It is 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, fantasizing about the day he has enough money to win 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 new "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 making his rounds, Wilde literally runs into a little slip of a girl - a girl not more than 10 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.
©2012 Lyndsay Faye (P)2012 Penguin Audio
Atmospheric, intelligent and engaging
This story is beautifully written, replete with descriptions of New York in the mid-1840s - what it looked like (sometimes gorgeous, more often dark and dreary), what it smelled like (smoky and rancid), and what it sounded like. Several themes run through a story that is about murder and mayhem, science and religion as well as the plight of women and children in an uncivilized place birthing itself from the depths of poverty and squalor. There are characters I wanted to know better - and hope that Lyndsay Faye will tell us more about Timothy Wilde, Bird Daley and the kinchins in the future. A most delightful element in this book is the way in which Timothy, who has been given a job as a ``copper star`` in the newly formed police force, uses his talent as a listener and observer of people and as an artist to become a detective - truly a problem solver using all of his gifts to understand `who did it`.
My favourite scene was the one in which Timothy, beaten and discouraged, returns to his room above the bakery. Once home, he takes out his onionskin and begins to write down phrases that he has heard over the course of his inquiries, drawing pictures of what he has seen and, finally, piecing together an entire picture to make sense of the `crimes``. I also loved the scene where Timothy and his brother, Valentine, come to know a very dark truth about their family. The scene bristles with horror and is infused with compassion.
While Timothy Wilde will stay in my mind for a long time, it is Mercy who I will remember. In her, the author has created a heroine tragically ahead of her time, deeply flawed, selfless and selfish, and for whom this female reader, while shuddering, can only feel compassion.
Narrative makes the world go round.
Although a little grisly in places for my taste, this is the kind of historical fiction that transports the listener to the world of the story. The writing is much above average for the genre,and the packed historical detail is fascinating without getting in the way of the story. The narration is excellent, too - both author and narrator seem to have made the wise choice that, since neither the prose nor the delivery is REALLY going to imitate 1845 New York, then make both sound modern and let the story, character, setting and appropriately chosen period vocabulary paint the images of the story world. I wade though a large amount of historical fiction flotsam to catch a few like this that really work - a good dense story, likeable characters, and, as a bonus, a social conscience without being hamfisted preachy.
This is the kind of book that grabs your attention and doesn't let it wander. I always know how much I'm enjoying a book by the number of times I have to hit the 30 second rewind button and it didn't get much use during this book.
Fascinating story and a great narration.
Even though there were some gruesome parts,
I enjoyed every word from beginning to end.
I'd love to find other 4-5 star books like this,
Ones you can't put down till the end, and
then wish it wasn't quite over just yet.
Fast-paced and atmospheric, this historical murder mystery is set in the NYC of 1845 at the inception of the NYPD. Numerous historical details about what life was like in mid-19th century NYC enrich the story; in particular the author employs the virulent anti-Catholic/anti-Irish sentiments so prevalent at that time as the backdrop for what appears to be a series of vicious ritualistic murders.
I debated between 3 and 4 stars for the story, as it really is quite enjoyable and the narration is excellent. However, for all the author's attention to period detail, the sensibilities of her characters are thoroughly 21st century--which might make them more accessible to a modern audience but which doesn't really fit them into their historical setting. This is a quite common phenomenon in current "period pieces" whether of literature or film and probably a minor quibble for most readers with a murder mystery which is otherwise a great read.
I downloaded The Gods of Gotham because I really enjoyed Lyndsay Faye's previous novel, Dust & Shadow. That account of Holmes and Watson pursuing the notorious Jack the Ripper was riveting and if anything, Faye's latest is better. The characterizations are vivid, the plot twists unexpected and the story moves along at a crisp pace without ever feeling rushed or contrived.
The Gods of Gotham, set in 1845, tells the tale of Timothy Wilde, a former bartender who finds himself a reluctant member of New York City's newly-founded police force. Wilde finds himself embroiled in a grisly mystery in a city that not only has some resentment towards the police (dubbed "copper stars" because of their copper badges) but is beset by corruption and racial tension as irish catholic immigrants pour into the country, compelled by the great potato famine to look for a new start in the U.S.A. It's a rich background for a mystery story and the author brings the period to life.
Faye is on a roll and I can't wait for her next book.
Regarding the reading: when I began listening, I wasn't sure if Steven Boyer was going to be a good fit for the material but he quickly won me over. He deftly brings the characters and events of Faye's novel to life for the listener.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
This historical fiction novel is set in New York city in the mid-1840s, when a huge wave of Irish immigrants arrived following the Potato Famine. It describes how the New York police force was created in 1845, and is told from the point of view of a young man, Tim Wilde, who is more or less forced against his will into becoming a policeman following tragic circumstances. Having lost his parents as a boy in a fire which consumed the family home, Tim's only remaining family is his troubled older brother Val, who lives a life of complete debauchery but who's political connections guarantee him a post as a captain of the "copper stars". For his part, Tim gets stuck on the beat of Ward 6, described as one of the most wretchedly poor neighbourhoods of the city. Tim is embittered about the state of his life and hates his new job, but one night things take a dramatic turn when he discovers a little girl no older than six wandering in a nightgown drenched in blood. Shortly after, the mutilated body of another child is discovered, and Tim begins to make connections which will lead him to search for what may be the city's first serial killer.
This was a great story very well told which definitely pulled me in. I'm not sure if I was more shocked by some of the gruesome scenes involving children or by the treatment the Irish immigrants suffered in real life—evidenced not only by elements of the story, but also by authentic texts quoted from documents published at the time. It certainly made for a fascinating read. I wasn't entirely convinced with the ending at first, but now that I've taken some distance from it, find it was very well woven into the story after all. Best of all, I found out there is a sequel in the works, which I'll no doubt pounce on as soon as it's released.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
Lyndsay Faye does a lot of things right in Gods of Gotham.
Characters, though not fully three dimensional, are colorful and consistent while retaining the ability to surprise us. The central mystery is gruesome and fascinating, and if the solution does not come as a stunning surprise, we don't really mind since the process of knitting together all the loose threads is so satisfying. A host of minor characters create a rich mixture of the comic, bizarre and chilling in a progression of events which moves along at a very nice pace.
Finally, the historic NYC setting is vividly rendered, an unsavory feast for the senses with a wealth of telling detail. This is crime fiction in an historical setting done to a fare-thee-well. I was sorry to come to the end, and I look forward to more from this author. When it comes, I hope it is narrated by Steven Boyer. He did a nice job of establishing the right energy for a story which demands a kind of fresh naivete in its presentation in order to capture us completely. Nice work!
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
First and foremost, I found the story itself to be riveting, well constructed and not overly predictable. The characters had depth, especially Timothy Wilde who showed wonderful growth through the arc of the story. None of the primary characters were one-dimensionally good or evil. The historical sensibilities felt real, if sometimes a bit overdone. I feel that some tighter editing would have eliminated some of the unnecessarily wordy passages that seemed to be self consciously showing off for effect of atmosphere. It took a while to get the hang of the slang, making it necessary to listen with full attention to get the context. My major complaint is of the reader. Particularly in the first half of the story, the reading was very monotoned without clear distinction between characters. I had to back up several times in conversations between Tim and Val to sort out who said what. As the pace and intensity of the story picked up in the second half, the reader seemed to get into the characters more completely, bringing me into the story with more conviction. I give the story very high marks. For some it might be better to read than to listen. Try the sample first.
Say something about yourself!
This is how it should be done.
Lyndsay Faye spins a tale that immerses the reader in New York City of 1845. The details are rich, well researched, and never superfluous; everything serves the interest of the story, in this case the formation of New York City's first police force. When one of those pioneering "copper stars" accepts the burden of investigating a truly horrific series of murders, he takes a personal and professional journey that shows him the many faces of religious and racial conflict, political corruption, and poverty and vice in his city -- as well as poignant glimpses of true heroism, of the modest kind as well as the mighty.
This story has it all: three-dimensional and compelling characters (of various ages and backgrounds and both genders) with complex relationships, a deep sense of time and place, and an intricate plot that keeps the reader guessing until the end. The conclusion manages to be intensely satisfying while avoiding excessive neatness.
I'll refrain from giving details, because this novel is a gift that should be unwrapped as the author intended. If you're interested in a well-drawn historical novel or a thoughtful mystery or a love letter to a city in the act of growing into itself, warts and all, you should treat yourself to this book.
Steven Boyer's narration is pitch perfect.
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