Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Adler Reviews Livingston, "Arsenic and Clam Chowder"

Our friends at H-Law have published a new book review: Jeffrey S. Adler (University of Florida) reviews James D. Livingston, Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York (State University of New York Press, 2010). Here's Adler's concise introduction to the text and its author:
On August 30, 1895, Evelina Livingston Bliss, a member of New York’s patrician Livingston family, ingested arsenic, and a day later she died, likely at the hands of her ne’er-do-well daughter, leading to one of the most sensational and salacious murder trials in late nineteenth-century New York City. Author James D. Livingston, a distant cousin of the victim and the killer, recounts the murder of Bliss and particularly the trial of her daughter, Mary Alice Livingston, who seemed destined to become the first woman executed in the state’s electric chair. A physicist by training and an amateur historian by avocation, the author provides a colorful, fast-paced narrative, written in the true-crime genre.
Adler praises Livingston for "tell[ing] a riveting story with energy and verve," but critiques the author's failure to "engag[e]or draw[] from, even implicitly, the historical scholarship on class, gender, sexuality, criminal justice, and science," all of which are relevant to this tale. The full review is available here, at H-Net.