Monday, August 2, 2010

31 Bond Street - Ellen Horan

Oh, can I tell you how much I loved 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan!

Horan first got the story idea when she came across an actual newspaper page from 1857 in a print shop. It detailed the murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell, found dead at 31 Bond Street in New York City. Horan became fascinated with investigating the case and devoured the newspapers of the time.  She has skillfully taken a sensational murder and fictionalized it, using many of the actual parties.

Harvey Burdell's nearly decapitated body is discovered by his young servant boy. No one living in the house claims to have heard a thing. Suspicion quickly falls on Emma Cunningham, Burdell's housekeeper. The city Cornoner immediately takes control, completely sequestering Emma and her two daughters. I found this piece of law fascinating. The Coroner had the right to run the case as he saw fit. The murder scene effectively became a courtroom, with a jury brought in and questioning of witnesses taking place in the home. The press were allowed full access and often took notes for the police.

Horan has created a winning character in lawyer Henry Clinton, who takes on Emma Cunningham as a client. He is dogged and idealistic, willing to use and pursue new forensic methods just coming into practice. I also enjoyed the relationship between Clinton and his wife Elisabeth, as it was much different than social mores would have dictated at the time.

The novel alternates between the present day with Henry Clinton as narrator and what led up to the murder from Emma Cunningham's point of view. We learn a little bit more each time we go back and forth. What Henry and Emma believe aren't quite the same thing. I really enjoyed this format.

Horan's research is meticulous. The details of police work, the law, society, language, mores and New York City itself are captivating. Issues of the time, including slavery and politics also figure into the plot.

For me 31 Bond Street was an absolutely delicious read, combining suspense, mystery and history into a page turner. I was surprised to learn that this was a debut novel. But glad to hear Horan is researching her next.

Read an excerpt of 31 Bond Street. Book Clubs - there is a discussion guide.

Ellen is running a fun contest - Cast the Movie  for 31 Bond Street. See how close you come to her  choices - win Bond Street Chocolates and a signed first edition.

Fans of Anne Perry's Monk/Pitt series and Caleb Carr's The Alienist would really enjoy 31 Bond Street.

Another great choice - thanks TLC Book Tours.


Mystica said...

Sounds wonderful. Thank you for the link.

Donna said...

I'm glad you liked this book so much - I just bought a copy and I'm looking forward to reading it even more now. Great review!

Jo-Jo said...

I'm glad you liked this book. I also enjoyed finding out more about the legal system and politics from this time period.

Unknown said...

This sounds like a fascinating story and a wonderful mix of fact, fiction and history, very cool! I always enjoy knowing the particulars of where an incident happened, like how this happened on Bond St. in NYC. It's fun to imagine what it was like back then & how the incident unfolded and/or to "investigate" it as Horan did. I love crime stories & murder mysteries, too! I guess that's why I was a prosecutor for a while!

Thank you for a great review and for highlighting an awesome book! It's going on my tbr list for sure!

~ Amy

s said...

ooohhhh nice....I hope I can lay my hands on a copy soon..

bermudaonion said...

This sounds fantastic and the fact that it's based on a real story really intrigues me.

Michele said...

I've heard so many great things about this book - I am definintely going to get my hands on a copy!

Luanne said...

I know you'll all really enjoy it - looking forward to hearing what you think!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

this looks really interesting!

Eileen said...

Would love to win 31 Bond.
I have had my eye on it for a while now.

wiseowlreviews@aol dot com

I am a follower.

Luanne said...

Eileen - the contest is for the cast the movie - click on the link to enter

Ladytink_534 said...

This does sound good and I've heard it compared to Caleb Carr's Alienist too.