Fans of The Alienist or The Given Day, take note. Today, the Indigo Fiction Blog shares a review by Fiction Buyer, Dave Harrison, on the latest Indigo Recommends title: Lyndsay Faye’s The Gods of Gotham.
In 1845, Ireland’s Great Potato Famine forced a mass exodus of men, women, and children who all left their ancestral homeland behind in search of a better life. Hundreds of thousands made their way to New York City.
In the same city, also in 1845, the “nightwatch” system of policing was discarded and replaced with the newly-created New York City Police Department.
Lyndsay Faye, the author of 2009’s Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr John H Watson, uses these two pivotal events as a backdrop for her masterful new historical crime thriller, The Gods Of Gotham.
Her story stars reluctant hero, Timothy Wilde, an ex-bartender who is forced to seek other employment after being injured in the great fire of 1845 which sweeps through the city, causing 7 million dollars in damages and destroying both his life savings and his dreams of marrying Mercy Underhill, the local reverend’s daughter. His fireman brother, Valentine, a player in the Democratic Party, sets Timothy up with a job as an officer on the freshly-minted police force. Timothy wants no part of it (nor his brother, who he has fought with on and off since the two of them were orphaned in childhood), but thanks to the fire, there are thousands of New Yorkers that are suddenly out of work. Having no other prospects, he grudgingly agrees.
His attitude towards his new profession is lowered by two factors: the first, that many New Yorkers deride the idea of a “standing army” policing their streets, and the second is that his beat will be the Sixth Ward, including Five Points, which is considered the most notorious slum in the city. Timothy settles into his new routine, but that routine is quickly torn from him when he stumbles across a ten-year-old girl fleeing down the street wearing nothing but a nightshift, and covered head to toe in blood.
This is where the story begins to speed up. Until this point you are hardly aware that you are reading a crime novel – Faye’s restoration of the period blazes in your mind with the smells of the streets, the accents of the immigrants, and the rampant prejudice of the “Natives” against the Irish. It becomes clear that New York City’s first serial killer may be on the loose, and whoever they are, they are targeting Irish children. Soon Timothy is following a trail that leads from brothels to churches to mass graves – and the future of the police department’s survival may depend on the success or failure of his finding the murderer and putting an end to the grisly crimes.
The Gods of Gotham is for anyone who enjoys well-researched historical fiction. Faye has clearly done her homework, and weaves many actual people and events into the fabric of her tale. The setting of the book strongly brings to mind Martin Scorsese’s film Gangs of New York (or the book on which it was based), and any fans of the movie will feel right at home in Faye’s New York. But enthusiasts of great crime thrillers will also find this book inescapable once they immerse themselves in Timothy’s feverish quest for a killer who preys only on the innocent.
Still curious? Interested readers can find much more on The Gods of Gotham on the Indigo Blog.
For a sample, a teaser from Chapter One can be found in an earlier installment of the Indigo Blog, here.
A guest blog from Lyndsay herself can be found here.
An interview between Michael Connelly and Lyndsay can be found here.