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Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  796 ratings  ·  142 reviews
A delectable true-crime story of scandal and murder at America’s most celebrated university.

On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the har
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 17th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  796 ratings  ·  142 reviews

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Jill Hutchinson
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine, true-crime
This almost reads like fiction....finding a dead body in a building dedicated to dead bodies....the dissecting lab of Harvard University Medical School. This crime rocked the city of Boston and Harvard U in 1849, especially when the body was that of a Harvard physician who was considered, as most Harvard men in that time were, a Brahmin (the upper class of society in Boston). To add insult to injury, the suspected murderer was also a Harvard professor and doctor. This just couldn't happen at Har ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Goodreads giveaway win

You had me at murder committed in 1849, Goodreads.

Dr. George Parkman disappeared after missing an appointment in the area of Harvard University. No one knew with whom the appointment was, not where he could have gone after leaving a head of lettuce on hold at a local store. A reward was offered and Harvard was searched. When the body was finally found and a suspect named the town was rocked to its core. Money of course was the motive. Parkman has much; the suspect bizarrel
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history, 2018
True crime is not my usual genre, in fact, I think Devil in the White City is the only other true crime book I’ve read. For fans of that book, I recommend you give Collins a try.
Blood and Ivy has that interesting narrative style of a lot of modern history books like Devil in the White City. Collins has an extensive list of references—over 60 pages of notes and sources at the end of the book—and judging by his acknowledgments, it took him a lot of time to pull it all together into something read
Cindy H.
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and WW Norton Publishing for gifting me with an ARC of Blood & Ivy by Paul Collins. In exchange I offer my unbiased review.

I absolutely loved this true crime account. Collins skillfully and artistically draws the reader into the mid 19th century and the exclusive halls of Harvard University. In 1849 Dr. George Parkman, a Harvard graduate and benefactor of the esteemed university left his home to run some errands and never returned. Foul play was quickly suspected and with
Blood & Ivy is about the case of a missing doctor after visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School, a scandal that the school would love to avoid at all costs. This is a slow story that reminds me of The Devil in the White City but not as detailed or riveting. Sadly, I was not impressed.
A real life crime of the century brought to grisly exquisite life!

Take your reading scalpel to this one and get dissecting!
Graeme Roberts
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An elegant, beautifully structured tale from real life. Fascinating characters, just the right amount of detail, and a crystal-clear evocation of life in the Boston of 1849. I could smell it.
Paul Collins is a modern master.
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Collins offers the reader a glimpse of who's who in American literature in Blood & Ivy The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard by Paul Collins dropping the names of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Herman Melville, and Henry Longfellow. That was an added and unexpected bonus as Collins examines an 1849 murder of one of Boston's prominent, Harvard educated physicians. This little book is jammed packed with amazing research and is well documented, all the while reading like a great true crime novel. Collins spends the time to set up the story and examine and introd ...more
Jan C
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tr, 2020, true-crime

Anyone is capable of murder given the right set of circumstances, whether you have a pedigree or not.

Professor Webster, chemistry professor at Harvard, inherited a tidy sum of $40,000 (equivalent to $1,178,800 today) and married a woman who had money but somehow wound up in debt. He had the experience of seeing a friend, an immigrant from Italy, also a professor/teacher, who went into bankruptcy and was fired for shaming the college. And he got further and further into debt. And was
A fascinating true crime novel that did a lot to inform more current court proceedings and practices as well as some cool historical facts and introduced readers to the fancy elite of Harvard including names of people we already knew.

It was enjoyable to listen to, though I'm sure I would have learned a little more if I read it rather than listened to it but who doesn't love a good crime novel based on copious research and intrigue!
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, audiobook
For the most part I enjoyed this one. It was kind of cool to read about Cambridge and Boston in the late 1840s. The author did a great job of setting the tone for the true crime story about the murder of a prominent Harvard professor. It was the first case in the US to use dental evidence as well as making a case for reasonable doubt. Worth a read, however it is a little slow.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read about the murder of a Harvard professor back in 1849, whose dismembered body was found within the medical college. The case was scandalous at the time for another Harvard professor was ultimately charged with the crime. The book is a whose who of famous individuals of government, literature and education, particularly for this time in Massachusetts, for many were either friends of the victim or the accused, or were involved in the court case in some fashion. Author Collins di ...more
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Blood & Ivy is another smart true crime book from Paul Collins. A slew of new types of evidence for the time and this great subject matter (a case that inspired Dickens!) will engage his existing fans and should bring a legion of new readers.

Many thanks to NetGalley, W. W. Norton & Company, and Mr. Collins for the advanced copy for review.

Full review can be found here:

Please check out all my reviews:
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fascinating historical true crime account, this one set at Harvard's august medical school in 1849. School benefactor and graduate George Parkman, who made his fortune in real estate, goes missing in November 1849, last seen visiting a colleague in the medical school. (Others, like me, may more easily recognize his literary brother, Francis Parkman, of Oregon Trail fame). Police and everyone are out looking, as Parkman is socially connected. The investigation ends up back at the medical ...more
Carlton Phelps
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Mystery

Very detailed story about a beloved professor committed a murder that almost wasn't solved.
The early use of forensic science helped solved the crime and demonstrated that science can be of great help in law enforcement.
The city of Boston was shaken up by learning the disappearance of a great professor and how he seemed to dropped off the face of the earth.
How a curious janitor provided the first lead into solving the crime.
But his discovery only lead to more questions than answers
Ronnie Cramer
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another exceptional historical true crime book from the author of MURDER OF THE CENTURY. The research is excellent, and here's an example of the writing quality: "Webster's writ was really something of a scarecrow made of lots of little straws bound together to appear frightful, on closer inspection, it was still merely...straw."
Rachel Pollock
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another gripping historical true-crime book by Collins, set at Harvard in the time of Oliver Wendell Holmes. The crime chronicled purportedly inspired Charles Dickens to write The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Sinister, creepy, and sometimes kinda gross. I enjoyed it!
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book starts out focusing on cadavers but soon turns into a first rate murder mystery. The trial subsequent to the crime offers up the first clarification of the term 'reasonable doubt'. This is a terrific read from a terrific author. I look forward to more writings from him.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eugenea Pollock
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: car-books
Paul Collins, who never disappoints, follows the historical footprints of a killer who considered himself too smart to be caught—after all, he WAS a Harvard professor. However, his attempts to cover it up were the “dead giveaway”. Also, the grisliest part.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific courtroom drama that took place in real life. Spellbinding, with great historical backdrop.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Paul Collins sets you squarely in the insular 1840s Harvard, and pages fly by as you're drawn in to the story of how a murder rocked this staid society. I picked up this book having some familiarity with the case, but the whole thing turned out to be so much more than I knew! Recommended for true crime, Harvard/Boston history, or legal history enthusiasts.

I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Netgalley.
Scott Smith
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
It took me a little while to get fully immersed in this book. Collins’ writing style seemed clunky at first, but I think I just needed to adjust because after the first few chapters I was captivated by the story. I don’t have much firsthand knowledge of Harvard or Boston, I imagine that would make this story that much more entertaining. Collins’ impressively brought to life characters and a story that is over 150 years old.
nikkia neil
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, biography
Thanks W. W. Norton & Company for this ARC. All opinions are my own.

This biography has so many echos into the present. You'll be outraged, engaged, and glued to your seat. Collins is a master at his craft.
Katie/Doing Dewey
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Summary: Fun, engaging, well-researched. I was sad it ended.

"On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the harbor, and offered hefty rewards as leads put the elusive Dr. Parkman at sea or hiding in Manhattan. But one Harvard janitor held a much darker suspicion: tha
Jamie Canaves
History + Murder (TW brief mention of attempted suicide with detail)

This takes a look at the vanishing of the wealthy Dr. George Parkman who was last seen visiting Harvard Medical School on November 23,1849, the man accused of his murder, the infamous trial, along with some Boston and Harvard history. This is one of those nonfiction books that works well if you’re into history, seeing the justice system in different time periods along with journalism, and playing the are-they-guilty-or-not game
Jill Crosby
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Many books about historic murders are dry and filled with details of politics and economics that have nothing to do with the case the book is supposed to be about.
Blood and Ivy strays far from that formula, fleshing out the players and uncovering what passed for forensic science at that time, throwing in some social caste info employed as a defense strategy, and illustrating just how incestuous and interwoven Boston society was in the 1850’s. Very readable!
Shirley (stampartiste)
Review lost to Goodreads glitch (Dec-2018)
David Schwinghammer
BLOOD AND IVY is about a famous murder trial occurring in 1849. What's unusual about it is that a Harvard professor is accused of murdering a famous doctor and real estate landlord.

The case was also unique in that there were no eye witnesses but the victim's false teeth were found in a small furnace in the accused's lab. The dentist who made his false teeth took the stand and identified the teeth as those he made for the victim. A handwriting expert also testified that one of the letters sent to
Remy Tate
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Fascinating Look at a Famous Case

I'm going to preface this review by saying that I did receive this book for free in a giveaway.

This book was, on the whole, deeply impressive. The more informal style the book is written, in addition to the suspenseful pacing, kept what could have been a very dry read entertaining. The inclusion of several well-known authors of the time, Dickens being the one not directly connected to the case mentioned most often, also provide cultural touchstones and drive ho
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Paul Collins is a writer specializing in history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His ten books have been translated into a dozen languages, and include Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books (2003) and The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars (2011). He lives in Oregon, where he is Chair and Professor of English at Portland ...more

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