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31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan
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Sep 29, 10

Read in September, 2010

Author Ellen Horan has written a very readable historical fiction novel about the murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell in New York City in 1857. Horan's main character is Burdell's "housemistress" Ellen Cunningham, who is very quickly charged with Burdell's murder.

This book is so fast paced and readable that had it not been for work the next day I probably would have read the entire book in one night, perhaps two. Horan's characters come alive as she details what at the time was the "trial of the century." I felt I really got to know Cunningham and wanted to find out what happened to her next, and if she really did murder Dr. Burdell. Horan also makes 1857 New York City come alive, although to a much lesser extent than I expected. She references the slavery issue and the tone of the times but only tangentially. Unlike other historical novels, the city in which this story is set really does not rise to the level of being a "character" in the story.

Unfortunately, as satisfying as much of the book is, Horan's ending is in my opinion pretty poorly done. To be fair to the author the historical record does not provide her with great content for that part of the book, but the direction she takes the book is rather strange and I did not feel like the conclusion was worthy of the rest of the book. This is particularly true because, unlike a work of history, as a historical fiction novel Horan wasn't simply bound by the straight facts. She could have chosen a much more satisfying ending.

If you're a fan of true crime mysteries and historical fiction I think you'll like this book and perhaps might even like the conclusion more than I did. Hopefully this will be the first in a succession of good novels from Ellen Horan.
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