31 Bond Street
By Ellen Horan
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061773969, 368pp.)
Publication Date: March 10, 2010
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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 Burdells house and his servants. Rumored to be a black-hearted gold digger with designs on the doctors 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 Oakey Hall into the mayors 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 the 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.
- The book is named after the house at 31 Bond Street. In what way is the story built around this house? This was the era of the townhouse and the importance of its layout and configurations at the time plays a big role in the book. How does the house define the roles of the characters? How important is the layout of the house, the alleys, the privies, back lots, stables, cobblestones, etc.? How does the house evolve and change during the events of the novel?
“31 BOND STREET is an impressive blend of imagination and history as it vividly brings to life one of New York’s City’s most notorious crimes. Ellen Horan has written a novel that, once begun, will be difficult for any reader to put down.”
-Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
“Horan brings to life a sensational 19th-century New York City murder trial in which a woman is accused of viciously killing her husband. . . . An engaging mix of fact and fiction, with a juicy trial, sensationalistic reporters, and lots of local urban color.”
“This thrilling book becomes not only a murder mystery, but a Wharton-esque examination of the mores and customs of antebellum New York society. . . . Rich with historical detail, 31 BOND STREET is one of the best debut novels in a long while.”