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
The author does a great job with bringing the listener to a New York I was pretty unfamiliar with, mixing terms of the time into the story without seeming to force it. Mr. Boyer is a very credible Timothy Wilde, with just enough grit, exhaustion and tenderness to breath life into the main character. Overall a great listening experience.
When "good" triumphs and Bird Daily is given the chance to start a new life.
Obviously, it is the main character, Timothy Wilde.
Tim really grows up during the story. His true character develops and matures. He figures out things about his family and himself that shapes the present and his future.
The story includes racism and prejudice from the era that seems very foreign in our time, and yet with many similarities. I enjoyed the presentation by Boyer and Faye's story line both very much. It's a great "who dunnit" with some history thrown in to enrich the story and enlighten the reader.
Coffee and a Book Chick
New York in 1845 was a powder-keg of unrest. With an influx of Irish immigrants escaping the tragic Great Potato Famine into an already packed city, the New York summer of 1845 was filled with riots, religious unrest, murder, and the eventual birth of the New York Police Department, known by New Yorkers as a "standing army." Timothy Wilde, once a bartender with an unfulfilled love for a charitable woman named Mercy Underhill, has accepted a position as a policeman after a horrible fire leaves him with no bar to tend and his face disfigured. Amidst racism, brothels, drugs and murder, Timothy learns there is much more darkness in the city than he ever imagined. When a young girl, Bird, runs into him one night during his rounds, her nightdress covered in blood, with unbelievable stories of a murdered child, his new career becomes even darker.
A strong dislike for his older and more politically-minded brother, Val, Timothy's got an ethical side that can't be undone. Even with Bird, he doesn't have the heart to deliver her to the House of Refuge for orphaned children and instead takes her back to his apartment building where the female proprietor cares for her. As he takes the case to uncover the child murders, which seem to point heavily to a blatant hatred for Irish Catholicism, Timothy's unsure of who to rely on. His brother is of questionable character and the locals don't take any issue with brothels, even if children are an option. It's a gritty underworld that he didn't expect to be immersed in.
The Gods of Gotham is superb with early 1800s elements of New York life and American history, from the combination of race and religious unrest to the Irish "assimilation" into New York and even to the seedy brothels. While Mercy Underhill maintains her own sense of willful independence that at times was shocking, she provides the clear contrast to the city's evil with her ministering of care to the orphans and uncared for children, all the while dreaming of her one-day voyage across the Atlantic to England to escape New York. Each piece of the story was brilliant.
However, I did take issue with the audiobook so let me first encourage you to visit the Audible.com reviews site because I definitely do not represent the majority of the listeners. While I loved the story, I struggled with the audio considerably. In 1845 New York, I anticipated a little more accented English and instead felt the narrator's voice was flat and non-regional, and a good portion of the audio was monotonous, even to the point that there wasn't any variation between the male voices. There was also a distinct lack of emotion for several of Timothy's truly painful moments and with such a vivid story, it's unfair to the characters to be so colorlessly represented. Usually, a narrator keeps a bad story going, but in this case, The Gods of Gotham was thankfully a captivating tale which was the sole reason I was motivated to continue. I do want to mention that there was one bright spot that I loved in audio, which occurred between the newsboys and Timothy when they spoke "flash," a slang dialect of the lower classes in New York. It was extremely unique and interestingly enough, "flash" is also the foundation of several slang words we use today. Other reviews point out that these conversations were a difficult part when reading in print, however I can say the audiobook makes it much, much easier to understand and visualize and I do feel the narrator did a good job here. (For a really cool interview with the author discussing "flash," click here.)
The story and historical elements are fascinating and while it was a bit wordy at the start of the book, it evened out and became an engaging tale which makes me now eagerly await the sequel. At that time, though, I will be reading the printed version versus listening to the audio.
Exciting, Bold, Suspenseful
I liked the way the author created the sights, smells and personalities of New York in the 1840's. The city was a character in this book.
His reading created the characters. His voices for all characters were believable and they were a very diverse group!
Murder and mayhem in old New York.
I really liked this book. It was a great story and also an excellent recreation of a time and place. The characters were real and their motivations were believable.
quite a pleasurable escape to another time. I will seek out other books by this author. Loved it!
I want more!
The historical setting at the juxtaposition of the formation in 1845 of the NYC police force and the early waves of Irish famine immigration is fascinating. More fascinating are the characters we follow, who provide most of the surprises in this thriller about a killer of child prostitutes. We may know who dunnit before the very likeable protagonist, but we understand why he doesn't get it first and we want to know why this diverse cast of characters behave as they do. The hero has a moral code, refreshing after living in modern America.
I bought this book because I had been blown away earlier this year by "Dust and Shadow" by the same author. But this book is tedious with flowery language that seems at odds with the subject matter. It took HOURS of back-stories using way too many prose-like sentences for the action to really get started. Plus the characters are just plain unlikeable, a flaw that comes from poor character development. Irish people come off as corrupt, criminal, lazy, and sexually exploitive of young unfortunate Irish children. The main thing that is so crappy about the writing is Faye's systemic use of the Irish slang term "kinchin" (young street urchins) throughout the book. Not once that I noticed did she ever use the word "children". All kinchin are children but all children are not kinchin so I don't get it. All the women are prostitutes or wannabe whores. It also appears that the same is true of all the Irish children, girls AND boys. Why?
Also I don't appreciate the cavalier way the author added in the interaction between the Irish and free blacks, while never talking about the other NYC ethnic groups - like Italians and Jews especially - who considered the huge influx of Irish famine refugees as America's "new niggers". As a black person, I felt as if the only reason the author threw in a few scenes with blacks was so the Irish characters could able to call the blacks "niggers" for absolutely no valid reason! At that time in history, the Irish were lowest in this country's pecking order - even blacks looked down on the Irish as poor white trash! I'm not at all sensitive to actual racism in literature but Faye seemed to have lost her way and figured that some unnecessary, poorly developed name-calling might add some spice to a faltering story line. She even tried to LYNCH the only black man in the book!! A well-spoken skilled working man who had done nothing wrong, as if the story took place in Mississippi. The black man wasn't even guilty of the age-old KKK allegation of the "reckless eyeballin'" of a white woman! Was that a secret fantasy of Lyndsay Faye???? This book is awful on so many levels. What a disappointment!!
I am exploring Scandinavian mysteries but also like mysteries set in other parts of the world. I also like reading Literary Fiction.
I enjoyed this well put together historical mystery but I thought it was a bit long. Lots of research in the book. Steven Boyer is a great voice.
Old New York. Glorious and relevant characters. Imagery that often takes your breath away because it is so rich, beautiful, interesting and dynamic
While I had been aware of the unfair treatment of Irish immigrants in the 19th century, I really didn't know the extremes to which the racially motivated hatred went. And the degree to which religious misunderstanding was all tied up with ethnic mistrust. In addition to illuminating all this, I was surprised by the degree of character complexity, really engaged by the difficult relationships between the major characters. Very much looking forward to the sequel. Only difficulty was the narrator, who was mostly pretty good, but too frequently seemed unfamiliar with certain phrases and expressions, which led to odd emphases and the occasional mispronounced word - I think you can't be an effective narrator without understanding what you're reading, and that sometimes seemed to be his problem. All in all a good listen.
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