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How a Real-Life Murder Mystery in 18th Century New York Led to CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES by Eve Karlin

Posted by March 18th, 2015

How a Real-Life Murder Mystery in 18th Century New York Led to CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES by Eve KarlinWhile reading Eve Karlin’s historical fiction novel CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES, which is published by Alibi, I was struck by Eve’s powerful use of imagery that made me feel like I was living in 18th century Lower Manhattan. The street names were familiar: Spring Street, Bowery Lane, Greenwich Street, Chambers Street, Wall Street. But the detailed description of the boats bobbing along the New York harbor, the gritty and packed city blocks, and the sounds of a growing working-class invoked the spirit of a different era. Eve shares the real-life murder mystery that inspired her to write CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES and the questions she encountered during her research that led to her novel.

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I did not set out to write a historical novel. Six years ago, while reading a biography on Alexander Hamilton, I came across a reference to a story that reached out and shook me.

In December 1799, a young woman named Elma Sands 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. The brutal slaying of a beautiful girl rocked the city—as similar crimes do today—but it was the trial that made the case truly sensational: Levi was defended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr four years before their infamous duel. Continue reading

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