By Megan Harlan
Updated September 04, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

In 1836, 23-year-old call girl Helen Jewett was found gruesomely murdered in her posh lower Manhattan brothel; the suspect was her longtime client Richard Robinson, a dandyish young clerk from a prominent Connecticut family. Robinson’s murder trial inspired one of America’s first bona fide media frenzies, along with intense debates about class and gender: Was Jewett a fallen angel or a whore who deserved her fate? By drawing on Jewett’s letters and Robinson’s diary, historian Cohen delineates two intelligent, combustible personalities that transcend gender stereotypes of any era — making their tragic tale all the more riveting. A-