Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A M Stuart on Why I Love Historical Mysteries

I am very pleased  to welcome author A S Stuart to my blog today. A S Stuart also writes under the name Alison Stuart, and under that name has written one of my favourite books for the year, The Goldminer's Sister!

Welcome Alison!

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today.

I began my writing career writing the books I love to read – an appealing hero and heroine, great location, history and action and a happy ever after. I described my early books as ‘historicals with romance’, rather than what most people think of as ‘historical romance’. They were fun to write and, I hope, are still fun to read, but it took a conversation with that wonderful writer, Mary Jo Putney, to make me see a different perspective on my writing.

She asked me a simple question… “What do you like to read?” I had to think about that question, mentally going through the books on my TBR pile and the books I listened to on audio to fill in the long commute to and from work. My answer surprised me… “I mostly read mystery books.”

While I love my historicals with romance, the truth was I preferred the puzzles of a good mystery novel – or TV series. On our regular holidays to a guest house in the hills above Melbourne, as a teenager, I devoured Agatha Christie and I think her writing more than anything sowed the seed of my love of a good mystery. Like romances, which promise the reader a HEA, genre mysteries are premised on the expectation that good will triumph over evil.

Of course, Christie was writing stories that were contemporary to her, although they dress up beautifully as ‘historical mysteries’ in this day and age. The concept of a historical mystery series seemed rather remote until I started on Ellis Peters and the Brother Cadfael series. I had found a happy place where my love of historical fiction blended with my love of a good crime story.

After pondering Mary Jo’s question and admitting I mostly read crime and mystery, I thought the time had come to turn my hand to writing my own… maybe combining all the things I loved about writing my ‘historicals with romance’ with a mystery to solve. If you have read GATHER THE BONES or LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, you will know that is exactly what I did and I loved writing them, although I did have to concede my usual ‘pantsing’ approach to writing was not suited to a more structured mystery.

Which brings me to my breakout series – THE HARRIET GORDON MYSTERIES. In the early 2000s I lived in Singapore and being ‘just an expat wife’ I had the leisure to really get to know the bones of the colonial past and it was in the microfiche room of the National Library I came across the curious advertisement in the Straits Times for a stenographer and typist, guaranteeing ABSOLUTE SECRECY AND CONFIDENTIALITY. The advertisement stayed with me and it took me several years of planning (a new concept to me!) to create the character of Harriet Gordon, stenographer and typist and failed suffragette. Along with Harriet I had to also create her community and a world that no longer exists – that of Singapore in 1910. I chose 1910 precisely because NOTHING HAPPENED! Most western fiction based on Singapore focuses on the 1930s and World War 2. I wanted to create a small town mystery series in the classic sense.

So back to the question: Why do I love writing historical mysteries?

1. I love creating a puzzle for the readers to solve with a twist in the tail.

2. I love writing about the Edwardian era – those golden days before World War One when the sun never set on the British Empire, while also acknowledging the dark side to that past.

3. There is also a huge challenge in solving crimes without the benefit of modern science. In 1910 the height of forensic scientific advancement was the use of fingerprinting and photographs. Those days when the investigator’s main investigative tool was his or her own common sense and curiosity.

4. And finally I have loved creating a series with characters I know almost as well as my own family. I am more than a little in love with Curran and Harriet is my best friend and I look forward to meeting them in each new book as they slowly reveal their own character arcs.

I really do have the best of both worlds… historicals with the potential of romance, action, adventure and of course an intriguing (I hope) mystery to solve!


The first book in the Harriet Gordon Mystery series, SINGAPORE SAPPHIRE, came out in 2019 and the second book REVENGE IN RUBIES is out on 15 September 2020 and is available in print (online order only in Australia), Ebook and audio.


  1. Hi Alison

    I loved that post and I too am loving Harriet's story I loved Singapore Sapphire and can't wait to read Revenge in Rubies

    Congratulations woohoo

    Have Fun


  2. I think we have the same taste in books. We listened as a family on long drives to all the Agatha Christie books. The eight hour tapes were a blessing. I still love her work. Harriet Gordon is a great protagonist. I look forward to her new adventure.