GIVEAWAY! Book Review: 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (March 30, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0061773969
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:5 stars! Loved it!

"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 Burdell’s house and his servants. Rumored to be a black-hearted gold digger with designs on the doctor’s 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 mayor’s 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."

The first chapter of this murder novel is absolutely fantastic, smacking of an old fashioned novel steeped in intrigue and nostalgia. It was pure genius and had me hooked, as I plowed through the rest of the story which was steeping with mystery, drama and multiple intrigues. This is a novel that is based on the true story of a horrific murder in 1857, amidst Dick Tracy style policemen and the thriving city of New York. Bond Street, to be exact, was the fashionable focal point of houses for the rich and well-to-do folks of New York City.
One of the these residents was Dr. Harvey Burdell, who lived at 31 Bond Street, and Ellen Horan's novel begins with the young errand boy, John, finding his employer the dentist Dr. Burdell brutally stabbed in his office. Dr. Burdell had a young lady, Emma Cunningham and her daughters, boarding upstairs in his house and of course all suspicion is directed at her. Emma pleas for help from the local criminal attorney, Mr. Henry Clinton, because she has been sequestered at 31 Bond Street without representation. The prosecutor is out for justice, and his fingers point to Emma.
Newspaper clipping of 31 Bond Street House
Butchery on Bond Street (source) Click Picture to enlarge
I must confess, before my passion for European historical fiction on royalty overtook my reading habits, I once could be found reading only Lawrence Block, James Patterson, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark and Anne Rule. If you enjoy those writers, you will also be enamored with this novel by Ellen Horan. Imagine my glee with this blast from my reading past, for a well honed murder mystery that is a true story, set in the state where I grew up, and where the case remains hanging in suspense as it is unsolved to this day. Ellen Horan stumbled on this story while browsing through bins in a print shop and found a clipping regarding nearby Houston Street, NYC, one thing led her to another, and we now finally have this fascinating look into a murder mystery that took place within a row of townhouses that are no longer there, replaced by the growth of retail and warehouses and parking lots. Instead of writing the intended non-fiction work on this murder mystery, Ellen Horan adapted this into a much more dramatic fictional tale. She leaves a few of the original characters in, but embellishes greatly and adds her own twists to the story. Since I had absolutely no idea about the 'true story' I was completely and utterly enthralled with this fictional tale as Ellen Horan spins it.

I can understand though, that those who prefer to stick close to facts when dealing with a true-crime situation, may be a little annoyed at the fictional leaps that the author takes. Since I was not looking for a realistic account of the murder at this time, this novel kept me entertained for an entire Sunday, refusing to let me sleep until I finished it. I am so glad I spent my Sunday on this, and I will spend some more time googling for more interesting twists and facts that really happened between this murder mystery involving the dentist and the widow. A classic who-dunit.. of who was the real victim, and who was the villian?

I was very impressed with the writing style of this debut author, as I was both immersed in the visual time period of 1857 that Horan vividly describes, and with the characters that Ellen Horan portrays. Doubly enticing were the backstories of slave trade and the corrupt police departments. The murder victim, Dr. Harvey Burdell, is also portrayed as being a total loser who was a womanizer and knee-deep with the aforementioned corruption which includes transporting slaves. The accused murderess, Emma Cunningham, is one where you really couldn't tell what was going on in that warped head. Since the true murder mystery remains unsolved to this day, I have a feeling that not a lot of people could tell what was going on inside of Emma Cunningham's head. The epilogue was quite interesting as well, but even that leaves out some of the critical factors that occurred in the case.

My absolute favorite characters were Samuel, the negro driver to Dr. Burdell, and John, the 11 year old boy who was the errand boy. But still high on that list was the defense attorney, Henry Clinton, who was portrayed as a shrewd attorney without an unethical bone in his body. The author inserts his wife within the novel, when in reality they did not marry until after the case, and it was with similar subtle changes that Ellen Horan used to make her novel her own, creating a sensational blend of murder, passion and suspense. Emma Cunningham also only has two daughters in the story, when in reality it was reported that she had five children. The crooked district attorney, Oakley Hall, was indeed crooked in real life, though (surprise!). For those wanting a strictly-the-facts type of book, there is the non-fiction work that was written in 2007 by New York City historian Benjamin Feldman titled Butchery on Bond Street - Sexual Politics and The Burdell-Cunningham Case in Ante-bellum New York, which has now caught me eye after reading this story. He also runs the blog for where the above clipping was borrowed from.

For those wanting the intriguing drama of a historically themed suspense, this work by Ellen Horan fits that bill perfectly. It was an unforgettably nostalgic journey through 31 Bond Street in New York City that I would not hesitate to recommend to fellow mystery lovers. Visit Ellen's website regarding the book at, none other than: 31 Bond Street.

GIVEAWAY!!! I received an extra copy of an Advanced Reader's Copy of 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan!
Lucky you!
To win this ARC comment telling me what is one of your favorite mysteries, whether it is a specific book or a case that has peaked your interest. Don't forget to comment with your email address. I will choose randomly from those that qualify on March 27, 2010. USA only.

+2 entries: Post a graphic link to this post on your blog's sidebar (leave me the blog's address).
+1 entry: Tweet this post with the LINK TO THIS POST within your tweet. There is a retweet button at the top of the post for your convenience. You must leave your status link in the comments for me to verify.

48 Witty Commenters Here:

Julie P. said...

I loved THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. I also love anything Michael Connelly writes!

Thanks for the chance


Stephanie said...

I've been kind of obsessed with Agatha Christies lately; I tend to prefer the Miss Marples and although it's a short story collection, I would say "The Tuesday Club Murders" where she calmly explains the mysteries that had baffled everyone else.

Email: stephaniefleischer889 @ gmail.com

+1 Tweet: http://twitter.com/bookworm1858/status/9903842392

Katy said...

I really liked Mistress of the Art of Death--it's kind of gothic and I like the main character. It's just an interesting historical mystery. I'm looking forward to reading the second book.

I've been dying to get a copy of this one ever since I saw it. :)

Tweet: http://twitter.com/afewmorepages/status/9903868842

srfbluemama at gmail dot com

CelticLady said...

I would have to say that the mystery of Lizzie Borden has always fascinated me. Did she or didn't she??

Great review Marie, please enter me
Thank you!!

I posted your giveaway on my blog here

and I twitted here

justpeachy36 said...


Please enter me in the giveaway.

I just finished, The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill an, English author, with a real gift for character development. I loved it.

librarypat said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Shannon said...

I have only read a few present day mysteries that my friend let me borrow, but I couldn't get into them. I really love historical fiction, so I'm really hopeful that this will be the book that will be my favorite mystery.


Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

I loved The Alienist by Caleb Carr. A great historical murder mystery with a hunt for a serial killer. I highly recommend it.

+2 right sidebar in giveaway section: http://thetruebookaddict.blosgpot.com/

+1 tweeted: http://twitter.com/truebookaddict/status/9911632763

Thanks for the giveaway. =O)


Mystica said...

I like Patricia Cornwell - all of them.

Please count me in. I am a follower.


Wendy said...

And Then There Were None by Agathe Christie is my all-time favorite mystery :)


wendyhines at hotmail dot com

Linda said...

John Grisham's non-fiction book The Innocent Man was about a real murder case here in Oklahoma that raised more questions (it seemed to me)than it answered.

Judie said...

I enjoy the Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn and the Masie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear.

I twittered here:

AutumnalEve The Burton Review: GIVEAWAY! Book Review: 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan http://ow.ly/1pCn0Y
1 minutes ago via web
email is jlmpanj@yahoo.com


Amy @ Passages to the Past said...

Fantabulous review Marie! You've made me even more excited to read this than I already was. I also was a mystery reader before I found HF and I love a good murder mystery. I've read many Anne Rules (she rocks) and Mary Higgins Clark.

Hmmm....favorite mystery? That's a tough one. I'm going to go with a real murder mystery that is still unsolved even though they have 3 boys in jail, with one on death row. Johnny Depp has been speaking about it at all of the Alice in Wonderland screenings and publicity. They're called the West Memphis Three and I encourage anyone to go to their website (www.wm3.org) and read up on it. Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, Depp, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are among the celebs that are helping bring awareness to the case. I pray that they are released soon.

Anywho - please enter my name!!!!

Thanks for the great review and giveaway Marie!

Passages to the Past

dolleygurl said...

Oh Marie this book sounds WONDERFUL! Besides historical fiction, I love reading mysteries - and to combine the two makes it all the better! I don't know that I have a favorite case, but I am really enjoying The Women's Murder Club series by James Patterson - I have been reading them on audio book lately.

I have posted on my sidebar at http://www.themaidenscourt.blogspot.com and tweeted here http://twitter.com/dolleygurl/status/9945025104.

Thanks for the giveaway Marie.


Pricilla said...

So challenging.
I enjoy Agatha Christie and I love all the Scarpetta books and James Patterson. I'm reading The Bride Collector now and that's really good.
Too many books, too many books.

Thank you for the giveaway!
kaiminani at gmail dot com

I tweeted

and the graphic link will be up at www.brokenteepee.info

librarypat said...

librarypat said...
Favorite mystery? That is hard to answer. I have a lot of authors I read and it would be hard to narrow it down. For nostalgic, I'd pick HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, a Sherlock Holmes myster.

Mar 2, 2010 11:04:00 PM

librarypat AT cimcast DOT net

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

A great mystery I read lately was The Ghost Writer by John Harwood.

+1 I tweeted! http://twitter.com/bookmonstrosity/status/9971402486


skkorman said...

I love the first 2 novels in the trilogy by Stieg Larsson—can't wait to read the 3rd book!

Jennifer G. said...

Great review! I'm excited to read this now. One good mystery I always think of is The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Good stuff there.

+1 tweeted http://twitter.com/IntrovertedJen/status/9972682204

theintrovertedreader [at] gmail [dot] com

Sandra K321 said...

When I was a teenager, there was a murder in a small Connecticut town and a book, A Death in Canaan, was written about it. A mother was killed and her son was charged with the murder even though there was little evidence. Many people came forward to support the son and he was released. To this day, no one has been charged with the murder.


rubymoon said...

Anything anyone write either fiction or supposition about Jack The Ripper intrigues me.

rubymoonstone at gmail dot com

bermudaonion said...

Oh, how I have trouble picking out a favorite, but I'm going to go with A Taste of Death (at least I think that's the name of it) by P. D. James. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

vampira2468 said...

Guess anything about Sherlok homes.

Sidebar link here http://vampira2468.wordpress.com/


Kitty said...

Most Delicious Poiston by Charles Connell.

Read this some time ago at a difficult time in life so I need to re-read it.


teabird said...


I'd have to say The Woman in White - it has everything: a great story, wonderful characters, eeriness, and wit!

teabird17 at yahoodotcom

Esme said...

Cemetary Dance was fantastic

chocolate andcroissants at yahoo dot com

Jennifer said...

Caleb Carr's The Alienist.

knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Jennifer said...

The contest is posted on the right side of my blog. http://www.rundpinne.com
Entry 1
knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Jennifer said...

The contest is posted on the right side of my blog. http://www.rundpinne.com
Entry 2
knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Jennifer said...

Tweet Tweet: http://twitter.com/knittingmomof3/status/10284978318

knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Carol M said...

I really enjoyed What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman.


mittens0831 at aol dot com

Elizabeth said...

Oh, I have to read this, it is exactly my 2 favs, mystery and historical!
Another historical mystery that I reread every few years is The Alienist by Caleb Carr.

Wise Owl, Editor said...

I loved Floating Dragon by Peter Straub. Anything by him is excellent and memorable.


Margie said...

This book sounds great! Thanks for the giveaway.
I like the Alex McKnight mystery series by Steve Hamilton.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Marianna said...

I definitely love Agatha Christie. I always fall back on her books whenever I have had enough of the mainstream drivel. I love her books because you know there is some thought behind them. I like her Miss Marple books better than the Poirot ones, but they're still really good. I just read 4:50 from Paddington.

Tweeted https://twitter.com/suan_tian/status/10452422623

patronus89013 at yahoo dot com

mariag said...

I recently finished a great mystery called The Case of the Missing Servant.



Sue said...

I loved Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Such a great book.
Thank you for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Misusedinnocence said...

I have always been fascinated with the Lizzie Borden case.


bettycd said...

I'm always stepping into new favorites and just read Graysmith's Zodiac. This was even more chilling as it brought back memories of living in CA for a few years while this killer was active. The mystery survives as there never was enough evidence to charge the primary suspect who has since died.

bettycd said...


Carol W. said...

Anything by Daniel Silva is high on my favorite mysteries list.


blueviolet said...
This post has been removed by the author.
blueviolet said...

Mysteries are a relatively new genre to me because I'd forgotten I loved them. I read the entire Nancy Drew series as a young girl and those were my very favorite books so I'd have to choose that!
doot65 (at)comcast{dot}net

Barb said...

My favorite mystery has to those books written by Patricia Cornwall (Kay Scarpetta) and Stieg Larson (both of his)net.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot

Barb said...

I posted on my sidebar the giveaway.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Barb said...

I tweeted about the giveaway:


bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Francine said...

wow this is hard question because I love mystery's but I have always liked reading about Jack the ripper.


Butchery on Bond Street said...

Many thanks for your mention of an interest in my non-fiction work, Butchery on Bond Street. If you're interested in my other writings in this vein, take a look at the website for my second book, "Call Me Daddy - Babes and Bathos in Edward West Browning's Jazz-Age New York" at http://www.edwardwestbrowning.blogspot.com and my overall website, The New York Wanderer at http://www.new-york-wanderer.blogspot.com

Ben Feldman