Emma Cunningham is a young widow with two daughters. She meets Harvey Burdell, a wealthy dentist. Burdell promises her many things, including land, marriage, a home on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Based on these promises, and prior to marriage, she moves in to Burdell’s home at 31 Bond Street.
After moving in, Burdell fails to follow through on many of these promises, including marriage. While many in the community assume they are wed, Emma obviously wants it to be legal. But instead, she’s forced to deal with Burdell’s secretive life and play overseer of his home & its servants.
One morning, Burdell is found brutally murdered. The entire house, including the servants, Emma & her daughters, are held as captives in their own home by the local authorities. When Emma indicates she is Burdell’s wife, his surviving family accuses her of killing him for his money and she is forced to go on trial to protect her name, and her life. Henry Clinton, a lawyer, risks his reputation to defend Emma’s name.
31 Bond Street is set in Manahattan in the 1850s. Land sales & real estate is booming. Horan did an outstanding job of pulling in aspects of society into the story. We not only learn about the crime, but of prevailing social issues, including a corrupt government, living conditions of the poor, and the Fugitive Slave Act. It is obvious that Horan is well-versed in the politics and social life of this age as these two themes almost become characters themselves.
Through Horan’s deep & well-developed characters, the readers learn what may have happened that fateful morning Burdell was found dead. The chapters alternate between past & present, starting with the moment that Burdell & Emma met, leading up through their “courting” and his eventual death.
31 Bond Street is based on an actual murder case & many of the characters are based on real people. Horan’s detailing of the story leaves the reader facilating between who is guilty of the crime, never really knowing until the end. There’s never a dull moment with this book, starting from the first page, leading to the shocking conclusion!
I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Emma, despite the claims against her. She entered into a relationship with Burdell to secure a hopeful future for her daughters, just entering the society world and in hopes of finding a good husband for each of them. Instead, her life is literally torn apart with the death of Burdell; not just because she loses economic stability but because her relationship with him is put on trial alongside the murder trial.
I don’t think I could despise Burdell’s character any more than I do! It’s obvious that he married Emma for his own personal gain. He took advantage of her, physically, emotionally, financially.
31 Bond Street is a fasinating historical crime fiction that I can’t recommend enough. Perfect for a book discussion due to the many themes & social issues discussed. Book clubs will appreciation the added material in the back of the book, including an interview with the author & information on the murder trial on which this book was based.
I was quite suprised to learn that this is Horan’s debut novel & look forward to reading more!
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to be a part of this tour. I learned about this book when it was released in hardback and couldn’t say “yes” fast enough when I was invited to participate in this tour.
Be sure to check out the other stops on this tour:
Tuesday, March 1st: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, March 3rd: The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, March 9th: Rundpinne
Monday, March 14th: We Be Reading
Tuesday, March 15th: Wordsmithonia
Wednesday, March 16th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, March 17th: The Book Faery Reviews
Monday, March 21st: Book Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, March 22nd: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, March 23rd: Eclectic/Eccentric
Thursday, March 24th: Man of La Book
Tuesday, March 29th: Redlady’s Reading Room
Tags: 1850s, corruption, crime, Crime Fiction, Harper Perennial, Historical Fiction, murder, New York, Review, slavery