About the Book:
Arsenic and Clam Chowder recounts the sensational 1896 murder trial of Mary Alice Livingston, a member of one of the most prestigious families in New York, who was accused of murdering her own mother, Evelina Bliss. The bizarre instrument of death, an arsenic-laced pail of clam chowder, had been delivered to the victim by her ten-year-old granddaughter, and Livingston was arrested in her mourning clothes immediately after attending her mother’s funeral. In addition to being the mother of four out-of-wedlock children, the last born in prison while she was awaiting trial, Livingston faced the possibility of being the first woman to be executed in New York’s new-fangled electric chair, and all these lurid details made her arrest and trial the central focus of an all-out circulation war then underway between Joseph Pulitzer’s World and Randolph Hearst’s Journal.
Wow! What a book! Definitely one that I would be interested in reading again. James Livingston really dug deep into history and into the facts on this murder and put them all together into one FANTASTIC read!
Livingston tells the story behind this murder. A murder in the 1800’s, to me, is just intriguing. Intriguing because when I think of the 1800’s, I think of peace and a time that I would LOVE to be a part of. Not a time where someone who, with 4 children out of wedlock and living across the hall from her stepfather at a hotel, decides to take the life of her own mother, by sending her clam chowder laced with Arsenic. I found this novel to be VERY mysterious with it’s twist and turns of trying to determine this one thing: did Mary Alice Livingston, a woman who baited men with her children, whom never really loved her children, KILL her mother with poison?
The style that Livingston uses to write this novel, makes it read more like a fictional novel than a true crime novel. I really liked that, however, I think he could have used a bit less of the headlines. Those did get a little boring for me. But, once I got past all those, and really got a good dose of the crime and the mystery behind it all, I was hooked! I felt like I was a part of that gilded era and helping to convict Mary Alice. I mean, come on. WHO in their RIGHT mind would do that to their 50 something mother?!
I loved how Livingston added the details of the changing times and how the investigation took place. The evidence gathered against Mary Alice was intriguing. I also loved how this book showed that just because you come from a prominently wealthy family, doesn’t always mean that you are a good family. Every family has their problems, but this family CERTAINLY had just a few more than most people during that time. This book really opens up my eyes to a different era in time and gets me thinking that history, while one of my favorite things to learn about and read about, it has some details to it that isn’t all that different! Crime happened then just as it does now and I enjoyed reading about how the trial went and the outcome of the crime.
Is this a book that I recommend? Most definitely! Especially if you are into the true crime TV shows and movies. This is a perfect addition to your shelves! Four stars and two thumbs up to a great author!