Using a bountiful trove of resource material, including gavel-to-gavel coverage in the eight daily newspapers that existed in the Boston area at the time, as well as several different trial transcripts and the journal of trial observer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Collins offers a keen portrait of the social and cultural milieu in which this shocking murder and subsequent trial were played out ... Anyone curious about how well-mannered psychopathy was acted out among the greens of 19th-century Cambridge will be rewarded by reading Blood & Ivy.
Collins’ propulsive telling covers the search for George Parkman, rumors of sightings, offers of rewards, and the police learning from the janitor of strange happenings in the laboratory of the medical school’s chemistry professor, John Webster, who was quickly clapped into jail when a dismembered human body was discovered there ... Webster’s play to evade the gallows with a subsequent admission of his role in Parkman’s death will be as eagerly followed by Collins’ readers as was the case with Boston’s newspaper buyers of yore. A fine reconstruction of an indelible case.
With the rigor of a historian and a novelist’s eye for detail, Collins constructs a mesmerizing account ... Combining elements of a police procedural, a legal drama, and a comedy of manners, Collins adroitly explores the characters immersed in the tragedy and their tangled relationships ... This is a fine mixture of true crime, historical exposition, and class conflict in mid-19th-century American history.