Thursday, February 12, 2015
A Few Thoughts On The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
Publisher: Putnam 2012 (Hardcover)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.
Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, saving every dollar and shilling in hopes of winning the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this untested "police force." And he is less than thrilled that his new beat is the notoriously down-and-out Sixth Ward-at the border of Five Points, the world's most notorious slum.
One night while returning from his rounds, heartsick and defeated, Timothy runs into a little slip of a girl—a girl not more than ten years old—dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.
Timothy knows he should take the girl to the House of Refuge, yet he can't bring himself to abandon her. Instead, he takes her home, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of 23rd Street. Timothy isn't sure whether to believe her or not, but, as the truth unfolds, the reluctant copper star finds himself engaged in a battle for justice that nearly costs him his brother, his romantic obsession, and his own life.
- I purchased The Gods of Gotham back when it was first published in 2012, fully intending to read it shortly thereafter. That obviously didn't happen, as here it is 2015 and I've only just now read it. This is one of those books that left me wondering why I waited so long to pick it up, and has left me very happy that the second novel in the series, Seven For A Secret, is already sitting on my shelves.
- Set in New York City in 1845, the novel's protagonist, Timothy Wilde, is one of NYC's first police officers (aka copper star). I really enjoyed learning a bit about the formation of the NYPD, and how its creation was met with such resistance by certain groups within the city.
- A narratives that evokes a strong sense of time and place is important to me when reading historical fiction. Faye excels in this area. In Faye's deft hands, mid-nineteenth century New York City vividly comes to life in all its splendour and its squalor. As the mystery at the heart of The Gods of Gotham unfolds, Faye also successfully captures and conveys the tensions that existed between Catholics and Protestants, and between the Irish and American-born New Yorkers.
- The novel's cast of characters is one of its greatest strengths. Timothy Wilde is a smart, resourceful man, one who seems a perfect fit for police work, even if joining the NYPD isn't his preferred career choice. Timothy's brother, Valentine, is charismatic and somewhat mysterious, making him all the more alluring as a character. The novel's supporting characters are intriguing, especially Timothy's landlady Mrs. Boehm, his fellow copper star and sometime partner Mr. Piest, and brothel madam Silkie Marsh. I especially loved Bird Daily and the newsboys.
- The narrative itself is engaging, and kept me eagerly turning the pages. While I wasn't overly surprised by the novel's conclusion, Faye successfully kept me guessing as to how everything would turn out until the final few chapters.
- I'm very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
- Recommended to fans of historical fiction set in the United States, as well as to readers who enjoy well plotted and engaging mysteries.