Arsenic and Clam Chowder [NOOK Book]


Arsenic and Clam Chowder recounts the sensational 1896 murder trial of Mary Alice Livingston, a member of one of the most prestigious families in New York, who was accused of murdering her own mother, Evelina Bliss. The bizarre instrument of death, an arsenic-laced pail of clam chowder, had been delivered to the victim by her ten-year-old granddaughter, and Livingston was arrested in her mourning clothes immediately after attending her mother's funeral. In addition to being the mother of four out-of-wedlock ...
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Arsenic and Clam Chowder

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Arsenic and Clam Chowder recounts the sensational 1896 murder trial of Mary Alice Livingston, a member of one of the most prestigious families in New York, who was accused of murdering her own mother, Evelina Bliss. The bizarre instrument of death, an arsenic-laced pail of clam chowder, had been delivered to the victim by her ten-year-old granddaughter, and Livingston was arrested in her mourning clothes immediately after attending her mother's funeral. In addition to being the mother of four out-of-wedlock children, the last born in prison while she was awaiting trial, Livingston faced the possibility of being the first woman to be executed in New York's new-fangled electric chair, and all these lurid details made her arrest and trial the central focus of an all-out circulation war then underway between Joseph Pulitzer's World and Randolph Hearst's Journal.

The story is set against the electric backdrop of Gilded Age Manhattan. The arrival of skyscrapers, automobiles, motion pictures, and other modern marvels in the 1890s was transforming urban life with breathtaking speed, just as the battles of reformers against vice, police corruption, and Tammany Hall were transforming the city's political life. The aspiring politician Teddy Roosevelt, the prolific inventor Thomas Edison, bon vivant Diamond Jim Brady, and his companion Lillian Russell were among Gotham's larger-than-life personalities, and they all played cameo roles in the dramatic story of Mary Alice Livingston and her arsenic-laced clam chowder. In addition to telling a ripping good story, the book addresses a number of social and legal issues, among them capital punishment, equal rights for women, societal sexual standards, inheritance laws in regard to murder, gender bias of juries, and the meaning of "beyond a reasonable doubt."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
...Livingston ... meticulously recreates the world of Wall Street, emerging technology, development, racy journalism, celebrity, political ambition ... and raises some doubts, reasonable or not, about her guilt.— New York Times

"...a clear and engaging historical narrative that reflects years of painstaking research into these events and the records created as they unfolded in the press and were remembered in private family documents ... Livingston's choice to structure the book as a narrative rather than an analytical treatment of Fleming's life and the complicated cultural history with which it intertwines makes for a fascinating read."— Hudson River Valley Review

"This is a titillating account of mystery, murder trial procedures, social status of women, and the societal practices and prejudices back in the horse and buggy days. There is enough material here for an exciting film exploring legal history, social customs, and the behavior of the upper crust. This is definitely a non-fiction mystery thriller that will grab and flabbergast you at the same time."— Sacramento Book Review

"In the process of telling this scandal-ridden story, Livingston ... explores the social and moral issues that surrounded the trial."— Hudson Valley Magazine

"...a carefully researched and readable account of the Bliss murder, and of the subsequent trial of Mary Alice."— Boston Globe

"James Livingston breathes life into this old case by placing the circumstances of the Livingston clan in the contexts of their time ... this is a book that should interest readers beyond historians of the 19th century, journalism, feminism, the death penalty, or simply racy historical scandals. It belongs on library shelves, but should also prove fascinating reading for general readers who might enjoy a window into an age not as different from ours as we might think."—

"Arsenic and Clam Chowder is a great read, not just for murder buffs, but for anyone interested in the vibrant years that ended the 19th Century."—

"The story is told, in lurid and fascinating detail."— Hudson ValleNews

"A sensational story, packed with twists and fascinating revelations. The murder trial of Mary Alice sheds unexpected light on the Gilded Age, and in the future will make us all think twice about clam chowder."— Eric Homberger, author of Mrs. Astor's New York: Money and Social Power in a Gilded Age"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781438431802
  • Publisher: Excelsior Editions
  • Publication date: 8/19/2010
  • Series: Excelsior Editions
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 2 MB

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2010

    Fascinating true crime about a Gilded Age poisoner

    Arsenic and Clam Chowder by James D. Livingston is a fascinating look at murder in Gilded Age New York. Mary Alice Livingston (a distant cousin of the author) was arrested in 1895 for sending her ten-year-old daughter Grace to deliver an pail of arsenic laced clam chowder to her mother Evelina Bliss in order to gain access to her inheritance. As Evelina suffered a grotesque and painful death, she informed the doctor that she was poisoned by a relative for money. The ensuing investigation and trial would put capital punishment for women and reasonable doubt on trial for the world to see, while competing newspapers the World and Journal wrote eloquent stories about her four illegitimate children from three different fathers. The author lays the case against Mary Alice well and captures the heightened tensions in New York City that surrounded the trial. These were the days that were filled with "trials of the century" when female poisoners haunted Victorian imaginations. I love true crime books based in this period, and this book is thoroughly enjoyable and interesting. The author finishes up with a discussion on how reasonable doubt affected this trial and how it works today. My only quibble would be that in one of the pictures included in the center of the book, the author gives away the outcome of the trial. That's a small complaint however. The images included truly help the reader to see the main characters more clearly, and the historical details he adds also bring this era to life. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

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  • Posted October 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    In the summer of 1895, on a labor day weekend and in Manhattan, NY where Evelina lived at 397 St. Nicholas Ave. in a upper Manhattan apartment on the fifth floor. Evelina was fifty-three and the stairs had started to be too much for her. She lived her with her younger daughter Florence and a son Henry.

    This book is about the murder of Evelina Bliss, where they had fond arsenic in her blood after her death. She had been to visit her daughter, Mary Ellen Livingston, and then came home, Later Mary Ellen sent her daughter and a friend with a pail of clam chowder to Evelina which she ate for her dinner.

    The murder was based on the clam chowder and the daughter who was arrested. This complete book is the trial of Mary Alice Livingston, the life of her mother Evelina Bliss.

    My Thoughts:

    This book had a great start but unless you are really into the lawyers and trials it is a hard read.

    The author did a great job of writing the book and the telling of the story.

    This book was sent to me by James D. Livingston the author and Pump Up Your Book for Review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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