If you are a reader of historical mysteries, especially if there is a nice long series of them, the eleven Sir John Fielding Mysteries, by Bruce Alexander, could be for you. In Georgian London (that is, when mad King George was sending redcoats to North America to discipline those headstrong colonialists), Sir John Fielding is the magistrate in Covent Garden. Based on a true character, Sir John was known as the “Beak of Bow Street” and was responsible for organizing the first-ever police force, known as the Bow Street Runners. With a reputation as an uncompromising, exacting man of the law, he was also one of the first to be considered fair and impartial when hearing cases involving the local riff-raff from the streets of London.
I have only read the first two, and so can’t vouch for them all, but these were perfect. Told by Sir John’s young ward, Jeremy Proctor, a foundling with a sharper-than-average mind and keen powers of observation, who becomes Sir John’s helper and co-conspirator in unraveling the dastardly crimes of Covent Garden. Oh, did I mention that Sir John was blind? Stories are told about how he could recognize 2000 local criminals by their voices alone. His astute and probing mind, his unfailing memory and keen senses, prove the undoing of the criminal element in old-town London.
Alexander sets just the right mood in foggy London with visits to the infamous Newgate Prison, "Bedlam" Hospital and Drury Lane Theatre; colorful and memorable Dickensian-style characters, including a few real ones like Samuel Johnson and Ben Franklin; really twisty plots which are hard to second guess; and a very well-crafted, lilting narrative which mimics eighteenth-century speech, but is utterly readable.
Be sure to begin with the first, Blind Justice. For a list of all the titles in the series, in order, look here.