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City of Liars and Thieves: A Novel by Eve…
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City of Liars and Thieves: A Novel

by Eve Karlin

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This novel is based on the first murder trial that was ever recorded in the United States, which is very interesting, however, this book was not. To me the whole book was anticlimactic.

Elma Sands leaves her old life behind and starts anew living in her cousin's boardinghouse in New York. With an upcoming election and a city with no clean water, rivals Hamilton and Burr will do anything to get what they want. ( )
  jenn88 | Apr 25, 2017 |
I would like to thank Alibi & NetGalley for granting me a copy of this ARC to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review.

Goodreads Teaser:
"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."

This interesting tale begins with lies and continues straight through in the same vein. It would appear that the only person who doesn't suspect everyone of telling lies is Elma's cousin, Caty Ring.

Caty and her family are Quakers, yet the move to the big city changes their family, and changes her husband most of all. He has become obsessed with material goods, so much so that Caty fears she no longer knows the man she married. But Elias isn't the only one of Caty's family members to change once in the city. In Caty's eyes her sweet Elma barely changes, shedding the shame of being born out of wedlock; a shame she inherited and one she had no control over, yet one that controlled every single moment of her life. But in the truth that is slowly uncovered, Caty is the one so resistant to personal change that she almost misses all the clues in front of her.

Karlin does a lovely job of demonstrating just how easily personal and public lives become entangled when politics are involved. While almost all of her characters see the relationship between the two, Caty remains almost willfully blind. Through Caty's character Karlin is able to walk the reader through Manhattan's political minefield of 1799, bringing Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr to life in a way few, if any, other writers have to date.

To avoid giving the juicy details away, I'll simply say that Karlin manages to bring corrupt politics to life through the story of a star-crossed romance embodied by Elma Sands and Levi Weeks (Ezra Weeks younger brother). The tangled mess of public, private, and political relationships is somewhat overwhelming, and doubly so for a Friend who already struggles with change. Caty is the main narrator of this story, and her emotions are always right on the surface.

By the conclusion of the story it is easy to see why Karlin was drawn to Elma Samd's story, and what pulled her to recreate this tale as best she could. She's infused her characters with real foibles and natural responses to the events taking place around them. This is an intensely interesting story, one that also brings the politics of the day to vivid life. Regardless of what attracted you to this story, you'll find it well told and played out as if you were there as it unfolded. A solid read from cover to cover. ( )
  Isisunit | Jun 22, 2015 |
What a fascinating read this turned out to be, so much history that I knew of so little. Caty Ringer and her husband Elias are running a boarding house in Manhattan in the late 1790's. Needing help, her cousin Elma comes to stay, a young woman with an unmarried mother, father unknown. A fact City's husband frowns on. In this society at this time period and as Quakers, many already consider Elma a woman of loose morals.

Clean water is a precious commodity and hard to come by. Aaron Burr promised to dig wells and being clean water to Manhattan. One well is dug but it soon becomes clear that Burr has different plans. The first recorded murder trial in America, finds Burr and Hamilton working together to defend the supposed murderer of Elma.

Such a highly charged political time, Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson and the hotly contested election of 1800. Secret plots, back door dealings and a young woman who gets caught in the middle and pays with her life. So incredibly interesting.

The book ends with an afterward from the author stating not only what is true or not, but also following these characters and letting us know what happens to them in the future, politically and personally. Apparently the well that Elam is found in still actually exists in the basement of a building still standing. Amazing really how some history remains, lingers in stories and places.

The author did a wonderful job in bringing this period of history to life, letting us feel the time period and the real people that were part of this terrible tragedy. A very good read for history and true crime readers.

ARC from NetGalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Feb 10, 2015 |
Catherine Ring and her husband Elias move their family to New York City in 1799 to open a store and boarding house. Something is missing from Caty's life though, and she soon asks for her cousin Elma to join her and help with the boarding house. Caty and Elma grew up together, almost as sisters. Elma's childhood was not easy as the daughter of an unwed mother and Caty wants to give her a second chance in a new place. One of the boarders that finds their way to the Ring's boarding house is Levi Weeks, brother to Ezra Weeks. Ezra Weeks is working on Manhattan's water problem with Aaron Burr who created to Manhattan Water Company. Levi and Elma begin to spend time together and confide in one another and on the day Elma believes that she is going to be married to Levi, she disappears. Caty will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her cousin. As she digs deeper, Caty learns that Elma's disappearance has less to do with her relationship and more to do with politics.

An interesting story of a real trial that took place at the end of the 18th century in New York City. Using the real transcript from the trial, Eve Karlin re-created the events leading up to and surrounding the death of Guilelma Sands. The story starts a little slow building the setting and the relationships of everyone involved. However, in the details of everyday life for Caty, Elma and their borders, the scene is set for a buildup of tension. The story began to move faster after Elma's disappearance and during the start of the trial. From Caty's point of view, the facts are unraveled as she learns about them. Secrets, lies and dirty politics soon become apparent as Caty relentlessly searches for the truth. The most intriguing aspect for me was the truth to this story and I love that many of the facts from the trial were present in the book.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. ( )
  Mishker | Jan 27, 2015 |
What happened to Elma Sands? She was a real person with multiple secrets who was murdered just before the turn of the nineteenth century. But, why? And, who was responsible? Her story is also known as the “Manhattan Well Tragedy.” This novel opens when Catherine Ring was awaiting Elma’s arrival. Catherine and her husband, Elias, owned a bed and breakfast. It was more than Catherine could keep up with on her own to take care of her husband, two small children, and an increasing number of boarders. She requested her Cousin Elma’s help in a letter. Levi Weeks, Ezra Weeks brother, was one of the boarders. He and Elma were lovers. Catherine assumed Elma was with Levi on the night she died. Elma had dressed in a pale green muslin gown that she and Catherine had sewn; she was going to wed Levi. It was Sunday, December 22, 1799.

This story is told in a first person account by Catherine Ring July 12 1804. I loved that the author wrote the story through Catherine’s eyes. This is a fascinating story not only because of the mystery surrounding Elma’s death but also because it includes historical detail and struggles of an era of a very youthful America. The Author’s note expresses Eve Karlin’s meticulous research and that which she fictionalized for the use of this novel. Much of the actual history is intact. Much of the truth of that time surprised me. I rated City of Liars and Thieves at 4.5 out of 5. ( )
  FictionZeal | Jan 9, 2015 |
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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 hits 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 "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… (more)

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