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.
About the Author
Paul Collins is the author of nine books of nonfiction. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and chair of the English Department at Portland State University.
[A] lively exposé.
— Marilyn Stasio
Tells the story of one of the most sensational crimes of 19th century America. Well-researched and beautifully written, his book is filled with Dickensian characters....Collins knows how to build suspense.
Ushers readers into...the incestuously tight world of Brahmin Boston.
A vivid true-crime tale from a fascinating bygone era.
Mesmerizing....A fine mixture of true crime, historical exposition, and class conflict in mid-19th-century American history.
This page-turning popular history of the life and crimes of a Harvard professor in the 1840s will be appreciated by fans of true crime and the history of criminal law.