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The Alchemy of Murder (Nellie Bly #1)

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  597 ratings  ·  114 reviews
The world’s most famous reporter, the intrepid Nellie Bly, teams up with science fiction genius Jules Verne, the notorious wit and outrageous rogue Oscar Wilde, and the greatest microbe-hunter in history, Louis Pasteur. Together, they must solve the crime of the century.

They are all in Paris—the capital of Europe and center of world culture—for the 1889 World’s Fair.A spec
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Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,645)
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Margaret
Good premise, terrible writing. Using third person perspective to provide more information to the reader, the author completely failed to differentiate the voices. Picking any page at random, you would be unable to discern which character you were reading, and all of them spoke anachronistically. If I could believe the author was trying for wit in this, then I would not have been so frustrated and irritated to have slogged through the book, only to be thoroughly irked by a the final words of the ...more
Kandice
This was a fairly enjoyable romp through Paris during the World's Fair of 1889. Nellie Bly, investigative reporter, turns detective to try and catch a murderer who may be Jack the Ripper, a brilliant chemist, or an anarchist. And that's sort of where the problems start. While I enjoyed the book, the story, and the setting, there was an overabundance of characters who seem to be included just because the author could place them in the same city at the same time. At times it's a reach as to why th ...more
Caitlin
more reviews on my blog

Ooof. This is gonna be... tricky.


McCleary uses the real life figures of Nellie Bly and Jules Verne in her Victorian Murder Mystery. There can be problems with using real people in this way. The main one is this: These were real people. They are inspirations to many, and many readers won't agree with your interpretation of their character, actions and history. Nellie Bly was a fascinating woman, who got herself incaracerated in a mental asylum in order to better report on t
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Cheryl A
I love a good Victorian era mystery - full of atmosphere, class struggles, newly discovered scientific methods of detection. Throw in a few "real" characters and you usually have a winner with me. In this debut novel featuring Nellie Bly on the trail of a killer, author McCleary misses the mark.

While covering a story at the insane asylum on Blackwell's Island, Nellie discovers that prostitutes are going missing. When a young prostitute that Nellie has befriended goes to meet a doctor, Nellie fol
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Patrick
Great fun - a real pot-boiler. Based upon the character of Nellie Bly, this puts her together with Jules Verne, Louis Pasteur, Oscar Wilde, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and a few other interesting characters at the time of the Paris World's Fair early in the 20th C. I really enjoy fictional explorations of historical characters like this (cf. The Alienist). The writing is not exactly literary, but it rings true, and I did not want to put it down.
Elizabeth
In theory this book should have been awesome - it attempts to combine elements as diverse as historical fiction, nineteenth century biological terrorism, romance, suspense and mystery - but it failed spectacularly. In my opinion, the biggest issue was the sub par writing and the superficial and underdeveloped characterizations. I really did want to like it and at times I thought the author was going to ramp up the tension/suspense and I'd really get into it, but that never happened. Not sure if ...more
Ashley
If I was to consider this a valid piece of literature, I would have given it 1-2 stars. On the other hand, my enjoyment of it was immense - If anyone asked me for a book that was "So bad it's good", this would be the first to spring to mind, and I lost track of the amount of times I had to put the book down to fully absorb just what was going on, or to go "Did the author really just make Jules Verne/Oscar Wilde/etc say that?". For these reasons I'm giving it four stars; it was truely a reading e ...more
Bookworm1858
I picked this up at the library because something about the cover made it seem like the kind of book I like. I was right as I enjoyed this largely light-hearted romp through 1889 World Exposition Paris. The main character is Nellie Bly, intrepid newspaperwoman who is tracking down a crazed mass murderer.

The story is presented as if it is her own memoirs, recovered by editors and edited for spelling. Thus most of the book is in first-person. However sometimes the action shifts to follow other cha
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Vivisection
It would seem that I am constantly being thwarted in my search for satisfying historical fiction. While I appreciate the historical accuracy and the meticulous research McCleary did for this novel (as opposed to the OTHER historical that fell flat) I still found myself wanting something else. I did like the details surrounding the French Anarchists and the cafe society of Monmartre, mais le livre? Il ne m'etait pas satisfait. Pas de tout. Quelle domage.

As intrepid as the character of Nellie Bly
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Cathrine Bonham
The book starts off as a really fast paced and engrossing mystery. You will read through the first hundred pages completely absorbed in the story but then you start to slow about a third of the way in as the book becomes less about the story and more about how many historical people Ms. McCleary thought she could get away with using in her book. Oh yea and then there was that sex scene that would probably have made the real Nellie Bly blush.

Anyway if you can get through all of that it does have
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Deb
I got this from the library because it sounded and looked very interesting. When I read the reviews on here, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into; opinions are all across the board!

I found that I did like this book. It has its downfalls (grammar not always up to par, a little far fetched & conversation a little hokey at times) but, overall, it was a fun little romp! It did keep my interest, was a pretty quick read since it flowed smoothly, and had quite a good bit of historical triv
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Susanne E
Fiction about real historical figures is always risky, but this example is especially awful. The only reason I made it to page 26 is that the book doesn't start until page 11. The writing is horrendous and the exposition painfully heavy-handed - asides about the construction of the Eiffel Tower or the demographics of Montmartre are unnecessary and footnotes about the real Nellie Bly are just awkward, because she was probably way more interesting than this wooden character.

Also, anything that use
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Ivy
I'm not sure why this book has gotten so many bad marks. I thought it was a fascinating portrait of several key individuals from literary history. Now while these things most likely could never happen and these individuals might not have ever known each other, the book I grabbed off the shelf was in the FICTION section! I see that individuals are irritated that historically this or that was incorrect but this was a work of fiction and therefore the author had liberty to do as she pleased...and I ...more
Joyce
So so close. Love the premise and the idea of fictionalizing Nellie Bly. But the interweaving of the historical persons became quickly contrived. And I don't know how it's possible, but I didn't feel much connection to any of these characters. Kinda disappointed.

Visiting Wilde, Toulouse, Pasteur, etc. made for a very erratic plot and kinda read like a Love Boat episode. I felt kinda short changed with the ending, too.

And please don't get me started in the "Editors' Notes".
Cathy Simonds
Amazingly bad. Plot is ridiculous. Writing is purely Gothic horrible. Central character is Nellie Bly. Her newly found diaries provide the basis for the story. Story is set in Paris where the fearless Nell chases down a murdering anarchist (who also happens to be Jack the Ripper). She meets Oscar Wilde, Louis Pasteur, Toulouse Latrec and even beds Jules Verne. Total nonsense. Might have been pretty funny if done with a sense of humor. But no. Waste of time. Don't know why I even finished reading ...more
Tiffany
To say this is the worst book I have ever read would be an understatement. This book completely slaughters the historical fiction genre with rubbish and terrible writing.

Honestly, I understand that Nellie Bly was a fascinating woman when she was alive. I understand that she was an investigative reporter who got herself in many situations while reporting them. In this case, she is after a serial killer who not only is a sadist, but a downright psychopath as well. Do I think that she would have p
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Julie
I thought the character of Nellie needed more depth. I did enjoy learning about the prevalence of anarchism at this point in history, as well as seeing the famous people of the day tied in to the story--which is why I did not stop reading, even after encountering a good number of jarring word-usage errors. I hope the author finds a real editor, but I will not read any more of this series.
Libtechgurugoddess
Enjoyable steampunk romp through 1889 Paris with Nellie Bly, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, and Louis Pasteur. Intrepid investigative reporter Nellie Bly has followed "the slasher" from New York to London, to Paris in an effort to bring him to justice and, of course, write an exclusive piece for Mr. Pulitzer's New York World newspaper. In a brief flashback, we learn that Nellie came close to being murdered by an earlier incarnation of Jack the Ripper at the infamous Blackwell's Island insane asylum f ...more
Amy Paget
This is a first novel by Carol McCleary, who as the jacket blurb notes – “was born in Seoul and has lived in Hong Kong, Japan, and the Phillippines. She now lives on Cape Cog in an antique house that is haunted by ghosts”.

As I particularly enjoy fiction about real people, and have a great admiration for early feminists, I was ready for a “Nellie Bly” story – Nellie being an early female reporter working for Pulitzer at the New York World in the late 1880s.

In Alchemy of Murder, Nellie Bly, Jules
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Virginia
The ideas and characters were good, and the mystery and culprit were well done. It had a lot of flaws though- tense issues, subject-verb agreement, info dumps, repetition, abrupt segues..... I'm hoping most of those issues are because this was her debut novel; I want to read the next one, but if those issues aren't resolved, I'll have to give up on her.
Terry
At first I really liked this book, but it soon lost my interest and I gave up on it. Maybe I will try it again sometime soon.
Anna
Ugh, this book was bad, bad, bad! Like pulling teeth to finish (I freely admit that I skipped entire chapters to get things over with faster). The premise is that Nellie Bly has gone to Paris to pretend to be a prostitute in order to catch Jack the Ripper. Along the way she enlists the help of Jules Verne and Louis Pasteur, all the while saying things like "Elementary, my Dear Watson," and alternating between being offended at 19th century sexism and fainting at the sight of blood. It seemed ext ...more
Karen Hufman
Nellie is a true historic figure who was a journalist in the late 1800's during a time when women definitely did not have careers. I didn't love the way it was written and her adventures were very unbelievable- she follows a serial killer from New York to London to Paris which is where the story picks up. She makes friends along the way with everyone from Jules Verne to Louis Pasteur to Oscar Wilde. When I went back to look up the actual historical details some of them didn't match up with the w ...more
Gwen - Chew & Digest Books -
Reporter Nellie Bly is on the trail of a despicable madman and she garners a lot of famous help along the way. Set during the 1899 World’s Fair in Paris, The Alchemy of Murder is a historical tale of murder, mayhem and mystery that will keep you turning pages at a fast clip.

Bly is after the man that murdered a friend that she made while undercover at Blackwell’s Asylum. Knowing only the name that he went by at the hospital, Dr. Blum, she trails him to London where she investigates the similar Ja
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Jeannie Mancini
A Victorian Paris Mystery Extraordinaire

Carol McCleary’s first installment of her new Nellie Bly mystery series comes out of the starting gate full gallop with a tour-de-force debut that will keep you up all night for one hell of a one-sitting read. Finely tuned polished writing and loveable characters will have historical mystery fans panting for more from this astoundingly accomplished new author.

Opening scenes of The Alchemy of Murder introduce the famous American female newspaper reporter N
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Clockstein Lockstein
The Alchemy of Murder by Carol McCleary is the first book in the Nellie Bly mystery series. McCleary presents this story as the long-lost record of Bly's search for a murderer that led her from a mental institution in New York to London to Paris' World Expo. While Nellie did her famous stint in Blackwell's Island, an infamous mental asylum for women, she became friends with a prostitute named Josephine who disappeared after a doctor offers her a way off the island if she will help him with an ex ...more
Dennis Fischman
This book is a romp through the fiction of people like Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne, the latter of whom is a major character in the book. Reporter Nelly Bly teams up with Verne, Oscar Wilde, and Louis Pasteur to expose the schemes of a mad anarchist who wants to release a deadly cocktail of microbes in the heart of Paris. To foil the plot, Nelly has to plunge herself into the demi-monde of prostitutes and homosexuals (including Toulouse-Lautrec) and understand the professional warfare waged b ...more
Todd
I am a sucker for a good historical novel and I love strong female characters. Carol McCleary’s The Alchemy of Murder sets a new high standard for both historical novels and for a strong feminine character. That The Alchemy of Murder is a first novel is stunning and is hopefully prophetic about the talents of this new author. I believe it is.

McCleary brings to life, Nellie Bly from the dustbin of history giving us not only a grand novel heroine, but a flesh and blood woman that you will fall in
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Ashley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristen
This was a terrific murder mystery with real-life figures as characters, lots of clever, exciting plot twists and a great ending!

Nellie Bly - the first woman investigative reporter, travels from New York to London and then on to Paris chasing a murderer who's method of murdering women is gruesomely similar to Jack the Ripper.

Nellie has a personal interest in finding this killer as someone she knew was a victim and she feels that she might have prevented that dead by taking action more quickly.

On
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Carol McCleary was born in Seoul, Korea and lived in Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines before settling in the USA. She now lives on Cape Cod in an antique house that is haunted by ghosts.
More about Carol McCleary...

Other Books in the Series

Nellie Bly (4 books)
  • The Illusion of Murder (Nellie Bly, #2)
  • The Formula for Murder (Nellie Bly #3)
  • No Job for a Lady
The Illusion of Murder (Nellie Bly, #2) The Formula for Murder (Nellie Bly #3) No Job for a Lady

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“I flutter my eyes ladylike. "I know the green fairy is absinthe, but what's the white angel?"
"Cocaine. Wilde, by the way frequents this café. He claims he once saw an angel fluttering over the square. I image what he saw flying was one of the stone angels from atop the Opera across the street. No doubt he saw the image after partaking of cocaine and absinthe.”
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“The Tower of Babel"...
The undersigned citizens, being artists, painters, sculptors, architects, and others devoted to and desirous preserving the amenities of Paris, wish to protest, in the name of our national good taste, against such an erection in the very heart of our city, as the monstrous and useless Eiffel Tower, already christened... " The Tower of Babel"...

How much longer is the City of Paris to be a play-ground for these barbarous and sordid imaginations which disfigure and dishonor her? For the Eiffel Tower, which even commercially minded America rejected, is a public dishonor to our city. All our historic buildings, our monuments of rare and appealing beauty, are dwarfed and humiliated by this monstrous apotheosis of the factory chimney whose odious shadow will lie over the city...

--Plea to the Exposition Director in opposition to the Eiffel Tower, signed by artists and writers and published in Le Temps, 1887”
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