Cohen's main thesis revolves around the personality and career success of Helen who was quite unlike others in her profession for she was very well read and could assert herself confidently in various situations. Cohen appears to like Helen despite her career choice as she saw her as a financially independent woman who chose not to sell herself short by charging quite a hefty sum for her services. Helen was also very eloquent as her letters to her customers reveal. To one potential client, she wrote: "You do not know what a pleasure your acquaintance is to me . . . A single oasis in the vast desert of wretchedness, shame, guilt, blighted prospects and perverted powers which I am compelled to call my life." This was her way of generating adequate interest to make the final purpose clear: "Come and see me as soon as you can; I shall expect you every evening."
Helen's manipulative ways and her seduction skills met their match in a young man, Robinson who had come to New York to work as a clerk. Richard Robinson came from a rather affluent family of Connecticut. His highly passionate though tempestuous affair with Helen was an indication of how things would end between them. After months of exchanging love letters and spending time together, Helen was found dead on a cold day in 1836. Richard Robinson was an immediate suspect.
Her grisly murder on a cold day in 1836 has been attributed to many things including her interest in literature. One pamphleteer believed that her literary pursuits killed her for nothing good comes from reading books especially novels. As bizarre as this may sound, the fact remains that Helen's murder attracted much wider media attention than such a murder would otherwise warrant. This was precisely because Helen was not an ordinary woman. She believed in herself and in her skills in the profession she had chosen for herself. She chose to see only a certain number of clients in a week which showed that quality more than quantity was her preference. She would also charge much more than others believing she was worth the higher rate. Helen was attractive and very eloquent, something that had given her an edge over others. Her murder came as a shock to many but more importantly, it generated wide interest from all circles because suddenly there was a prostitute who had good connections and who had read Sir Walter Scott. That was enough to set her apart from many others and hence her case drew attention from a variety of social circles.