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The Bellamy trial

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v, 323 pages ; 22 cm.
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The trial of Stephen Bellamy and Susan Ives, accused of murdering Bellamy's wife Madeline, lasts eight days. A trial that seems straightforward at its outset grows increasingly confounding as it proceeds, and surprises abound; by the time the closing arguments are made, however, the reader, like the jury, has all the evidence needed to pass judgement on the two defendants --


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The trial of Stephen Bellamy and Susan Ives, accused of murdering Bellamy's wife Madeleine, lasts eight days. That's eight days of witnesses (some reliable, some not), eight days of examination and cross-examination, and eight days of sensational courtroom theatrics lively enough to rouse the judge into frenzied calls for order. Ex-fiancés, houseworkers, and assorted family members are brought to the stand--a cross-section of this wealthy Long Island town--and each one only adds to the mystery of the case in all its sordid detail. A trial that seems straightforward at its outset grows increasingly confounding as it proceeds, and surprises abound; by the time the closing arguments are made, however, the reader, like the jury, is provided with all the evidence needed to pass judgement on the two defendants. Still, only the most astute among them will not be shocked by the verdict announced at the end.

Inspired by the most sensational murder trial of its day, The Bellamy Trial is a pioneering courtroom mystery, and one of the first of such books to popularize the form. It is included in the famed Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list of the most definitive novels of the mystery genre.

Author Notes

Frances Noyes Hart (1890-1943) was an American writer whose stories were published in Scribner's, The Saturday Evening Post, where The Bellamy Trial was first serialized, and The Ladies' Home Journal. The daughter of Frank Brett Noyes, founder of the Associated Press, Hart was educated in American, Italian, and French schools before serving in WWI as a canteen worker for the YMCA and as a translator for the Naval Intelligence Bureau. After returning home, she wrote six novels, numerous short stories, and a non-fiction memoir about the war.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the bestselling author of eleven novels, including psychological thrillers Trust Me and The Murder List. A past president of national Sisters in Crime, Ryan's suspense fiction has won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, five Agatha Awards, and numerous other accolades. Alongside her work as an author, Ryan also has a successful career as an investigative reporter at Boston's WHDH-TV, where her ground-breaking journalism has been celebrated with 36 EMMY Awards and 14 Edward R. Murrow Awards.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Devotees of classic courtroom thrillers like Witness for the Prosecution will be enthralled by this reissue in the American Mystery Classics series of a seminal legal drama first published in 1927. Hart (1890--1943) effectively employs a chorus to supplement the proceedings: a veteran male reporter and a rookie female journalist, both unnamed, whose commentary keeps the detailed questioning of witnesses and legal arguments during a sensational murder trial in Bellechester, N.Y., from becoming dry. Stephen Bellamy and Susan Ives are charged with the fatal stabbing of Stephen's wife, Mimi, a cause célèbre that the male reporter cynically describes as the latest "crime of the century." According to the prosecution, their motive was fear that Mimi would run off with Susan's husband, with whom Mimi was once in love. Hart does a good job playing with expectations by first presenting the prosecution's case against Stephen and Susan before testimony and cross-examination suggest an alternative explanation for Mimi's murder. Perry Mason fans will rejoice. (Nov.)

Kirkus Review

A pair of Long Island society types stand trial for upper-crust murder in this distinguished reprint first published in 1927.Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose introduction pronounces this one of the very first legal thrillers, notes that Hart (1890-1943) drew freely on accounts of the 1922 Hall-Mills murder, the most notorious of her day. But the trial of Stephen Bellamy and Susan Ives for the fatal stabbing of Bellamy's wife would have been sensational on its own. Mimi Dawson had been romantically involved with both self-made stockbroker Patrick Ives and equally eligible Elliot Farwell, and Pat had eloped with Sue Thorne, Elliot's former girlfriend whose wealthy father disinherited her in disgust, only a few days before Mimi married Stephen. The combustible mixture of once and future lovers, linking Pat and Mimi once more despite their marriages to others, boils over when Mimi is found stabbed to death in the gardener's cottage on the grounds of Orchards, the old Thorne estate. The evidence, which places both the accused at the scene around the time of the murder, suggests that Sue Ives stabbed her rival to death with the active encouragement of the victim's husband. But the eight days of the trial bring out an abundance of new evidence, partly at the hands of wily prosecutor Daniel Farr, partly through the dogged research and cross-examination of defense counsel Dudley Lambert, an old family friend of the Thornes who at first seems utterly overmatched. The pace is stately, the oratory ceremonious, and the climax unnecessarily self-serious. But if the tale is unmemorable as a whodunit, it has never been excelled by its long line of progeny as a courtroom drama. Hardly a single witness testifies without some surprising development, and the mystery is admirably calculated to provide successively more revealing peeks at the passions that seethe beneath its decorous surface.A must-read for nostalgia buffs, this seminal tale of legal intrigue holds up remarkably well even for casual fans. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

One of the first courtroom dramas, originally published in 1927, this latest in Penzler's American Mystery Classics series was inspired by the 1926 Halls-Mills trial of the century, a connection described in Hank Phillippi Ryan's introduction. Hart's adaptation of the real-life whodunit stars Stephen Bellamy and Susan Ives, on trial for the murder of Stephen's wife, Mimi, whom they are accused of wanting to get rid of so they could continue their love affair without interference (an outrageous revelation in well-heeled 1920s Long Island). The couple alleges that Mimi was having her own affair, but otherwise have little to offer in the way of exonerating facts. The two reporters whose observations frame the story a simpering girl whose portrayal begins to grate and her Mad Man-esque admirer reflect the public mood, with all agog as the allegations ping back and forth, especially when an unexpected witness drops a bombshell. As one of the first stories of its kind and as a masterfully written look at genteel scandal, this legal thriller will be a hit with those who know Hart's work as well as fans of today's courtroom-based fiction.--Henrietta Verma Copyright 2019 Booklist