>> Tuesday, September 7, 2010
31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan
Genre: Historical Fiction / Crime Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #35
Source: Library ebook
The Short Version:
Interesting combination of historical fiction and crime/legal fiction set in 1857 New York and all based on a real crime.
Why I Read It:
It was Wendy's review at Caribousmom that made me put this book on my library wish list. I trust Wendy’s recommendations and she didn’t miss the mark with this one.
In 1857 New York a dentist by the name of Harvey Burdell is found brutally murdered in his own home. The police immediately suspect his tenant and household manager Emma Cunningham. The case becomes a media circus and is billed by the press as the ‘crime of the century’.
The book follows the investigation and trial from the point of the discovery of Dr. Burdell’s body. Interspersed are flashbacks of Emma Cunningham’s past from before she met Dr. Burdell through their relationship and up to the night of his murder.
Harvey Clinton is hired as Mrs. Cunningham’s defense attorney and his side of the story is the preparation of her defense and his point of view throughout the trial and afterwards.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a wonderful blend of two of my favorite genres. Putting a legal crime story in a wonderful rendering of pre Civil War New York made for an entertaining and thrilling read. Although this is based on a true story I haven’t yet read the real events. I didn’t want to know before I read the book and wrote this review, but I will be reading up on the true details soon.
Horan does a wonderful job of creating the story and the setting. I felt like I could picture the house and places around New York. The political and media wrangling really show that not all that much has changed and that some of the things that annoy me about modern media and news reporting have existed in similar form for a long time. Mrs. Cunningham’s situation was definitely complicated by the limited legal and financial power of women in that era and in some ways put her in the mess in which she found herself.
I really liked Harvey Clinton and his team. His wife Elizabeth provided an important contrast to Emma Cunningham. Elizabeth was able to help her husband and use her intelligence but Emma was fairly powerless without a man.
All in all I can definitely recommend this to fans of crime stories and historical fiction. Next up for me is reading up on the true story of Dr. Burdell’s murder.