Mysteries for all ten historical periods
Does humanity, as travelers on the ship called Earth, steer the ship, or are we merely passengers?
- Classical Antiquity
This term refers to a broad range of time. In terms of significance, it may be narrowed distinctly to the years 300-600 BCE. Like the bottom stones of the pyramids, it is the foundation for all that follows. Humankind experienced the Greek Empire and the Roman Empire as well as the formation of religious traditions. Buddha, Confucius, and Mahavira all lived during this age. Their teachings became the basis for the Old Testament. At the same time, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato created philosophies and sciences still referred and adhered to today.
Book Recommendation: Pompeii by Robert Harris (Marcus Attilius Primus’s predecessor has disappeared; powerful forces are at work—natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him).
- The Dark Ages
Rome fell and with it, darkness descended. Of course, the Black Death (bubonic plague) wiping out 30 percent of the European population did much to add to the darkness. Little in the way of progress of any sort was made. It was indeed dark compared to the era that preceded it. It is one of the “best” because it was overcome.
Book Recommendation: The Prow Beast by Robert Low (In the age of the plundering Vikings, this is more thriller than mystery as the throne’s heir is hunted down).
- The Middle Ages (a.k.a. the Medieval Period)
Knights and crusades, the formation of the Knights Templar, the Magna Carta, Richard the Lionheart, the Hundred Years War, and the War of the Roses—what’s not to love? The true significance of this period is the small spark of intellectual curiosity that would give birth to the Renaissance.
Book Recommendations: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (A masterpiece of a monastic murder mystery); Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (A female doctor turns sleuth).
- The Renaissance
The rebirth of humankind. Individuals turned away from the dominance of a “vengeful God” and made a stand for their own importance. The rediscovery of humanism (human matters taking prime importance over the divine) freed man as he had never been freed. The advances in art, literature, architecture, and science made during this period are unparalleled: Dante, Giotto, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raffaello, Botticelli. It boggles the mind. It is my belief that some cosmic force exploded in Florence (generally considered the birthplace of the Renaissance) to bring these people and their work together for an explosion of evolution. It is my pleasure and privilege to write of these times.
Book Recommendation: For all that Italy was the cradle of the Renaissance, there are few historical mysteries set in this period. (If I can’t list my own, then…) The Sign of the Weeping Virgin (Five Star Mystery Series) by Alana White (A revered painting of the Virgin Mary begins shedding tears and a young woman disappears, plunging Guid’Antonio Vespucci on a search for her and for answers).
- The Elizabethan Period/The Reformation/The Age of Exploration
Yes, I’ve cheated a bit here, but though they may have different labels, these eras all occurred at the same time. A powerful woman sat on the English throne and brought it to a Golden Age. One of the greatest battles of religion—the Reformation—took place, claiming thousands of lives. And those with courage boldly went where no man had gone before.
Book Recommendation: Q by pseudonymous authors known as Luther Blissett (all of Europe is ravaged by the wars of the Reformation; from Germany to Venice, a heretic is hunted).
- Age of Revolution
We had had enough of inbred narcissists who sat on thrones, gorging while the rest of the world starved. Revolutions took place in America, France, and Haiti. The Irish rebelled and wars for independence took place in Greece and in Latin America. Power to the people.
Book Recommendation: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy (A classic, yes; the tale of a mysterious man one French agent has sworn to hunt down).
- The Industrial Age
The Industrial Revolution began much earlier than most believe. The tools, the powered machines, and mass-production capabilities were invented in the late 1700s/early 1800s. Their use would become widespread at that later date. Once more, there was a cluster of powerful thinking and innovation at work.
Book Recommendation: A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel by David Liss (An intricate web of deception and violence hide behind London’s business dealings).
- Victorian Era (UK) The Gilded Age (US)
Two distinct eras, yes, but concurrently. Queen Victoria took the English throne and immediately affected the behavior of man to a more civilized way of living. Decorum and proper manners became the tone; some say it went further, forging onward to the prudish.
This same code of conduct took hold in America during The Gilded Age, the sparkling post-Civil War period during which the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Rockefellers made their fortunes and influenced society.
Book Recommendations: The Interpretation of Murder: A Novel by Jed Rubenfeld (Freud, murder, and Gilded Age New York); And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (A Victorian England ‘cozy’ mystery with a twist).
- The ’60s
Vietnam and its destruction of both lives and society brought with it protest and change everywhere. Civil rights, women’s rights, a television in every household, the birth of rock ’n’ roll, man landed on the moon, JFK shot. This list barely covers it. Humanity would never be the same again. I feel honored to have been a witness and participant (albeit a young one) in this era. It has shaped me to my core.
Book Recommendation: Again, not a mystery per se, but for its harsh violence and frightening thrill ride, there can be no other than Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.
- The Digital Era
And here we are. I graduated from college in 1980 having never seen a computer. Then a constellation of extraordinary thinking and innovation took place, exploded. Now my phone tells me where everything is, plays my music, allows me to see—in real time—people who live on the other side of the world. All the knowledge and information known to man is at our fingertips. And it fits in my back pocket. There are many who believe such technology is destroying personal human contact; to an extent I agree. But this age is not done yet; who knows where it will take us? Who knows how it will evolve us?
Book Recommendation: Torn between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by the late Stieg Larsson (A man on a forty-year search for a missing woman is aided by a young computer hacker), and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Is she missing or is she dead…perhaps more of a thriller, but this one is difficult not to include and delineates superbly how today’s technology may only make such outrageous “fictions” become fact).
Donna Russo Morin is the author of four multi-award-winning historical novels including The King’s Agent, recipient of a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Her other titles are The Courtier’s Secret, The Secret of the Glass, and To Serve a King. Her works span the years from 1482 to 1682. Her most recent work, Portrait of a Conspiracy: Da Vinci’s Disciples Book One (of three) released May 10th and follows the challenges and adventures of a clandestine group of women artists set during the height of the Italian Renaissance. In addition to her writing, Donna has worked as a model and an actor with appearances in Showtime’s Brotherhood, and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. A multi-degreed graduate of the University of Rhode Island, she lives still in her home state of Rhode Island with her partner, Carl. Donna, a proud, single mother of two sons, considers Devon and Dylan—an opera singer and a chef, respectively—her greatest works in progress.