Seriously. Scientists at Cornell University have created a real hole in time, a temporal cloak of sorts, just like the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter. It’s a place where objects are invisible and events are un-recorded. Sure, no humans went in the hole and it only lasted 50 trillionths of a second, which isn’t long enough to do much of anything, but it’s still pretty cool.
This set my mind to wandering—if we can create the invisibility cloak, can Hermione Granger’s time turner be far behind? This led me to think about time travel in crime fiction and how much I love it. Almost anything can be done or undone in the world of limitless time travel—it’s all about imagination, control and of course, timing. It’s a criminal’s dream. And if you mess up, you can almost always go back and try again.
I look for three things in my time travel fiction:
- There have to be rules that govern the time travel– I don’t care what the rules are, but they can’t change in the middle of the story.
- The world has to be expertly rendered so I can suspend my disbelief.
- I have to have someone that I want to root for.
With that in mind, here are my favorite crime stories with time travel.
Jasper Fforde’s, Thursday Next Series, starting with The Eyre Affair
In Jasper Fforde’s wonderfully witty Thursday Next series, the protagonist, a woman called Thursday Next is a special agent. Her job involves traveling in and out of books to protect great literature from bad characters who attempt to destroy it from within. Her father, a member of an elite time travel team called the Chronoguard, truly travels through time to stop crime. If you haven’t read any of this series, I strongly urge you to start with the first one, The Eyre Affair, where Thursday is charged with protecting the classic novel, Jane Eyre.
ABC’s Once Upon A Time
The Evil Queen in ABC’s Once Upon a Time was able to get an entire town full of fairy tale characters to travel through time to the next generation and into a town called Storybrooke, Maine. Now that’s some serious time traveling. This feat enables this super criminal to control everyone’s lives without their knowledge. But is the Evil Queen really the most dangerous person in this tale? So far this season, Rumplestiltskin has managed to commit murder, arson, kidnap a child and sell stolen goods. There’s no telling what’s next.
The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen
In The Revisionists, an excellent book by Thomas Mullen, good agents and bad agents alike go back in time to either protect the timeline or prevent bad events from happening with weighty ethical consequences for both groups. Saving a life in the past can alter the future—but does it alter it for better or worse?
Stephen King’s 11/22/63
What if you could go back in time to stop John F. Kennedy’s assassination? That is the premise for the Stephen King novel, 11/22/63. Stephen King and time travel, do you need another reason to read this book?
The Map of Time, by Felix Palma
Felix Palma’s book, The Map Of Time, makes a protagonist out of a reluctant H.G. Wells to investigate potential incidents of time travel in Victorian London. Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and Henry James also live among the fictional characters in this fun, steampunk book.
If you are looking for more time travel fiction, you can check out this wonderful article from The Atlantic on the Brief History of Time-Travel books, from Charles Dickens to Stephen King.
I’m sure I missed a few good ones. What are your favorite time travel stories?
steampunk time machine image from Second Life
Deborah Lacy loves crime fiction a little too much. You can follow her on Twitter (@quippy), if you dare.