Hot Best Seller

Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

Availability: Ready to download

A delectable true-crime story of scandal and murder at America’s most celebrated university. On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the har A delectable true-crime story of scandal and murder at America’s most celebrated university. On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the harbor, and offered hefty rewards as leads put the elusive Dr. Parkman at sea or hiding in Manhattan. But one Harvard janitor held a much darker suspicion: that their ruthless benefactor had never left the Medical School building alive. His shocking discoveries in a chemistry professor’s laboratory engulfed America in one of its most infamous trials: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. John White Webster. A baffling case of red herrings, grave robbery, and dismemberment—of Harvard’s greatest doctors investigating one of their own, for a murder hidden in a building full of cadavers—it became a landmark case in the use of medical forensics and the meaning of reasonable doubt. Paul Collins brings nineteenth-century Boston back to life in vivid detail, weaving together newspaper accounts, letters, journals, court transcripts, and memoirs from this groundbreaking case. Rich in characters and evocative in atmosphere, Blood & Ivy explores the fatal entanglement of new science and old money in one of America’s greatest murder mysteries.


Compare

A delectable true-crime story of scandal and murder at America’s most celebrated university. On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the har A delectable true-crime story of scandal and murder at America’s most celebrated university. On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the harbor, and offered hefty rewards as leads put the elusive Dr. Parkman at sea or hiding in Manhattan. But one Harvard janitor held a much darker suspicion: that their ruthless benefactor had never left the Medical School building alive. His shocking discoveries in a chemistry professor’s laboratory engulfed America in one of its most infamous trials: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. John White Webster. A baffling case of red herrings, grave robbery, and dismemberment—of Harvard’s greatest doctors investigating one of their own, for a murder hidden in a building full of cadavers—it became a landmark case in the use of medical forensics and the meaning of reasonable doubt. Paul Collins brings nineteenth-century Boston back to life in vivid detail, weaving together newspaper accounts, letters, journals, court transcripts, and memoirs from this groundbreaking case. Rich in characters and evocative in atmosphere, Blood & Ivy explores the fatal entanglement of new science and old money in one of America’s greatest murder mysteries.

30 review for Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

  1. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Goodreads giveaway win

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    True crime is not my usual genre, in fact, I think Devil in the White City is the only other true crime book I’ve read. For fans of that book, I recommend you give Collins a try. Blood and Ivy has that interesting narrative style of a lot of modern history books like Devil in the White City. Collins has an extensive list of references—over 60 pages of notes and sources at the end of the book—and judging by his acknowledgments, it took him a lot of time to pull it all together into something read True crime is not my usual genre, in fact, I think Devil in the White City is the only other true crime book I’ve read. For fans of that book, I recommend you give Collins a try. Blood and Ivy has that interesting narrative style of a lot of modern history books like Devil in the White City. Collins has an extensive list of references—over 60 pages of notes and sources at the end of the book—and judging by his acknowledgments, it took him a lot of time to pull it all together into something readable. Besides the grisly details and unraveling of the murder, the history of Boston, Cambridge, and specifically Harvard around 1849 was interesting to me. I was surprised by how many famous authors were connected to this case, either because they were faculty at Harvard, they knew Webster, or simply because they were alive during the trial and its aftermath. The Epilogue notes that the case was inspiration for Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which I didn’t know. The legal precedents that came out of this case were fascinating too, particularly what became known as the “Webster charge,” based on the judge’s definition of reasonable doubt for the jury. It endured over 100 years after the trial, and Massachusetts didn’t decide to modernize it until 2015. The history is by turns sad, perplexing, and disturbing. Collins did a nice job incorporating historical detail into his linear narrative of the investigation and trial. It was truly worth the read, and I’m interested in checking out his other work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    Thank you to NetGalley and WW Norton Publishing for gifting me with an ARC of Blood & Ivy by Paul Collins. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. I absolutely loved this true crime account. Collins skillfully and artistically draws the reader into the mid 19th century and the exclusive halls of Harvard University. In 1849 Dr. George Parkman, a Harvard graduate and benefactor of the esteemed university left his home to run some errands and never returned. Foul play was quickly suspected and Thank you to NetGalley and WW Norton Publishing for gifting me with an ARC of Blood & Ivy by Paul Collins. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. I absolutely loved this true crime account. Collins skillfully and artistically draws the reader into the mid 19th century and the exclusive halls of Harvard University. In 1849 Dr. George Parkman, a Harvard graduate and benefactor of the esteemed university left his home to run some errands and never returned. Foul play was quickly suspected and within a week the culprit arrested. The book goes about describing the victim, the accused, the trial and the aftermath. I was riveted from page one and completely mesmerized by the startling conclusion. Paul Collins extensive research was evident as this nonfiction account read like fiction with all the astonishing details, newspaper headlines, letters and journals.Appearances from Harvard alumni, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow really added to the drama and mystery. Evocative and exhilarating this is a must read for all true crime fans and history buffs!

  4. 3 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    A real life crime of the century brought to grisly exquisite life! Take your reading scalpel to this one and get dissecting!

  5. 3 out of 5

    Graeme Roberts

    An elegant, beautifully structured tale from real life. Fascinating characters, just the right amount of detail, and a crystal-clear evocation of life in the Boston of 1849. I could smell it. Paul Collins is a modern master.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Blood & Ivy is another smart true crime book from Paul Collins. A slew of new types of evidence for the time and this great subject matter (a case that inspired Dickens!) will engage his existing fans and should bring a legion of new readers. Many thanks to NetGalley, W. W. Norton & Company, and Mr. Collins for the advanced copy for review. Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/03/17/bl... Please check out all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shirley (stampartiste)

    This was my first book by this author, but it won't be my last. Collins took a true crime story that I had never heard of and totally immersed me in the whodunit and the subsequent trial. The story was well researched and exceedingly well told. I was fascinated with the story from beginning to end. This book did not disappoint!

  8. 3 out of 5

    Steve

    A very interesting book. In 1849 Boston, a wealthy doctor by the name of George Parkman was last seen at Harvard Medical School. What makes this interesting, Is it became the first case where medical forensics was involved and the meaning of reasonable doubt. A great edge on your seat page-turner!!!!

  9. 3 out of 5

    Ronnie Cramer

    Another exceptional historical true crime book from the author of MURDER OF THE CENTURY. The research is excellent, and here's an example of the writing quality: "Webster's writ was really something of a scarecrow made of lots of little straws bound together to appear frightful, on closer inspection, it was still merely...straw."

  10. 3 out of 5

    Kari

    For the most part I enjoyed this one. It was kind of cool to read about Cambridge and Boston in the late 1840s. The author did a great job of setting the tone for the true crime story about the murder of a prominent Harvard professor. It was the first case in the US to use dental evidence as well as making a case for reasonable doubt. Worth a read, however it is a little slow.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paulcbry

    The book starts out focusing on cadavers but soon turns into a first rate murder mystery. The trial subsequent to the crime offers up the first clarification of the term 'reasonable doubt'. This is a terrific read from a terrific author. I look forward to more writings from him.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Paul Collins sets you squarely in the insular 1840s Harvard, and pages fly by as you're drawn in to the story of how a murder rocked this staid society. I picked up this book having some familiarity with the case, but the whole thing turned out to be so much more than I knew! Recommended for true crime, Harvard/Boston history, or legal history enthusiasts. I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Netgalley.

  13. 3 out of 5

    nikkia neil

    Thanks W. W. Norton & Company for this ARC. All opinions are my own. This biography has so many echos into the present. You'll be outraged, engaged, and glued to your seat. Collins is a master at his craft.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Schwinghammer

    BLOOD AND IVY is about a famous murder trial occurring in 1849. What's unusual about it is that a Harvard professor is accused of murdering a famous doctor and real estate landlord. The case was also unique in that there were no eye witnesses but the victim's false teeth were found in a small furnace in the accused's lab. The dentist who made his false teeth took the stand and identified the teeth as those he made for the victim. A handwriting expert also testified that one of the letters sent to BLOOD AND IVY is about a famous murder trial occurring in 1849. What's unusual about it is that a Harvard professor is accused of murdering a famous doctor and real estate landlord. The case was also unique in that there were no eye witnesses but the victim's false teeth were found in a small furnace in the accused's lab. The dentist who made his false teeth took the stand and identified the teeth as those he made for the victim. A handwriting expert also testified that one of the letters sent to the police and newspapers was written by Dr. Webster, the accused. We also learn that no distinction was made between premeditated murder and second degree murder in those days. If guilty the accused would hang either way One of the most valuable witnesses was the medical school janitor who noticed the lab door was locked in the morning when he was accustomed to firing up Dr. Webster's furnace, since he constantly complained about being cold. He also noticed the wall of the lab was hot to the touch, which meant the furnace was being stoked almost beyond capacity. The janitor also found what remained of the body. The defense, used the now much used charge of accusing the janitor of the nefarious deed. He took the fifth when he was asked if he used the lab to gamble occasionally. The newspapers of the day were basically tabloids and every wild scheme and accusation was duly published as were some of the letters sent in by obvious scammers, but as noted above, one of them was apparently sent by Dr. Webster. I got the impression from the synopsis that the wrong man had been accused. I waited for a last minute reprieve and a last minute witness clearing the doctor. Otherwise this was a rather predictable true crime endeavor. But the authorities did make exceptions for the doctor since he had been at Harvard for many years and had never shown any sign of this type of malevolence, although he did have a bad temper.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Excellent true crime book! Paul Collins has a great narrative style that keeps the story moving. The 1849 murder of a doctor and real estate mogul, as well as the eventual trial, was a sensation in Boston at the time and well worth a retelling of the story. Collins weaves historical information about Harvard, including a scandal involving the stealing of cadavers, skillfully to give us a real feel of the atmosphere surrounding the disappearance and murder of Dr. Parkman. I was especially surpris Excellent true crime book! Paul Collins has a great narrative style that keeps the story moving. The 1849 murder of a doctor and real estate mogul, as well as the eventual trial, was a sensation in Boston at the time and well worth a retelling of the story. Collins weaves historical information about Harvard, including a scandal involving the stealing of cadavers, skillfully to give us a real feel of the atmosphere surrounding the disappearance and murder of Dr. Parkman. I was especially surprised to learn that this was the first case in the United States to use forensic science to prove someone's guilt in court. The presiding judge also gave a well-reasoned and famous explanation of reasonable doubt which remained in use for over 100 years. Besides the excellent writing and relevant historical information I was surprised at the number of famous persons involved in or interested in the case. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Charles Dickens are only two of them. Dickens was so enthralled with the case that his last novel, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" was based on this case. I would highly recommend this book for lovers of true crime, those who like historical crimes and those who like their non-fiction books written in a easy to read narrative fashion. Disclaimer: I won this book through Goodreads.

  16. 3 out of 5

    Steve

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Disclaimer: I received this book from GoodReads' First Reads program. Blood & Ivy is the story of a horrible murder that happened in mid-19th century Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Parkman was making his rounds, collecting payments on debts owed him when he disappeared. A massive search and posted rewards turns up a whole lot of nothing. A janitor who works for one of the professors at Harvard notices something is wrong - one of the walls in the professor's lab is exceptionally hot. Worrying t Disclaimer: I received this book from GoodReads' First Reads program. Blood & Ivy is the story of a horrible murder that happened in mid-19th century Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Parkman was making his rounds, collecting payments on debts owed him when he disappeared. A massive search and posted rewards turns up a whole lot of nothing. A janitor who works for one of the professors at Harvard notices something is wrong - one of the walls in the professor's lab is exceptionally hot. Worrying that a fire is in the next room, he investigates further. He finds nothing at first, but becomes suspicious, and while the professor is away, he breaks into the one area that hadn't been search - the privy. He manages to break through the wall into the privy and finds human remains. The police are notified, finding a torso and leg, and teeth and bones in the furnace. This leads to the arrest and eventual conviction of the janitor's employer, Dr. Webster. The trial becomes a huge sensation, with the professor claiming his innocence the whole time, and trying to pin the murder on the janitor. The jury doesn't buy it, and he is convicted and sentenced to death. In the end, he confesses to his crime and meets his maker. A very interesting true crime story, which I highly recommend to fans of the genre.

  17. 3 out of 5

    Rosa Tremaine

    In Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder that Scandalized Harvard, Paul Collins weaves a complex true crime tale that twists around itself rather like the hangman's noose that casts a long and deadly shadow over the plot. The book begins and ends with Charles Dickens, a device that is both clever and relevant to the context. I had always assumed Dickens to be exaggerating his characters into caricatures of themselves, but the real-life people in Blood & Ivy are every bit as eccentric and bizarre In Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder that Scandalized Harvard, Paul Collins weaves a complex true crime tale that twists around itself rather like the hangman's noose that casts a long and deadly shadow over the plot. The book begins and ends with Charles Dickens, a device that is both clever and relevant to the context. I had always assumed Dickens to be exaggerating his characters into caricatures of themselves, but the real-life people in Blood & Ivy are every bit as eccentric and bizarre as any fictional creation, and under Collins' expert hands they spring to vivid life and march boldly off the page. It is a masterpiece of storytelling but also of historical investigation. The extensive notes in the back of the book are a testament to the author's dedication to accuracy and detail, yet it never reads as a dry recitation of history. A distinctly Victorian flavour of gruesome fascination pervades the story, but is tempered by a frank modern appreciation of fact as well as how the case of Professor Webster was a legal trailblazer for subsequent trials. If the conclusion of the case is somewhat unsatisfying, Paul Collins cannot be held to blame for the unanswered questions left hanging in the air - real life does not always provide a tidy and complete explanation for its mysteries.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    The story of the 1849 murder of a Harvard medical professor who was then found dismembered in the private privy and laboratory of one Dr. John W. Webster. Webster was deeply in debt and Parkman, the victim, was one of his creditors and was aggressive in asking for remittance. Webster was convicted and executed in 1850 Boston making him the second Harvard alumni to be executed. The first was George Burroughs who was executed for witchcraft in 1692. The charge given the jury as to what resembled r The story of the 1849 murder of a Harvard medical professor who was then found dismembered in the private privy and laboratory of one Dr. John W. Webster. Webster was deeply in debt and Parkman, the victim, was one of his creditors and was aggressive in asking for remittance. Webster was convicted and executed in 1850 Boston making him the second Harvard alumni to be executed. The first was George Burroughs who was executed for witchcraft in 1692. The charge given the jury as to what resembled reasonable doubt under the direction of Chief Justice Shaw of the Mass. Supreme Court remained in use until 2015 in Mass. and was the "Webster Charge." Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote about its effectiveness in a 1994 US Supreme Court decision. The text also mentions the fact Pietro Bartolo (Bachi) was let go as a language professor at Harvard was let go for getting into debt. In reality, Harvard didn't want to admit that his salary wasn't enough to maintain his small family even though he also wrote several successful textbooks.

  19. 3 out of 5

    Judith

    This book is important because it focuses on a court case, obscure I suspect to many Americans, that established the legal definition of "reasonable doubt" and the use of medical forensics. Certainly this case has been much cited. The writing is vivid and detailed and the main characters are described well. However, I think it would be improved by reviewing or detailing what legal jurisprudence used (or perhaps it didn't use anything?) before the judge of this case established the definition. I This book is important because it focuses on a court case, obscure I suspect to many Americans, that established the legal definition of "reasonable doubt" and the use of medical forensics. Certainly this case has been much cited. The writing is vivid and detailed and the main characters are described well. However, I think it would be improved by reviewing or detailing what legal jurisprudence used (or perhaps it didn't use anything?) before the judge of this case established the definition. I have sat on two juries and found the experience enlightening, but again like most Americans i think I have little legal background. This definition, however, is an important one in our legal system but an overview of what was the situation before the establishment of medical forensics would have made the significance of this case more significant, so to speak.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    What an interesting book. This is so different from normal crime books. First of all, it is wrapped around Harvard, Boston, and Cambridge. And who knew so many of our national treasured authors all were Harvard men. A Harvard man goes missing, and it seems without a trace. A janitor at Harvard has his suspicions about a professor in the medical school. The story works it way through this academic world and ends with a trial. The press has come of age and thrives on stories of scandal, not caring What an interesting book. This is so different from normal crime books. First of all, it is wrapped around Harvard, Boston, and Cambridge. And who knew so many of our national treasured authors all were Harvard men. A Harvard man goes missing, and it seems without a trace. A janitor at Harvard has his suspicions about a professor in the medical school. The story works it way through this academic world and ends with a trial. The press has come of age and thrives on stories of scandal, not caring if what they print is true. Before it is over, reputations are tarnished, and families are destroyed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Van

    A true-crime account of a scandal at Harvard University in 1849 in which Dr. George Parkman, one Boston's richest men, disappeared after last being seen visiting the Harvard Medical School. But worse scandal was to come when Dr. John Webster, noted chemistry professor at the college, was charged with his murder. What resulted was a celebrated trial that became a landmark case in the use of medical forensics and the definition of the concept of reasonable doubt. Paul Collins beings 19th century B A true-crime account of a scandal at Harvard University in 1849 in which Dr. George Parkman, one Boston's richest men, disappeared after last being seen visiting the Harvard Medical School. But worse scandal was to come when Dr. John Webster, noted chemistry professor at the college, was charged with his murder. What resulted was a celebrated trial that became a landmark case in the use of medical forensics and the definition of the concept of reasonable doubt. Paul Collins beings 19th century Boston, with its class structure and love of gossip, vividly to light while creating credible three dimensional characters.

  22. 3 out of 5

    Danielle

    Dr. George Parkman was a prominent Bostonian who mysteriously went missing in 1849. As detectives try to follow many varied leads to try and find out what happened to them a janitor at Harvard Medical School begins to suspect that Parkman never left the building after he was last seen there. This book didn't do much for me, but I imagine if you a fan of historic true crime books this one would be up your alley.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Melissa

    3.5 stars Once again taking a star off for poor copy editing. I enjoyed this book. It revolves around Harvard and Harvard's out-sized place in Boston society during the mid 1800s as well as showing some far reaching "firsts" in criminal trials that still resonate today. Collins' style is a little jumpy so I can see some readers not enjoying that but if you don't mind the style, this is a great true crime/history read that was clearly well researched.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A very good telling of the murder of Boston landowner Dr. George Parkman and the trial of his Harvard colleague Dr. John Webster for his death. The case was a national news story, and had several firsts which included the use of forensic evidence in a murder trial and Judge Shaw’s definition of “reasonable doubt”, which was used in some cases until this decade.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Gilreath

    In the vein of the Devil in the White City. I would have welcomed more about the murder’s attempts to frame others. I also would have liked a map, and a bit more history. That said, it was an enjoyable read. Having spent a lot of time in the area, I never knew the medical school was located in the West End at one time, and had never heard of the murder before.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lina

    Loved it. Check out the iPhone app “Walking Cinema: Murder on Beacon Hill” Loved it! Check out the iPhone app “Walking Cinema: Murder on Beacon Hill” you can walk and see the actual locations

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    I always enjoy Collins' books. This one was very good at placing you in 1849 Cambridge. It was easy to "know" the characters. That was slightly frightening--to recognize how easily one might know someone just like the murderer or the murdered...

  28. 3 out of 5

    Brittany Baker

    I had never heard of this murder, but it took place just a few blocks from me. Reading all of the familiar street names (though most of the buildings are different now) and knowing exactly where things happened was something I haven’t experienced with true crime before.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Toni Wittus

    I loved this book. This author is truly talented!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Jonsson

    Interesting look at a murder on Harvard campus in the 19th century that may have inspired "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.