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 Amazon.com, and will generate a small referral fee for me if clicked and used.
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.”
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.