Thursday, July 20, 2017

Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

Nobody chased her. But that was nobody's fault, really, not in a city of this size. It was only the callousness of four hundred thousand people, blending into a single blue-black pool of unconcern. That's what we copper stars are for, I think... to be the few who stop and look.
I was given Gods of Gotham by a friend, years ago, during an extended sick leave. I didn't read it then (I did, however, watch four seasons of Scandal in about a week), and I wish now that I had. It's the perfect book for being sick or otherwise somewhat addled (summer vacation, for example!). Faye gives us the story of Timothy Wilde, a grizzled (literally grizzled: half of his face is burned off in a fire in the opening pages) member of New York's brand new police force. Wilde stumbles upon a haunting mystery in his first days on the force, and the novel unspools around his attempts to solve it.

There is nothing particularly meaty or revolutionary here, but Faye has written a great mystery with an added layer of historical fiction. I enjoyed her portrait of poverty in New York in the 1840's, and while her attempts to recreate "flash" (Irish-American slang) were a little jolting at times, she captures the xenophobia and fear mongering of both that age and ours as the citizens of New York are stirred into an anti-Catholic frenzy by a series of increasingly gruesome crimes.

The novel is fast paced and full of colorful, interesting characters. There were twists I didn't see coming (I've read enough mystery novels over the years that this is rare), and Timothy's various lady friends--some romantic interests, some not--are a cast of strong, independent women. Not a single damsel in distress to be found here.

This was a fun, fast read, and I think I might have vaguely learned something about New York history by accident along the way. I'm not sure I'm invested enough to read the sequels, but it was a great, immersive experience.

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