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City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

City of Liars

This period of New York history, right around 1800, is really lacking representation in historical fiction. I can think of only a few that I have ever read set then and it’s a shame because the big names like Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, etc. were either still alive or at least still known as contemporary figures and the whole country was finally settling down to the business of being a country. New York City still had a lot of wide open spaces, pigs roamed the streets as de-facto organic garbage collectors and the citizens were starting to struggle with the growing needs for drinkable water. There was no hint of the city we all know today.

Elma Sands, a young pretty Quaker woman, comes to the city to live with her cousin and hopefully to escape the out-of-wedlock label she has been forced to wear in her small town in Northern New York. Her cousin, Catherine Ring, looks upon her as a younger sister and hopes to alleviate some of her feelings of isolation with Elma near.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and rising and hungry for more power. Their enmity is already set, but their ultimate confrontation was a few years away. Right then, they were the poster boys for the drive to get water to the city that was growing by leaps and bounds daily. Unfortunately, their aims were more about power and gain than by actually doing the public service of public works.

Elma falls in love with a boarder in the Ring household and while it makes Catherine worry, the risk seems to be resolving when she tells her cousin that she and her beau intend to be married as soon as they tell his brother, a right hand man of the water company. The young man looks to be in love with her and Catherine breathes a sigh of relief when the pair leave together to share the good news. The next morning, the young man is back home, but Elma is nowhere to be found.

Soon, the whole city is looking for Elma and hounding her extended family on Greenwich Street. Catherine soon learns that when it comes to dealing with the cronies of Burr and Hamilton, the public is at a distinct disadvantage. When Elma’s body is found at the bottom of a useless newly dug well, she finds herself alone in fighting for the truth and ultimately for justice.

The period was fabulously written and it is oddly comforting to see that the “haves” have always had a leg up when dealing with the “have-nots”. It is never right and always hard to swallow, but Catherine is a strong heroine that you can’t help identify with. I’ll be on the lookout for more from Eve Karlin.

City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Alibi (January 13, 2015)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • ASIN: B00LYXY076

 

This book was provided by TLC Book Tours. See what other readers thought here

 

 

 

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

City of Liars and Thieves Book Cover City of Liars and Thieves
Eve Karlin
Fiction
Alibi
1/13/2015
266

A crime that rocked a city. A case that stunned a nation. Based on the United States’ first recorded murder trial, Eve Karlin’s spellbinding debut novel re-creates early nineteenth-century New York City, where a love affair ends in a brutal murder and a conspiracy involving Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr erupts in shattering violence. It is high time to tell the truth. Time for justice. . . . How she was murdered and why she haunts me. It is not only Elma’s story, it’s mine. On the bustling docks of the Hudson River, Catherine Ring waits with her husband and children for the ship carrying her cousin, Elma Sands. Their Greenwich Street boardinghouse becomes a haven for Elma, who has at last escaped the stifling confines of her small hometown and the shameful circumstances of her birth. But in the summer of 1799, Manhattan remains a teeming cesspool of stagnant swamps and polluted rivers. The city is desperate for clean water as fires wreak devastation and the death toll from yellow fever surges. Political tensions are rising, too. It’s an election year, and Alexander Hamilton is hungry for power. So is his rival, Aaron Burr, who has announced the formation of the Manhattan Water Company. But their private struggle becomes very public when the body of Elma Sands is found at the bottom of a city well built by Burr’s company. Resolved to see justice done, Catherine becomes both witness and avenger. She soon finds, however, that the shocking truth behind this trial has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. Advance praise for City of Liars and Thieves “Gracefully written with exquisitely drawn, convincing characters, this is one of those rare historical novels that hit not one false note. City of Liars and Thieves offers a compelling tale of romance and intrigue, set in a fascinating era of Manhattan’s tumultuous past.”—Leslie Wells, bestselling author of Come Dancing “City of Liars and Thieves is both a historical murder mystery and the tragic story of a vulnerable woman snared in the ambition of New York’s most powerful men. Eve Karlin captivates at every step with a nuanced narrator, right-here-and-now details, and steadily mounting dread. But it’s the twist ending that leaves us gasping, like the narrator, with the vertigo of disillusionment and a craving for justice.”—Maia Chance, author of Snow White Red-Handed “In this absorbing tale of lust, greed, and scandal set in postcolonial New York City, Eve Karlin is as adept at conjuring the yellow-fever-ridden streets of eighteenth-century Manhattan as she is at creating characters whose motives and yearnings feel timeless. I couldn’t tear myself away.”—Suzanne Chazin, author of Land of Careful Shadows “Both suspenseful and emotional . . . Karlin does a great job weaving together her fictional accounts with actual historical ones.”—No More Grumpy Bookseller “Precisely my sort of mystery: full of history and great writing . . . Kept me on the edge of my seat . . . If you’re into history at all or love a great mystery, don’t pass up City of Liars and Thieves. You may know how it all ends, but what you find in the middle is definitely not to be missed!”—Bibliophilia, Please “A well-researched, minutely plotted piece of work that will appeal to lovers of historical crime set in the New World.”—Crime Fiction Lover

633 Books and a Healthy Outlook

Wild

I obviously didn’t sleep as much as I should have this year and had very little of what most would call ‘a life’. There are a couple of days left, but let’s call it like a rained out baseball game- 633 books, at least 184,651 pages (some audiobooks don’t have a print version) and a healthier Gwen.

What turned the corner for my attitude this year was a series of subtle changes and finally, grabbing the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle in September.  I’ve had issues for years, but they were messy issues that were hard to put into words and get across to the people that might have been able to help. After decades of trying and failing, I found someone that was able to put a label on those issues and even better, ready to teach me the tools to conquer them.

One of the things that I was inspired to do was to really take a more proactive approach to my physical health. Like take an honest account of how much physical activity I actually did, stop blaming genes for why I was skeletal and explore ways to make me more comfortable with what I put in and on my body. It was a sort of re-making of Gwen and it was damn time.

So while I read and listened to books trying to keep the demons at bay, I also grabbed a fitness tracker, made changes to my diet, explored (okay, researched to death) the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the products I use, and more. Coffee and Diet Coke no longer have me in their grips and Soap Nuts replaced regular detergent, for example.

The last thing that I really wanted to learn was about essential oils. Yes, they are all the rage right now, I know, but they had been on my radar for years thanks to being an armchair herbalist for over a decade now. The Healthy Living Bundle was a boon for that for a bunch of reasons and the biggest one was the Essential Oils & Natural Health course from Vintage Remedies. This class alone was $95 and the whole bundle was just $30.  This isn’t one of those simple ecourses where you get an email everyday and a nice print out. Vintage Remedies has a whole online system with private audio, video, tests and the whole nine yards that you can take at your own pace.  It was as well thought out, even better really, than the online classes I have taken from the local colleges. It gave me so much confidence that I took what I learned and made all of my Christmas gifts and tailored them to each persons individual needs.

I obviously could go on for years, but wanted to shout from the rooftops what a great resource this whole bundle was. You might be the type that is making health-related  resolutions this week and this would be one way to take that on as well. There is so much included that I haven’t even gotten through all of the books yet!

So, the bundle is being offered again for just today and tomorrow and yes, I am now an affiliate so I am going to give you that link. There are things that blogger link to to make money and this one has been different for me personally. It isn’t just a book that I liked or a product that I believe in, it is something that actually was a big part of the smile on my face these days, changed my whole outlook and is a great value no matter what aspect of healthy living you subscribe to.

Here goes,

There are more details via the link, but as with everything …if I try to describe it, we would be here all flipping day:)

(I will just have to go on about the year in books later)

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

New Orleans

In 1870, New Orleans and Reconstruction had it so right and the best example of this I have ever come across is this case and this book. I wanted to cry; not because there was a kidnapping, but because for a few shining moments, our country was trying so hard to live the ideal of freedom and justice for all.

Two African American women kidnapped wee Mollie Digby from her front yard in June of 1870. I say African American, however at the time they were called many things, some nice and some that are derogative now. It may seem strange to us now, the “N” word was seldom one of them. We tend to look at the American South as rabid racists in the late 1800’s. New Orleans was different though. It was special and in many ways a utopian sort of place where people of different races and nationalities lived side by side and often mixed and mingled. There were slaves pre-war, so it wasn’t perfect.

New Orleans had a long history as a French Colony before the US made their little ‘ole Louisiana Purchase and the French had always had a better attitude about race than most countries, way ahead of their time. There was this idea of Creoles; French Creoles, Afro-Creole, Louisiana Creole, etc.  The precious gift of New Orleanians was that they were all Creoles. They all got along and for the most part, it looks like it was copasetic until the war or really after the war…or really until people that didn’t understand the concept of Creole moved on in after the war and tried to shape New Orleans based on their old fears and belief systems. If what I am trying to say is coming out like a hot mess, it’s because my thoughts get all muddled and well, it was a hot mess at the time.

Half of the population of New Orleans jumped on this kidnapping because it was two African Americans and the other half were busy trying to use it to show that Reconstruction was working. The problem is that it was the media that was doing the hating and people pay attention when the news shoves crazy stories in their faces all day-all the time. (much like now) The Republicans that really believed in Reconstruction and supported equality got it a bit muddled as well. Instead of finding dear Mollie Digby, they were busy attempting to prove a point and that never works well.

What matters is that for one brief shining moment Justice was truly blind and fair. It was hard won, never assured, and probably the last time that African Americans got a fair shake in a courtroom for decades, but it happened. The story of it is glorious and heart breaking and will make you mad and will make you look back at the political parties and what they stood for and a million other things.

And then, that other political party got busy, there were black codes and Jim Crow then the KKK drew members like a dead skunk in the road draws maggots and it all went to hell for way too long.

An amazing book about a not so amazing crime that highlights not only the great New Orleans culture, but a time when everything and anything was possible.

{Insert apology here because I get really worked up whenever one of the two R’s comes up, Racism & Rape. Those are things that shouldn’t be happening and there is no valid excuse or for them other than ignorance and hate. Not acceptable.}

Much Like Gwen's Signature

The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case Book Cover The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case
Michael A. Ross
History
Oxford University Press
9/1/2014
304

In June 1870, the residents of the city of New Orleans were already on edge when two African American women kidnapped seventeen-month old Mollie Digby from in front of her New Orleans home. It was the height of Radical Reconstruction, and the old racial order had been turned upside down: black men now voted, held office, sat on juries, and served as policemen. Nervous white residents, certain that the end of slavery and resulting "Africanization" of the city would bring impending chaos, pointed to the Digby abduction as proof that no white child was safe. Louisiana's twenty-eight year old Reconstruction Governor Henry Clay Warmoth, hoping to use the investigation of the kidnapping to validate his newly integrated police force to the highly suspicious white population of New Orleans, saw to it that the city's best Afro-Creole detective, Jean Baptiste Jourdain, was put on the case, and offered a huge reward for the return of Mollie Digby and the capture of her kidnappers. When the Associated Press sent the story out on the wire, newspaper readers around the country began to follow the New Orleans mystery. Eventually, police and prosecutors put two strikingly beautiful Afro-Creole women on trial for the crime, and interest in the case exploded as a tense courtroom drama unfolded. In The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Michael Ross offers the first full account of this event that electrified the South at one of the most critical moments in the history of American race relations. Tracing the crime from the moment it was committed, through the highly publicized investigation and sensationalized trial that followed, all the while chronicling the public outcry and escalating hysteria as news and rumors surrounding the crime spread, Ross paints a vivid picture of the Reconstruction-era South, and the complexities and possibilities that faced the newly integrated society. Leading readers into smoke filled concert saloons, Garden District drawing rooms, sweltering courthouses, and squalid prisons, Ross brings this fascinating era back to life. A stunning work of historical recreation, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case is sure to captivate anyone interested true crime, the Civil War and its aftermath, and the history of New Orleans and the American South.

flesh

Repeat after me, “I am lucky that I’m not Kay Scarpetta.  I’m also lucky that I am not one of her friends or family members.”

First things first, have you heard of The Reading Room? They gave me this book, so deserve a mention. Think of it as more all-about-books than that other booksite out there that will-not-be-named. I like that while it does have a social component, it is far from all about that. The design is super clean with pleasing colors and blogs are presented so seamlessly. Two things that have always seemed a waste to me on that other site is that a huge chunk of above the fold space is taken up with the social stuff that I don’t care much about and that blog feeds look worse than RTF.  The staff of The Reading Room is small and totally approachable and that is a boon when you trying to get help or interact with them for another reason.  I like it, check ‘em out will ya? Look for Cybergwen.

Back to Flesh and Blood with Kay Scarpetta…I’m starting to have a love/hate relationship with Patricia Cornwell and her character, Kay. Well, with Cornwell it really started with Portrait of a Killer because as I have mentioned before, everyone has their pet theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper and to finger someone with the evidence we have is, to me, hubris. Scarpetta has always been one of my favorite characters though and I have hung in there.

However, have you ever noticed when after a number of seasons,  TV shows that you love start to get convoluted and silly storylines and you just know that the end is nigh? Ally McBeal pulled the dancing baby out of the hat, but even that didn’t mean that the show would go on forever. The Scarpetta series is getting a serious case of what I will call the “been here, done that’s and we really need you to drink the kool-aid so that you can keep suspending disbelief even though we all no that no one’s life sucks this much” problem.

Without giving real spoilers, Flesh and Blood features a killer that is murdering people and sending subtle messages to Scarpetta, her family, and friends. The relationships and their intense conflicts are really what has always stood out to me in this series and #22 is no disappointment. The bond these characters have is really stunning and Cornwell writes them in such a believable way. I wish that I had friends like that, but being around Kay Scarpetta is once again, mighty dangerous.

And now we go back to repeat after me, “I am really lucky not to be a part of Kay Scarpetta’s life because no matter how great she is as a role model, someone is ALWAYS after her.”

Much Like Gwen's Signature

 

P.S. Just because it gives my spell and grammar checkers fits, let me type it one more time, Scarpetta. Yup, I’m done now.

Flesh and Blood Book Cover Flesh and Blood
Kay Scarpetta
Patricia Cornwell
Fiction
Harper Collins
11/11/2014
384

It’s a sunny morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday.She’s about to head to Miami for a vacation with Benton Wesley, her FBI profiler husband, when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their home. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny they could be newly minted? Her cell phone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher was shot with uncanny precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. Yet no one heard or saw a thing. In this twenty-second Scarpetta novel, she finds herself in the unsettling pursuit of a serial sniper who leaves no incriminating evidence except fragments of copper. The shots seem impossible to achieve, yet they are so perfect that they cause death in an instant. The victims appear to have had nothing in common, and there is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and now it looks like the killer has moved elsewhere, to the murky depths off the coast. It’s here that Scarpettadives a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. Andwhere she comes face to face with shocking news that implicates her techno genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta’s very own flesh and blood. With the bravura storytelling and state-of-the-art forensic details that are her hallmarks, Patricia Cornwell again raises the bar with this highly entertaining new tale, her most captivating Scarpetta novel yet.

Tinseltown

There are many keywords that will lead any reader to pick up a book. For me, the list seems a bit endless with history, murder, and classic or silent Hollywood somewhere near the top and that is why when I saw Tinseltown on the Harper’s upcoming books I did a wee bit of a jig.   Being a reformed classic movie junkie and having a festering obsession with John Barrymore (really, I have photos and trading cards of him on my walls) this was a great fit with the other books on my shelf covering this very same subject- the murder of William Desmond Taylor. {insert ominous da, da, da, dum}

Taylor and Jack the Ripper have quite a bit in common; both unsolved, everyone has a theory, pre-modern forensic science, evidence gone missing, and even their own exhaustive websites with information and groupies. Taylor’s murder has something that I don’t see the Ripper as having, it happened at the same time as the birth of Hollywood, which was arguably the the major cultural and entertainment powerhouse of the 20th century.

What is slightly different in Mann’s take on the case is that he comes to the conclusion that the culprit was someone that, while a suspect in most treatments, has not been confidently fingered before, there is a lot more talk of drug use, it’s the most complete picture of Paramount mogul Adolph Zuckor that I have ever read, and he makes many interesting word choices throughout.

A friend reminded me the other day that if there is no controversy of some sort or one can’t be created, the media will not cover it and that really applies to Tinseltown. Mann give the impression that every single person tangentially related to Hollywood had major skeletons in their closets and 99% of them had to do with drugs. Now, I wasn’t there and it was the wild 20’s and yet, I am not a fan of painting an entire industry or time period as drug and sex-crazed.  You might be tempted to throw the 60’s at me after reading that, but do you really think that everyone…your parents or grandparents, if you are younger, were out “turning on, tuning in, or dropping out”? I didn’t think so.

Zuckor? That was probably the most well done part of the book. It will leave feeling grateful for never having worked for the man and perhaps, insight into characteristics were almost vital to have in order to become the leader in many business at the time. His life is the embodiment of immigrant success that makes America great and also proves, yet again, that one doesn’t necessarily have to be likable to succeed.

Word choices? This was interesting and while I need to make note of it, I also need to mention that I have lately been on a lot of rants about this from authors and copywriters in general.  His use of words like clew and athwart might not sound to you like the nails on a chalkboard that they were for me. Think of this as a big case of it’s not Mann, it’s me.

His fingering a culprit? Like the Ripper, there have been so many theories that it is really hard to separate the wheat from the chafe. It’s completely possible and still unable to move beyond reasonable doubt for me based on the few facts that are left.

Tinseltown is like the 1920’s and Hollywood was, one heck of a ride. So much has been written about the murder that I really don’t have a favorite book in the race. If the case is new to you and you don’t have any pre-conceived notions, this wouldn’t be a bad choice and would treat you to a fair amount of somewhat unrelated Hollywood history, which is nice. Like the Ripper, the chance of fingering the dastardly murderer and pleasing everyone at this point are akin to finding a victim’s bloody sweater with DNA on it over a hundred years later. Oh…wait…that’s been done…and debunked. (My family has passed down many things, nothing as strange as a bloody sweater though. Seriously, not one generation thought it weird?)

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

by William J. Mann

  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (October 14, 2014)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

Much Like Gwen's Signature

Tinseltown fell into my hands like manna from heaven from HarperCollins. As always, the gift has no effect on my personal thoughts regarding the book. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood Book Cover Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
William J. Mann
True Crime
Harper
10/14/2014
480

Who killed Billy Taylor, one of Hollywood's most beloved men? For nearly a century, no one has known. Until now. In the early 1920s, millions of Americans flocked to movie palaces every year to see their favorite stars on the silver screen. Never before had a popular art so captured the public's imagination, nor had a medium ever possessed such power to influence. But Hollywood's glittering ascendancy was threatened by a string of lurid, headline-grabbing tragedies, including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the handsome and popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association—a legendary crime that has remained unsolved since 1922. Now, in this fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William Mann draws on a rich host of sources, many untapped for decades, to reopen the case of the upstanding yet enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him—including three loyal ingenues, a grasping stage mother, a devoted valet, a gang of two-bit thugs, the industry's reluctant new morals czar, and the moguls Adolph Zukor and Marcus Loew, locked in a struggle for control of the exploding industry. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls and drug dealers, newly minted legends and starlets already past their prime, a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate. A true story re-created with the thrilling suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a master craftsman at the peak of his powers.