31 Bond Street
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31 Bond Street

3.8 40
by Ellen Horan
     
 

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Who killed Dr. Harvey Burdell?

Though there are no witnesses and no clues, fingers point to Emma Cunningham, the refined, pale-skinned widow who managed Burdell’s house and his servants. Rumored to be a black-hearted gold digger with designs on the doctor’s name andfortune, Emma is immediately put under house arrest during a murder investigation. A

Overview

Who killed Dr. Harvey Burdell?

Though there are no witnesses and no clues, fingers point to Emma Cunningham, the refined, pale-skinned widow who managed Burdell’s house and his servants. Rumored to be a black-hearted gold digger with designs on the doctor’s name andfortune, Emma is immediately put under house arrest during a murder investigation. A swift conviction is sure to catapult flamboyant district attorney Abraham Oakey Hall into the mayor’s seat. But one formidable obstacle stands in his way: the defense attorney Henry Clinton. Committed to justice and the law, Clinton will aid the vulnerable widow in her desperate fight to save herself from the gallows.

Set in 1857 New York, this gripping mystery is also a richly detailed excavation of a lost age. Horan vividly re-creates a tumultuous era characterized by a sensationalist press, aggressive new wealth, a booming real-estate market, corruption, racial conflict, economic inequality between men and women, and the erosion of the old codes of behavior. A tale of murder, sex, greed, and politics, this spellbinding narrative transports readers to a time that eerily echoes our own.

Editorial Reviews

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.
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."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061773969
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/30/2010
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,279,313
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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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.”

Meet the Author

Ellen Horan has worked as a studio artist and as a photo editor for magazines and books in New York City. She lives in downtown Manhattan, the setting of her first novel.

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31 Bond Street 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
TWTaz More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story and found myself drawn in page by page. With an interesting cast of characters, this book really kept me guessing until the end. I was a little let down by the resolution of the story, but the reading journey getting there was well worth the time to invest in this book. Great depiction of the times, which certainly made me happy that I didn't live in that time period! Anyone who enjoys historical mysteries should like this book.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
I know you've heard it before, but this is a real page turner. It is a fictionalized account of a truly brutal murder that made headlines for more than three months in New York during 1857. In this pre-Civil War era, there was already plenty of intrigue concerning the gross treatment of women, the working class, and free blacks and runaway slaves. All of which made up a substantial part of the population of New York. To say that corruption in the local government was running rampant would be an understatement. Drop into this simmering pot a savage murder of a seemingly respectable dentist in his locked house; swindled business partners; alienated relatives; a sexy widow, who was his housekeeper and possible lover; politicians with their own agendas; a missing black man who was the victim's coachman, and you have a great story. The author skillfully leads the reader through a did she or didn't she kill her lover scenario. The preparations for the trial of the mistress and its subsequent revelations are counter played against glimpses of the events that lead up to the murder which took place at 31 Bond Street. Although Mrs Cunningham is the prosecution's focus for the crime, there is certainly no lack of alternate suspects. A very skillfully executed historical murder mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Book, one of my favorites
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Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
"31 Bond Street" by Ellen Horan is a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion novel tak­ing place in 1857 New York City. The book fol­lows the noto­ri­ous trial of Emma Cun­ning­ham for the mur­der of her land­lord Dr. Har­vey Bur­dell, a famous dentist. Emma Cunningham is a widow with two daughters who is lodging in 31 Bond Street, NYC - the residence of Dr. Harvey Burdell. One fine morning the household wakes up to the horrific news that the doctor has been murdered in his room - with no signs of forced entry. The immediate suspicion falls on Mrs. Cunningham who has to be defended against an aggressive and corrupt district attorney who has big political ambitions and his minions. Attorney Henry Clinton (YES!!! That one) takes up the case of Mrs. Cunningham, but as everything in life, it is not clear cut. "31 Bond Street" by Ellen Horan is an enjoyable book which, for me, was hard to categorize. It is a bit historical fiction, a bit a mystery and a bit court room drama - I guess a legal mystery might fit the bill. The story is actually based on an actual murder case from 1857 and several of the characters are people who actually lived and were involved. Yet several others are not - Ms. Horan makes it clear who's who at the end of the book in the "Author's Note" section (which I find as a big plus in any historical fiction book). I quite enjoyed the historical aspects of the book, the class system n NYC and the "if it bleeds it dies" sensationalistic media. It is amazing how little has changed, even today the media can hang on a sensationalistic case, completely blowing it out of proportions and like good little lap dogs we eat it all up (the O.J. Simpson case for example). The book juxtaposed between the investigation, court case and flashbacks to Emma's relationship with Mr. Burdell where she was a "housemistress", in today's terms she'd be a live-in lover which didn't get to much respect in the 1850s. There is some Upstairs/Downstairs (showing my age?) quality to how Emma talks and acts with Mr. Burdell's servants and their defiance to take orders from her. The famous lawyer Mr. Clinton (No, not that one) was, for me, the main protagonist of the book. Mr. Clinton (Not that one either) was Mrs. Cunningham defense attorney and I had a fun time following his thought process (albeit fictional) about the trial and hist strategy. The book is absorbing and the blend of fact and fiction is fascinating. While the fascinating characters are well drawn and the narrative is well written, the real star of the book is 1850's New York City society. The rich doctor, poor widow, the black groom who is an abolitionist and knows he's not safe in the north, the poor 11 year old boy who works to support his family, the way marriage are arranged even though one of the betrothed is disagreeable are all absorbing and . the status qua. Ms. Horan doesn't try to shock us into thinking that pushing a 19 year old into an undesirable marriage is an unforgivable sin, quite the opposite - the sin is that she refuses the arrangement.
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Ruby_B More than 1 year ago
Based on the true story of the sensational murder of a prominent NYC dentist in 1857, Ellen Horan weaves the tale of the woman who stood trial for her alleged husband's killing with rich layers of political, social, & popular history. Pre-Civil-War Gotham comes alive in ways that feel at once timely & timeless: the media feeding frenzy that surrounded the trial would have had the net & networks buzzing had they existed at the time; sex & gender roles come into play in ways that still feel familiar; the corruption & shady politics of the day add drama along with attitudes towards different ethnicities & class distinctions. It's a lush expanse of intrigue & travel back in time. Beverly Swerling, author of "City of God", referred to "31 Bond Street" as "Caleb Carr meets Scott Trurow," & she wasn't off the mark.
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princetonbookreview More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful blend of mystery, courtroom drama and historical fiction. It's based on the true story of Dr. Harvey Burdell's grisly murder in 1857. I enjoyed it immensely from start to finish. Horan takes a very clever approach to unveiling the events leading up to the murder and revealing the outcome of the trial. She narrates the book from two perspectives and at the same time moves back and forth between the past and the present. The format flows beautifully, one time line fills in the history of the relationship between Dr Burdell and Emma, his accused murderer and divulges their character traits and background information. The other discloses the details of the murder, it's aftermath, the roughshod legal process and the trial. Although the author does provide for several likely suspects, the looming question is the guilt or innocence of Emma. The story brings pre-civil war NYC to life, explores the role of women, exposes the flaws of the legal system and presents fascinating historical information on the prevailing corruption, greed, and political power struggles. In short a fabulous story for those who love historical fiction, mysteries, or crime novels and a marvelous debut. I am looking forward to more from this author. FYI, Rumor has it, there is a movie in the works.