Based on a true story, mystery and intrigue in pre-Civil War New York.
The sensational murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell in his lower Manhattan home made front-page news across the United States in 1857. "Who killed Dr. Burdell?" was a question that gripped the nation. 31 Bond Street, a debut novel by Ellen Horan, interweaves fiction with actual events in a clever historical narrative that blends romance, politics, greed and sexual intrigue in a suspenseful drama.
The story opens when an errand boy discovers Burdell's body in the bedroom of his lavish Bond Street home.
The novel's central characters are Dr. Harvey Burdell, a dentist and unscrupulous businessman; his lover, the ambitious, Brooklyn-born Emma Cunningham; the District Attorney, Abraham Oakey Hall (later to become mayor of New York); and Henry Clinton, a prominent defense lawyer.
The enigmatic relationship between Emma and Dr. Burdell makes her the prime suspect, and her trial is nothing less than sensational.
Will she hang? Were her teenaged daughters involved? What did the servants know? Who was the last person to see Burdell alive? During the trial, the two lawyers fight for truth, justice and their careers. This novel is set against the background of bustling, corrupt New York City, just four years before the Civil War.
The author intertwines two main narratives: the trial through the perspective of the defense attorney Henry Clinton, and the story of the lovely young widow Emma Cunningham whose search for a husband brings her into the arms and home of Dr. Burdell.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 320 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 03/02/2011
- Category: Historical mysteries
- ISBN: 9780007304059
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Review by riverwillow
This is an interesting imagining of the events surrounding the murder of Dr Harvey Burdell in New York in 1857. Nineteenth Century New York is atmospherically evoked, as is the precarious position of women within society. Unfortunately the characterisation doesn't quite work, Horan's Clifton doesn't have the charisma that the real Henry Clifton must have had as a great trial lawyer, and Emma comes across as just so unlikeable that I just didn't care about her fate. In mitigation, I did find the story of the escaped slave Samuel and his friendship with the boy, John, both compelling and moving.