Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: City of Liars and Thieves

City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin is a historical mystery based on actual events. Events that took place in New York City in the year 1799, when Alexander Hamilton and Raymond Burr were both trying to gain political power. It is told through the eyes of Catherine Ring, whose cousin Elma Sands was found dead at the bottom of a well. The condition of her body clearly showed that her death was not only violent, but that she was murdered.  

Elma came to New York in order to start a new life, and to escape her old one in Cornwall, England. Catherine and her husband Elias, both Quakers, took her in and gave her shelter in their home. Their home was also a boarding house, and when Catherine sees Elma getting close to one of their boarders, she begins to worry about her.  But when Elma claims to have knowledge regarding the formation of the Manhattan Water Company, Catherine has even more reason to worry. Raymond Burr, a powerful New Yorker, has founded the Company and is promising clean water to the city. By building a dam at the Bronx River, he intendeds to pipe in fresh water. This project could make everyone involved rich, but Elma claims that the promises are empty and that the whole project is a fraud. Catherine takes it upon herself to figure out who murdered Elma, even when it seems that her meddling could be dangerous.

The author brings to life the city and the age. The things we take for granted, like running water, were not something that was enjoyed by our forebears. The disease that spread because of unsanitary conditions was staggering.  Politics weren’t what they are today, which says a lot. Corruption was even more prevalent and personal interests often outweighed social justice.  The times may have changed, but motivations have not. The trial, which took place in 1800, was the first recorded murder trial in the United States. Karlin takes actual events and weaves a story out of them. She creates an interesting additional set of facts to supplement the history books.


  1. Thanks for another great review. So many wonderful books to read.

  2. Thanks for your review. I have this on my TRL. Look forward to reading it.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  3. I love historical fiction for the way that it teaches me about other times and places, particularly when the story is based so much on fact.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!