The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
(from the book jacket)
It is 1845…Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, fantasizing about the day he will have enough money to win the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams incinerate in a fire that devastates downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother gets him a job in the newly minted NYPD, but Timothy 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 of the city – at the edge of Five Points, the world’s most notorious slum.
One night while making his rounds, Timothy runs into, literally, a little slip of a girl – a girl not more than ten years old, dashing through the dark in her nightshirt…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 to his house, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of Twenty-third 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.
This is a dark story. But it happens in what was a dark time. And through Faye’s writing you feel like you really, at least start to, understand what it was like to live at that time. The setting is very realistically brought to life. I like the use of flash (dictionary provided) which is a street language that not everyone understood. It was interesting to learn some of the words and it added something to the realism of the dialogue. There are a host of interesting characters that are complex and well thought out. And with all the different political and personal motives and goals going on you are kept guessing as to how the mystery is going to resolve. The history of the time is interesting to read about and I like the way Timothy turns from a copper star walking a beat into a detective solving crimes by the end of the book. As I’ve mentioned it is a bit of a dark story but without belittling the bleakness of the times or the hardships of the people Faye manages to put some hope in the story too so it does not leave the reader depressed. The ending does leave the possibility that we will be hearing about Timothy Wilde in the future. Which I will be looking forward to.