31 Bond Street
by Ellen Horan
Read: Sept. 5-11, 2010
Challenge: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Countdown Challenge 2010
Yearly Count: 47
First Line: For a boy who watched boats, his room was the perfect perch.
It was the crime of the century! Dr. Harvey Burdell was murdered in his own home in 1857 New York, with no witnesses and no clues as to the killer’s identity. Dr. Burdell was rumored to be a shady businessman, so one would think that there would be a lot of suspects to investigate. But the coroner quickly concludes that Emma Cunningham murdered the doctor. Cunningham, the housemistress, claims to have been married to Dr. Burdell. But the coroner and the district attorney, Abraham Oakey Hall, quickly dismiss the idea of marriage, claiming the marriage certificate is a fake. They conclude that Mrs. Cunningham, a wealthy widow who has spent most of her money, as well as her daughter’s dowry, was simply looking for a wealthy man to trick into marriage and then she killed him so that she would have all of his money for herself. But Cunningham swears she is innocent, she did not and could not have killed Dr. Burdell. Only one person in the entire city believes her: defense attorney Henry Clinton. Clinton takes on the case, having to give up his lucrative law practice with another highly respected defense attorney in order to defend Mrs. Cunningham. It will take Clinton everything he has in order to prove Cunningham innocent.
This is a richly detailed historical fiction set in 1857 New York City. It was a wonderful book. It was a great blend of historical fiction and crime fiction. The author opens the book with the murder and then takes the reader back and forth, alternating between the backstory of how Mrs. Cunningham and Dr. Burdell came to know each other and the present of how the murder case against Mrs. Cunningham progresses. Dr. Burdell was definitely involved in some shady business transactions, and poor Mrs. Cunningham seems to have been caught up in his lies and placed in an unfriendly light by some corrupt politicians. Her defense attorney, Henry Clinton, was an enjoyable character, and his wife Elisabeth was a wonderful addition to this book. I found it truly amazing that Mr. Clinton was able to do all that he could for Mrs. Cunningham, when so many other people were against her, he never backed down. He was convinced that she was innocent, and it was all he could do to prove that to everyone. I normally do not read historical fiction, I enjoy it but sometimes I have trouble following it. But this book was such a wonderful read. It really took my favorite genre, crime fiction, and blended so well with the historical aspect (history was my major in college :)) to produce a very enjoyable read that I think almost everyone would enjoy.