31 Bond Street

31 Bond Street

3.8 40
by Ellen Horan
     
 

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The sensational murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell in his lower Manhattan townhouse was the biggest news story in the United States before the Civil War; "Who killed Dr. Burdell?" was the question that gripped the nation. Deftly interweaving fiction and fact, 31 Bond Street is a clever historical narrative that blends romance, politics, greed and sexual intrigue in aSee more details below

Overview

The sensational murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell in his lower Manhattan townhouse was the biggest news story in the United States before the Civil War; "Who killed Dr. Burdell?" was the question that gripped the nation. Deftly interweaving fiction and fact, 31 Bond Street is a clever historical narrative that blends romance, politics, greed and sexual intrigue in a suspenseful drama.
      When an errand boy discovers Burdell's nearly decapitated body in the bedroom of his posh Bond Street home, there are no witnesses and virtually no clues. With the city up in arms over the vicious killing, District Attorney Abraham Oakey Hall immediately suspects Emma Cunningham, the striking young widow who has been living at 31 Bond Street with her two teenaged daughters, caring for Burdell's home in exchange for a marriage proposal. But Burdell's past is murky and his true intentions towards Emma Cunningham were questionable, leaving Emma with a plausible motive for murder. With the help of her defence attorney, Henry Clinton, Emma embarks on a legal drama to prove her innocence and spare herself from the gallows.
      Set against the background of a bustling and corrupt New York City in 1857, 31 Bond Street is a fascinating archeological dig, taking the reader through the minutiae of a buried past, only to uncover circumstances that are shockingly contemporary: a sensationalist press, burgeoning new wealth, a booming real estate market, and race and gender conflicts. Ellen Horan's gripping novel vividly exposes a small slice of lost history as it explores New York City on the eveof the Civil War.

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Editorial Reviews

Clare Clark
The story is a blend of historical evidence and fictional imagining, an engrossing read that gains much from the author's historical acuity while making no compromises on narrative pace…It's not easy to breathe life into real-life characters, especially when quoting their words extensively from reported sources, but Cunningham and Clinton live on the page as freshly as if they had stepped, new-minted, from Horan's vivid imagination.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
A real-life New York City murder case provides the basis for Horan's impressive fiction debut, which works better as a historical novel than as a whodunit. In 1857, Manhattan is horrified and fascinated by a grisly crime—the murder of dentist Harvey Burdell, found on his office floor stabbed more than a dozen times and with his throat cut. The ambitious district attorney, Oakey Hall, who's linked with the Tammany Hall political machine, quickly focuses on Emma Cunningham as the prime suspect. Cunningham, the victim's housekeeper, claims that she and Burdell were secretly married. Her sole hope for avoiding conviction for murder is crusading defense attorney Henry Clinton. Horan alternates deftly between the present and flashbacks to Cunningham's past, capturing both the complex inner lives of her characters and the feel of the times. She also creates exciting courtroom scenes, but some may find the mystery's resolution disappointing. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
Horan brings to life a sensational 19th-century New York City murder trial in which a woman is accused of viciously killing her husband. Emma Cunningham, a widow with two daughters, has recently settled at 31 Bond St. as head housekeeper to the mysterious Dr. Harvey Burdell, a dental surgeon with a penchant for making crooked real-estate deals. Her "housekeeping" duties are fairly light and disguise the fact that Burdell occasionally summons her to his bed and that he intends to marry her, or so he says. When one morning a young lad-of-all-work discovers Burdell's body, with numerous gashes and an almost-severed head, District Attorney Oakey Hall, hoping to grandstand his way to the mayor's mansion, wastes little time in accusing Emma. Motive is supplied by a recently discovered wedding license testifying to Harvey and Emma's marriage some two weeks before the murder, so it looks as though his land holdings will go to his wife rather than to his venal siblings. Emma, however, is just as startled as anyone about the existence of this document, which seems an obvious forgery, especially since the minister who performed the ceremony has a hazy memory of the bride and groom. (Perhaps Harvey has done this to give himself legal custody of the dowry of Emma's 18-year-old daughter Augusta and thus to consummate a large and illegal transaction involving potentially valuable swampland in New Jersey.) To the rescue comes Henry Clinton, an up-and-coming defense lawyer, a kind of 19th-century Atticus Finch. He's convinced of Emma's innocence and disgusted with Hall's smarmy and politically motivated prosecution. Another mystery involves the disappearance of Samuel, Burdell's black servant, and theappearance of Katuma, a Native American who feels resentful that his tribe's land has been appropriated by whites. An engaging mix of fact and fiction, with a juicy trial, sensationalistic reporters and lots of local urban color.
Ron Rash
"31 BOND STREET is an impressive blend of imagination and history as it vividly brings to life one of New York’s City’s most notorious crimes. Ellen Horan has written a novel that, once begun, will be difficult for any reader to put down."
BookPage
"This thrilling book becomes not only a murder mystery, but a Wharton-esque examination of the mores and customs of antebellum New York society. . . . Rich with historical detail, 31 BOND STREET is one of the best debut novels in a long while."
Library Journal
Emma Cunningham stands accused of the brutal murder of dentist Harvey Burdell in 1857 New York City. As his housekeeper at 31 Bond Street, she had ample opportunity to break into his private study and stab him; as his discarded mistress and a victim of his financial shenanigans, she had compelling reasons for revenge. Emma was in trouble, with two teenage daughters to marry off and rapidly disappearing funds. But would killing Burdell save her and her family from ruin? Criminal lawyer Henry Clinton takes on the case and quickly finds himself in over his head. VERDICT Inspired by true events, Horan's solid effort is more suited to readers of historical novels than to mystery fans. Although the period detail and descriptions of New York City are carefully drawn, her slow pace and unsympathetic characters fail to transform this debut into the gripping tale of suspense that such a true crime deserves, and comparisons to Caleb Carr are unwarranted. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/09; ebook edition ISBN 978-0-06-196937-9; 60,000-copy first printing.]—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780007304059
Publisher:
Blue Door
Publication date:
02/28/2011

What People are saying about this

Ron Rash
“31 BOND STREET is an impressive blend of imagination and history as it vividly brings to life one of New York’s City’s most notorious crimes. Ellen Horan has written a novel that, once begun, will be difficult for any reader to put down.”

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