23 March 2011
Book Review: 31 Bond Street
Author: Ellen Horan
Publisher/Year: Harper Perennial / 2010
Date Finished: 18 March 2011
Source/Format: TLC Book Tours / Print
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
The Short and Sweet of It
Centered on the trial of Emma Cunningham, accused of murdering Dr. Harvey Burdell, 31 Bond Street is an intriguing blend of murder-mystery and historical fiction.
A Bit of a Ramble
Horan blends historical fact with clever imagination in this mystery novel. The murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell was touted as the crime of the century back in 1857, and the mystery surrounding his death captured the imagination of a New York embroiled in corruption and on the brink of Civil War. With such a scandalous crime at its core, 31 Bond Street could easily be nothing more than a murder-mystery, but Horan doesn't shy away from the corruption, race issues, and gender issues of the day.
The complex weaving of these ideas mirrors the plot structure. Alternating between the time after the murder and the time leading up to the murder, the story really kept me interested, the pace keeping me on my toes. Both stories were well constructed, offering just enough doubt about the actions and motivations of characters to keep things interesting but not annoying. And the characters themselves are a varied blend of 19th century New York from middle class lawyers to rich white politicians to Native Americans.
All that being said, I'm not without a few complaints. I admit that from time to time I yearned for a bit more scandal. The original case was extremely colorful, more sensational than what Horan has chosen to portray in her novel. I do wonder why since dirt such as was thrown about during the real trial tends to sell. My only guess is that Horan wanted time to focus on the more intellectually-ponderous issues instead of spending all her time on the spectacle of the situation. My other meh moment occurred at the end - no worries, no real spoilers here. The way the mystery wrapped up didn't feel right considering all which had come before in the novel. This too could have been the result of the secondary issue presented in the text - racial tension.
Despite my qualms, I really enjoyed reading this, and I have a niggling wish for it to be made into a movie. The setting is wonderfully atmospheric and the characters are so compelling that I really think it would do well on the big screen.
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