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 Burdells house and his servants. Rumored to be a black-hearted gold digger with designs on the doctors 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 mayors 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.
©2010 Ellen Horan (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers
The premise of this book looked intriguing--it's based on the true story of a gruesome murder in 19th century Manhattan. I was hoping it would be like Edith Wharton meets Law and Order, I guess. However, despite my anticipation, I never really did get into this book. It was just a touch too slow, and I found myself drifting off and thinking about other things while waiting for the story to pick up. I just did not find the characters compelling or well fleshed out; it was like the author was always keeping us at a distance from them and we were looking at tiny figures from far away, trying to figure out what they were up to. The exception was the lawyer, who was the only lively-ish character in the bunch. The other problem I had was with the narrator; he's a bit too breathless and dramatic for my taste. I have now learned my lesson: always listen to the preview clip. As an alternative to this book, I'd recommend Kate Summerhill's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher; I thought the writing and narration were much, much better.
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