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Blood & Ivy

The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

9 July 2019

Paul Collins (Author)


“Well-researched and beautifully written.…Collins knows how to build suspense.” —San Francisco Chronicle

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 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, 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.


"[A] lively exposé." — Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

"Ushers readers into…the incestuously tight world of Brahmin Boston." — The Economist

"Collins has a fine eye for the telling historical detail." — Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times

"A page-turning account of one of the most famed murders of mid-19th-century America.…Collins offers a keen portrait of the social and cultural milieu in which this shocking murder and subsequent trial were played out." — Tim Brady, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Engaging and propulsive.… [A] highly intelligent and historically accurate look at a scandalous murder at one of this country’s most elite institutions of higher education.… Collins does a superb job of bringing the players in this drama to life." — Jenny Lyons, Addison County Independent

"Historical true crime, a courtroom drama, a period piece, and a delve into American literary history, all rolled into one." — Joshua James Amberson, The Portland Mercury



140 x 211 mm • 368 pages


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