Misguided Murder Mystery

I really, really wanted to like 31 Bond Street and oh, how I did try. It has the makings of an engrossing murder mystery: New York City in the 1850’s, a brutal death, a woman with questionable intentions, nefarious politicians…this should be a slam dunk. But somewhere along the way the author lost me. She got me back for the second act of the book but when she promptly took a left turn into NonSequiturburg, I got lost and  stopped caring.

This is not to say that I don’t think the author, Ellen Horan, can write. Her description of the brutal, suffocating heat of summer in New York City in the mid-nineteenth century was wonderfully evocative. I could picture the carriages, the newspaper boys, the stuffy, proper nights at the opera. The problem is that while a great deal of detail was poured into the description of NYC and into some of the characters in the book, little to no attention was paid to the development of other characters…and the plot. Page upon page is spent describing the minutiae of dresses, homes and the way in which the (supposed) damsel in distress pins her hair; much less time is spent on peripheral characters who have direct implications for the story.

I found the story picked up a lot of steam about 150 pages in, delving into the heart of the plot. Seventy pages later? My attention began to wander.  I’d invested enough time in Bond, however, that I had to know what was going happen. And what happened? Well, the verdict was read, the characters behaved as they were wont to do. Then that  “NonSequiturburg, Sharp Right” road sign popped up and all of a sudden I felt like I was reading a different story altogether.

The less said about the last section of the book, the better. I thought it only barely tied in with the first three parts. There is a subplot involving the Underground Railroad that is mostly ignored and then BAM! Integral! A tragedy occurs and is subsequently forgotten or ignored for what seems to be an absurd amount of time. There are so many subplots, shifting motives and characters given inconsistent attention that it genuinely detracts and distracts.

Somewhere in 31 Bond Street is a riveting, tight, sociopolitical murder mystery with fully developed characters. Unfortunately, this version meanders through the story picking up and dropping narrative threads without much rhyme or reason. There are undoubtedly interesting characters in this book; unfortunately, an unbalanced approach does nothing to flesh them out properly. To me, it appeared that the story ran out before the pages did.

Having said all this, it’s only my opinion. I’ve come across many positive reviews while surfing the web, so ya never know – you might like it! You can browse inside 31 Bond Street here.


~ by foodNURD on February 1, 2011.

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