The Gods of Gotham – Book Review

I hadn’t been a copper star before. But I was then, I think, with Bird shivering so hard in m arms that she could scarcely breathe. And I am now. For if not for us, who would have ever found them? – from the ARE of The Gods of Gotham –

It is 1845 and New York City has formed its first police force. Timothy Wilde, a former bartender who has dreams of making a life with a woman he has known since childhood, finds himself scarred and destitute after a devastating fire. When Timothy’s brother, Valentine, gets him a position on the new police force, Timothy at first resists. But then, one night while doing rounds, Timothy runs head on into a ten year old Irish girl named Bird who is covered in blood. Impulsively, he takes Bird home with him instead of to the House of Refuge and, when questioned, Bird reveals a shocking tale of a man in a dark hood who has been murdering children and burying them in a forest in the City. The case is complicated by political unrest, religious differences, and the influx of Irish immigrants into New York, not to mention the ambiguous feelings between Timothy and Valentine – a man whose drug addiction, political aspirations, and ruthless view of life stir up more questions than answers.

The Gods of Gotham is a thrilling and compelling historical mystery which kept me glued to the pages. Lyndsay Faye sets the stage for her novel with spot-on descriptions of New York City in the mid-nineteenth century. Timothy Wilde makes the perfect narrator as a man struggling to survive after losing it all. He is a character with plenty of heart and a penchant for crime solving. Timothy’s relationship with his brother is a blend of resentment and begrudging love and provides a good deal of tension. The reader is kept guessing about Valentine who is a character with dark secrets and is, at times, difficult to like.

The Gods of Gotham has a twisty and surprising plot. Just when I thought I had it figured out, Faye took the novel in an entirely different direction. I don’t want to say much else about the plot for fear of ruining it for others…but suffice it to say that it was one of the strengths of the book.

Faye did a great deal of research for this book and weaves into the novel some true historical facts including a case of infanticide in New York’s Five Points area, the civic unrest which led to the formation of New York City’s first police force, a playhouse founded by a group of ragtag newsboys, and the birth of nonfiction urban sensationalism. She also includes the historical figure of George Washington Matsell who was known for his publication titled The Secret Language of Crime: Vocabulum, or, the Rogue’s Lexicon (1859).

It should be mentioned that the novel incorporates “flash” dialogue – a type of slang used in working class neighborhoods of New York City which gave birth to a permanent shift in the English language. Faye includes a helpful dictionary of terms for reference, but I found it was unnecessary as the language is seated artfully in context and was easy to interpret.

I loved this book for its historical setting and characters, and for its unpredictable plot. Readers who enjoy historical fiction as well as mysteries will not want to miss The Gods of Gotham.

Highly recommended.

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FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher as a participant in BOOK CLUB (an on line book club group).

Discussion for this book will take place on Devourer of Books on April 3rd, 2012.

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  1. I’ve seen plenty of reviews for this one already, but yours is the first one that really piqued my interest. I’ll be looking for this book for sure!

      • Wendy on April 13, 2012 at 07:03

      Heather: I hope you love it!

    • Kay on March 29, 2012 at 03:51

    I had this one as a Waiting on Wednesday pick a few weeks ago. It sounds really interesting to me and I’m happy to read your thoughts about it. Looking forward to putting it in my TBR pile.

      • Wendy on April 13, 2012 at 07:04

      Kay: I think you’d like this one. My giveaway is still open through Sat (the 14th) if you want to take a chance!

  2. THis sounds incredible! I’ve just put this on my Goodreads TBR list, so excited to read this one 🙂

      • Wendy on April 13, 2012 at 07:04

      Nat: I think you’d especially love this one!

  3. I can’t wait to read this one! I love books set in historical NYC especially when it incorporates facts in a readable way.

      • Wendy on April 13, 2012 at 07:05

      Jenna: The writing is really wonderful…and if you like this era, you are in for a treat!

  4. I have to say with Heather that in spite of numerous reviews I haven’t been interested until now! I didn’t know it had “flash” dialogue either – how interesting!

      • Wendy on April 13, 2012 at 07:05

      Jill (Rhapsody): The flash dialogue takes a little getting used to, but it works great!

  5. I just finished this one over the weekend, and I loved it! It was by far one of the better books that I have read in the past few months, and I agree that I never knew where the plot was going and who was the true culprit until the end. There were a lot of possibilities, you know? This was a great book, and I can’t wait to discuss it. Lots in there of interest, and lots to discuss, I think.

      • Wendy on April 13, 2012 at 07:05

      Heather: Glad to hear you loved it too!

  6. I was already eager to read this one, but you’ve made me more excited! It’s near the top of my pile once I finish my Orange reading!

      • Wendy on April 13, 2012 at 07:06

      Carrie: Oh, I hope this is a memorable one for you, too!

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