Tuesday, March 15, 2011
31 Bond Street: A Novel - Ellen Horan
Who killed Dr. Harvey Burdell in his opulent Manhattan town house?
At once a gripping mystery and a richly detailed excavation of a lost age, 31 Bond Street is a spellbinding tale of murder, sex, greed, and politics in 1857 New York. Author Ellen Horan interweaves fact and fiction - reimagining the sensational nineteenth-century crime that rocked the city a few short years before the Civil War ripped through the fabric of the nation, while transporting readers back to a time that eerily echoes our own.
Though there are no clues to the brutal slaying wealthy Dr. Burdell, suspicion quickly falls on Emma Cunningham, the refined, pale-skinned widow who managed his house and servants. An ambitious districh attorney seeks a swift conviction, but defense attorney Henry Clinton is a formidable obstacle - a man firmly committed to justice and the law, and to the cause of a frightened, vulnerable woman desperatly trying to save herself from the gallows.
I'm going to be honest and admit that I am midway through this gripping book. Its just too good of a read to speed through and so I'm taking my time with it - savouring each page. This is a book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys good historical fiction.
Based on actual events (Dr. Harvey Burdell was murdered in 1857 and the crime was never solved), this book is the perfect blend of fact and fiction. Horan has created a book that captures the mood and essence of 1857 so perfectly, that you can't help but be transported back in time. The seamless way her story unfolds, not only yields details surrounding each character, but also provides useful information about issues of that time period - racial conflicts, social and economic politics, the real estate boom and the sensationalist newspapers. Through Horan's excellent writing we are privy to a New York that is long ago forgotten. We are also witness to Emma and Harvey's odd courtship, the discovery of the body and an exciting court room trial - all of which make for quite a spellbinding read. As I keep reading, I find myself falling further and further into this captivating tale of murder and deceit. I'm loving every minute of it!
In fact, when I first began to read this book, the title Alias Grace popped into my head. Atwood's own foray into historical fiction based on a murder involving rather dubious people - in my opnion her best book. I've found Horan's book to be similar to Atwood's in the sense that both are extremely well written and quite compelling reads. Atwood's haunted me for some time after, which leaves me to wonder if Horan's will do the same.
Well, I'm off to finish 31 Bond Street and I most definitey look forward to reading anything else by Ellen Horan.