable series of twists and turns through a landscape at times horrifyingly familiar but still completely new and compelling.
Poland. 1944. Alfred Mendl and his family are brought on a crowded train to a Nazi concentration camp after being caught trying to flee Paris with forged papers. His family is torn away from him on arrival, his life’s work burned before his eyes. To the guards, he is just another prisoner, but in fact Mendl—a renowned physicist—holds knowledge that only two people in the world possess.
Speakeasy by Alisa Smith
Thirty-year-old Lena Stillman is living a perfectly respectable life when a shocking newspaper headline calls up her past: it concerns her former lover, charismatic bank robber Bill Bagley. A romantic and charming figure, Lena had tried to forget him by resuming her linguistic studies, which led to her recruitment as a Navy code-breaker intercepting Japanese messages during World War II.
But can Lena keep her own secrets? Threatening notes and the appearance of an old diary that recalls her gangster days are poised to upset her new life.