The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye's is newly released novel today. And it's definitely one you want to get your hands on!
"On the night of August 21, 1845, one of the children escaped."
I was captured from that opening line - hook line and sinker. History and mystery combined is a sure bet for me and Faye did not disappoint.
1845 is a turning point in the history of New York City. Thousands of immigrants fleeing from the potato famine in Ireland settle in the city and the first formal police force is formed. That line? It's from a report written by 'copper star' Timothy Wilde, a policeman in the Sixth Ward - home to the notorious Five Points and more.
Wilde has been hired on based on the recommendation of his bigger than life brother, Valentine. And also on his knowledge of 'flash'.
" Flash, or flash-patter, is the curious dialect spoken by foisters, panel thieves, bruisers, dice burners, confidence men, street rats, news hawkers, addicts, and Valentine.....It's not a language, exactly - it's more like a code."
Faye provides us with a mini lexicon in the beginning of the book, based on George Washington Matsell's actual book from 1859. (Take the Penguin 'Flash" quiz here.)Matsell is also a character in the book. I loved the amount of history and detail that Lyndsay Faye has woven into her book. It brought the time period to life - the political machinations, the religious unrest, the racial prejudice and the social fabric of the time provided a engrossing backdrop for a delicious plot.
Faye's prose paint vivid pictures: (It's a long passage but especially good!)
"If there's a wider street on earth than Broadway, a street more roiling, a street with a more dizzying pendulum swing between starving opium fiends with the rags rotting off of them and ladies in walking gowns bedecked like small steamships, I can't imagine it nor do I want to. Colored footmen sitting atop phaetons and wearing summer straw hats and pale green linen coats whirred past me that morning, one nearly colliding with a Jewess selling ribbons from a wide hinged box hung around her neck. Ice delivery men from the Knickerbocker Company, shoulders knotted with painful-seeming muscles, strained with iron tongs to hoist frozen blocks onto carts and then wheeled their cargo into the opulent hotels before the guests awoke. And weaving in and out, mud-crusted and randy and miraculously nimble, trotted the speckled pigs, rubbery snouts nuzzling the trampled beet leaves. Everything begrimed but the storefront window panes, everything for sale but the cobblestones, everyone pulsing with energy but never meeting your eye"
But what really grabbed me were the characters. Timothy's life changes radically over the course of the book. From a bartender saving his coins, dreaming of marriage and a small piece of land to being consumed with solving the child murder cases that have fallen in his lap - and finding out he's very good at it.
"I wanted to know how they came to be there like very little else I've ever wanted, and I'd never felt so about a puzzle before....this was a single goal, a mountain to climb and see the top with your own eyes, and I needed to know."
The relationship between Timothy and his brother Valentine is a mystery to be solved as well. I loved the cast of eclectic supporting characters - especially Mr. Piest and George Matsell.
Lyndsay Faye has combined a great mystery with a fascinating look at history and engaging characters, all of which kept me up late, rapidly turning 'just one more page'. I truly hope that that Faye has plans to continue on with these characters.
**Just found in an interview with Kirkus reviews...."The first draft of the sequel is finished, actually. It’s the winter of 1846, about six months later, and in it I merrily continue to do terrible, terrible things to Tim and Val."
Fans of Caleb Carr's The Alienist would enjoy this book. And author Michael Connelly says "A wonderful book. Lyndsay Faye's command of historical detail is remarkable and her knowledge of hum"A wonderful book. Lyndsay Faye's command of historical detail is remarkable and her knowledge of human character even more so. I bought into this world in the opening pages and never once had the desire to leave. It's a great read." Five stars for me!
Read an excerpt from The Gods of Gotham. (You'll be hooked...) A Reading Group Guide is available as well. You can find Lyndsay Faye on Twitter and on Facebook.