Book Talk: *31 Bond Street*, by Ellen Horan (TLC Book Tour)

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes as part of a blog tour, via Lisa of TLC Book Tours. *I am an Amazon Associate. Purchasing links in this review are provided by, and will generate a small referral fee for me if clicked and used.

31 Bond Street: A Novel
 by Ellen Horan
31 Bond Street: A Novel
Ellen Horan
Harper (2010), Hardcover (ISBN 0061773964 / 9780061773969)
Fiction (historical), 368 pages

Opening Lines: “About three o’clock early Saturday morning, a heavy snow commenced and continued till daylight. The snow turned to rain and the wind blew for four hours, which we cannot but characterize as the worst, the very worst, wintry gale ever experienced in the city, ripping up window shutters and blowing down signs.”

Book description: 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 Oakey Hall 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 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.

Comments: This ripped-from-the-headlines, made-for-the-tabloids tale has it all. Murder, corruption, scandal, illicit relationships, class conflict, legal intrigue…and the chance to get a great deal on some New Jersey swampland! Ellen Horan’s historical novel 31 Bond Street is indeed ripped from the headlines – of the 1857 New-York Daily Times, that is. (By the way, there’s an interesting tidbit in the early chapters that explains how the newspaper we know today as The New York Times became the “paper of record.”)

Based on the trial of Emma Cunningham, who was accused of the brutal murder of New York dentist/businessman Dr. Harvey Burdell, Horan has crafted a story that’s just as much about old New York City itself as it is about the criminal case in question. Even then, New York was a crowded, fast-paced, and energetic city, with Manhattan poised to expand north into “the grid” beyond the old neighborhoods at the tip of the island, where streets were numbered rather than named, and Fifth Avenue was already the desirable address for the well-to-do. Having recently spent a week in not-so-old New York myself, I was particularly interested in the city’s role in this novel.

And to be honest, I found New York itself the most interesting character in 31 Bond Street; aside from defense attorney Henry Clinton and his wife Elisabeth (a woman, and a marriage, a bit ahead of their time), I really didn’t like most of the others very much. That may be, in part, because I didn’t find them especially well-written – but many of them really weren’t likable people, period. This is a book to read for the story; it’s primarily plot-driven, and for the most part, the plot is fascinating and held my attention nearly to the end.

31 Bond Street
is a fast-paced, engaging read, perfect for summer. I read it during the first days of recuperating from my shoulder injury, and it was a fine diversion. It would make a diverting movie as well – in fact, there’s already talk that it will be turned into one!

Author Ellen Horan is hosting a Cast the Movie Contest on the book’s website – if your picks for the actors to play four of the main roles match hers, you could win a signed edition of the book and a box of handmade chocolate truffles from NYC’s own Bond Street Chocolate.

Rating: 3.25/5

Tuesday, July 6th:  Word Lily
Wednesday, July 7th:  Rundpinne
Thursday, July 8th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Monday, July 12th:  Simply Stacie
Tuesday, July 13th:  Novel Whore
Wednesday, July 14th:  Ask Miss A
Tuesday, July 20th:  Scraps of Life
Wednesday, July 21st:  A Few More Pages
Thursday, July 22nd:  Novel Whore- Gabriella
Friday, July 23rd:  Starting Fresh
Monday, July 26th:  Caribousmom
Tuesday, July 27th:  The Tome Traveller
Wednesday, July 28th:  Jo-Jo Loves to Read!!!
Thursday, July 29th:  Bibliofreak
Monday, August 2nd:  A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, August 3rd:  Jen’s Book Thoughts
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