Welcome to the TLC Book Tour of 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan. If you're fond of detective novels set in historical periods or novels of "Old New York" I recommend 31 Bond Street.
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 and fortune, Emma is immediately put under house arrest during a murder investigation. A swift conviction is sure to catapult flamboyant district attorney Abraham Oakley Hill 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 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.
31 Bond Street succeeds as a mystery and as unique glimpse into Old New York. Ellen Horan has carefully researched the period, the trial, and the characters that make up this book and this comes across from the very start. She weaves in details about daily life in the 1850s and makes it come alive.
Henry Clinton who defends Emma Cunningham is a talented defense lawyer who goes on to become the highest paid attorney of his time -- and it is this case that changed his career. Clinton goes up against Abraham Oakey Hall is another historical figure who is later elected mayor of New York in 1868. Clinton is aided by his wife, Elizabeth Clinton, who is a paragon of a wife and would have made a formidable attorney, had women been allowed to practice law during that time. Horan created the character of Elizabeth Clinton and this woman is a foil to the accused, Emma Cunningham. Cunningham's story shows us how difficult it was to be a woman then.
The book stood out for me because of the attention that Horan placed on capturing the historical details of the period. I enjoyed being able to imagine New York of that time -- what the different neighborhoods and peoples were like. I loved learning just how trials were run at that time. Would you have expected that newspapermen attended trial and wrote the trial transcripts for free? In exchange, the newspaper was given the exclusive right to print the trial transcripts. Horan reveals what it would have been like to be in court then.
The book itself captures the period because of its slower pace, vivid descriptions, and the dialogue. It is easy to imagine New York after the Civil War, the sort of life available to a young widow with dwindling resources and the trouble that Emma Cunningham found herself in. Just as the book is about Emma Cunningham, it is equally the story of the Clintons, their legal skill, and the trial that changed their lives. If you enjoy historical fiction, stories of New York, or mysteries and legal thrillers, 31 Bond Street will prove a riveting read.
ISBN-10: 0061773964 - Hardcover $25.99
Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (March 30, 2010), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours.
About the Author:
A book and magazine photo editor, Ellen Horan has worked on staff and freelance for many publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, House & Garden, Forbes, and ARTnews, as well as for a number of book publishers. Learn more at www.31bondstreet.com.