31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan (Harper, March 30, 2010), 352 pages
31 Bond Street opens in 1857 New York City. Wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell is found brutally murdered, in his own home. Emma Cunningham, the widowed mother of two teenage daughters, is accused of the murder, but not before she’s trapped inside her home for weeks by officials with not-so-secret political ambitions. Henry Clinton puts his reputation and practice on the line to defend her.
Everything seemed aligned for me to absolutely love this book. A murder mystery, set in a historical framework, with racial, gender and socioeconomic issues in the fore. It touches on the impact of both the press and the law on peoples’ lives. What could be better?
The novel is a fictional account of an (apparently famous) actual murder trial, which is fun. I enjoyed the illustrations and snippets from newspapers that opened some chapters. Interestingly, my favorite characters were minor players.
I was a bit annoyed at how the narrative went back and forth in time. I had trouble keeping track of the chronology at times, although usually a nonlinear narrative isn’t a problem for me. It was incredibly slow getting around to the information that did, eventually, make me care deeply about this book. Still these are minor issues.
I found the setting absolutely engrossing, vividly drawn and fascinating. I love when that happens!
Bottom line: 31 Bond Street didn’t quite wow me, but I’ll definitely be looking forward to more from Horan. This was a fun, enjoyable read, a great story.
There’s been talk of a movie based on the book — I think it would make a terrific film — and anyone who has read the book can enter the “Cast the Movie” Contest; the prize is handmade truffles from Bond Street Chocolates as well as a signed first edition of the book. The contest is open internationally; it closes August 31, 2010.
About the author
Ellen Horan previously worked as a freelance photo editor for magazines and books in New York City. She has a background in painting and visual art. 31 Bond Street is her first novel.
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I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.