In 1836, the murder of a young prostitute made headlines in New York and around the country. The story was laced with details of sex, death, and sensationalism, everything that captures the publics interest. The Murder of Helen Jewett, written by Patricia Cline Cohen, discusses Cohen's uncovering of the information that allows her to reconstructthe whole story.
Beginning as a servant in Maine, over the years Helen Jewett assumed four different identities. Being a prostitute in a large city like New York required Helen to do something extra to attract a clientele. As a result she would make up stories about her life that captivated men, as well as wrote sultry letters to her clients. However, she eventually met a man, Richard Robinson, who would hold the key to her heart, and possibly to her death.
Robinson was one of many young men who flocked to New York, in his case from Connecticut, to fill the many positions of clerk. Robinson was described as being arrogant and intense. Helen Jewett and him became lovers in a ten-month affair that ended with Robinson being arrested for Jewett's murder. In the end, Robinson was acquitted to the excitement and joy of fellow clerks and other spectators.
Since there was never a conviction for murder the case continued to captivate the public for years. Robinson eventually disappeared from New York, making his way to Texas. In Texas, under a new name, Robinson started a new life. In the book, Patricia Cline Cohen, using meticulous research, traces his life there, and takes into account the remaining mystery of the murder. This book is appealing to today's audience because it deals with attributes, such as sex, betrayal, and intrigue that are timeless, and that any generation can relate too.