Historical crime fiction: Does the crime fit the time?
I realize now why the book worked: the crime fit the time. It’s 1170, and the Jews of Cambridge have been accused of murdering children. England’s King Henry II, for whom the economically active Jews are a source of tax revenue, wishes to clear them, if possible, and he sends for the book’s title character, who sets the investigation in motion.
Humans have likely been killing one another forever, so an author who sets a story in a time other than his or her own has one big question to answer: Why one period over any other? Why set a story in 1170 rather than 1270, 1370 or 1970? Franklin set hers at the time and in the place where the slander arose that Jews killed Christian children for ritual purposes. Henry’s motive for wanting to solve the case is not just plausible, but plausible historically.
I can think of one other author whose historical crime fiction similarly seems perfectly suited to its period: Carlo Lucarelli. What about you, readers? What historical crime fiction is not just a good read, but could not have been set in any other period?
© Peter Rozovsky 2007