31 Bond Street is first time novelist Ellen Horan's imaginings of the story behind and around the real January 1857 murder of Bond Street dentist Dr. Harvey Burdell. Burdell's housekeeper, Emma Cunningham, was tried for the violent crime based mostly on the fact that she was left-handed and that she was secretly married to the victim.
I enjoy stories like these that expand on lesser-known historical events. You have to read them as fiction because it's hard to know without research what is fact and what is simply the author's creation. Nevertheless, in most cases, the research process seems to help the author build a more believable and tangible setting and this novel was no exception. Mid-nineteenth century New York is a popular time period right now and I thought that Horan did a good job with the setting, characters and language. I also felt that the plot elements that she added were in the realm of possibility.
My favorite character in the book was Henry Clinton, the lawyer who came forward to defend Emma Cunningham. He was a good man and a successful and thoughtful lawyer. I wouldn't mind if Horan's next book was about another of his cases. And yet, this book is also filled with a host of unsavory characters -- Burdell himself, Cunningham, Coroner Edward Connery and District Attorney (and later Boss Tweed associate) Abraham Oakey Hall, among others. The wide range of characters, politics and motives makes this an interesting read based on a case that was of great public interest in its day.
Weighing the evidence,
The Lost Entwife
Other reviews will be listed at the tour page throughout this month.
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