Monday, January 12, 2015

Please Welcome Historical Mystery Novelist Eve Karlin

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Eve Karlin
with Eve Karlin

We are delighted to welcome author Eve Karlin to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of TLC Book Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Eve's debut novel, City of Liars and Thieves (Alibi; January 2015 ebook formats), re-creates early 19-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.

We asked Eve to tell us a little more about the fascinating backstory to her book.

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Eve Karlin
Photo provided courtesy of
Eve Karlin

"Elma's spirit haunts me," says Caty, the narrator of City of Liars and Thieves. I feel the same way.

City of Liars and Thieves is historical fiction based on the United States' first recorded murder trial. In December 1799, Elma Sands, a young woman hoping to start a new life in the city, vanished on the snowy streets of Manhattan. Twelve days later, her corpse was found floating in an abandoned well, and her lover, Levi Weeks, was arrested for murder. While the brutal murder of an innocent girl was shocking, it was Levi Weeks' trial that made the case truly sensational: he was defended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr four years before their infamous duel.

Larger than life historical figures, illicit sex, and crimes of passion, Elma's story tantalizes with scandals. I first read of the case six years ago in Ron Chernow's biography on Hamilton and was struck by the parallels to modern-day crimes. Two hundred years later, young female victims continue to be exploited by others (tabloids, politicians, Hollywood) chasing their next dollar or headline. Elma's death was a cautionary tale with contemporary relevance.

When I began my research, I learned that an almost complete stenographic transcript of Levi Weeks' trial had been recorded, which was highly unusual in those days. I leafed through the testimony, awed by the brilliance of Hamilton's speech and Burr's arguments. The language was formal and dated, but the personalities came to life. It was impossible not to admire the well-crafted defense of two of history's greatest raconteurs, but I found myself drawn to one small voice. Caty Ring was Elma's cousin, guardian, and steadfast supporter. In a courtroom full of distinguished men and a mystery rife with gory details, it was Caty's strength in the face of adversity that moved me.

Caty was the proprietress of the Greenwich Street boardinghouse where Elma and Levi lived. She was only 26 years old when Elma was murdered, a young Quaker mother who had moved from her rural home to New York City a few years earlier. I wondered how Caty had adjusted to life in a grimy, chaotic city where pigs roamed the streets, fresh water was a luxury, and a mysterious plague called yellow fever killed thousands each summer. I imagined her concern as she witnessed Elma, her beautiful younger cousin and ward, falling in love with — or being seduced and impregnated by — the more worldly Levi Weeks. What had Caty felt when Elma told her she was secretly planning to marry Levi on the dark, snowy December evening she vanished? What terror did she experience later that same night when Levi returned home alone? Elma had been brutally murdered, but Caty had to deal with the aftermath. How had she coped during the twelve days when Elma's fate was unknown? What was it like to see Elma's corpse dragged from the depths of a frozen well?

To best understand Caty's plight, I began retracing her steps. I visited her childhood home in upstate New York, the Quaker meetinghouse where she worshipped, and Federal Hall (formerly City Hall), where Levi Weeks' trial was held. Most importantly, my search led me to Lispenard's Meadows, where Elma's body was found. The meadow had long since morphed into a trendy downtown neighborhood filled with fashionable boutiques and pricy restaurants, but, amazingly, the spring that was the origin of Spring Street's name still ran beneath my feet and the well where Elma died was still standing in the basement of a French bistro. What's more, twenty years earlier, I had lived steps away from the crime scene. I hadn't known Elma's name nor about the well, but I was 22, the same age as Elma when she was murdered.

On a rainy November evening in 2009, I returned to my old neighborhood determined to see what I had come to think of as Elma's well. Development and time had raised the city's ground level since 1799, and the well was now located in the building's dank cellar. Ignoring a metal fire door and a warning sign, I entered a sparsely lit corridor. The walls were made of slender bricks bound with crumbling mortar. I stumbled down timeworn stairs and saw a cylinder made of coarse bricks: the Manhattan Well.

My first impulse was to touch it. I expected it to be damp, but the bricks were curiously dry, and rose several feet above my head. I wondered how far beneath my feet the hole descended, knowing that Elma had struggled and succumbed inches from where I stood.

For two centuries, historians have dismissed Elma's death as an act of passion, but I knew there was more to it. As I stood inches from where Elma gasped her final breath I felt a vibration and something stirred within me. Like Caty who had sought justice for her murdered cousin, I was determined to tell Elma's story.

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Eve Karlin Book Tour

Eve Karlin was born and raised in New York City. She is a graduate of Colgate University, where she studied literature and creative writing with Frederick Busch. Karlin worked in publishing for more than a decade in marketing, at Random House, Newsweek, and, later, as a foreign book scout with clients in the United Kingdom, Italy, Holland, Brazil, and Japan. She has had several short stories published in The East Hampton Star and has been a contributing writer for Patch.com. She lives in East Hampton, New York, with her husband and their sixteen-year-old triplets.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at EveKarlin.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

City of Liars and Thieves
Eve Karlin
A Murder Mystery

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.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

2 comments:

  1. A great read. Turns out Hamilton and Burr were complicated people with political aspirations that could have motivated them to turn to nefarious methods to get ahead.
    A wonderful historical trial that is better than Law and Order and a fragile, intelligent heroine trapped in a society rigged to give men the benefit of the doubt. A landmark case and interesting facts that are presented here for the first time. Be sure to add it to your ebook to do list.

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