Summary and book reviews of The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham

A Novel

By Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2012,
    432 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2013,
    352 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

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 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 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.

Chapter 1

When I set down the initial report, sitting at my desk at the Tombs, I wrote:

On the night of August 21, 1845, one of the children escaped.

Of all the sordid trials a New York City policeman faces every day, you wouldn't expect the one I loathe most to be paperwork. But it is. I get snakes down my spine just thinking about case files.

Police reports are meant to read "X killed Y by means of Z." But facts without motives, without the story, are just road signs with all the letters worn off. Meaningless as blank tombstones. And I can't bear reducing lives to the lowest of their statistics. Case notes give me the same parched-headed feeling I get after a night of badly made New England rum. There's no room in the dry march of data to tell why people did bestial things - love or loathing, defense or greed. Or God, in this particular case, though I don't suppose God was much pleased by it.

If He was watching. I was watching, and it didn't please me any too keenly.

For ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Timothy Wilde's understanding is deeply hampered by his own misconceptions about his loved ones - in particular, Mercy Underhill and his brother Valentine. How unreliable a narrator is Tim? In what ways is he careful to present the whole story, and in what ways does he fail to do so?

  2. The city of New York itself is a significant character in The Gods of Gotham. How would you characterize Timothy's uneasy relationship with New York? How is it affected by the fact that he was born there? How do you feel about New York City, either as a native, a transplant, a visitor, or a complete stranger, and did that feeling change your perception of the novel?

  3. In reference to an Irish laborer being taunted by an American in Chapter Seven, Tim ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Faye's characterizations are also extraordinary. Her main character, Timothy Wilde, has the potential to become a literary staple ala Hercule Poirot or Adam Dalgliesh. He's a brilliant creation: smart, observant, brave, and someone who fights for the underdog, yet he's damaged and has a lot of emotional baggage. He's intelligent and talented without being arrogant, and altogether a very likeable young man. The character has clearly been inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, but Wilde's edges are softer, making him more human and fallible but without crossing the line into caricature or cartoon. Additionally - and perhaps more challenging for an author to accomplish - he continues to grow over the course of the novel. This is what makes Wilde such a compelling protagonist.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Vivid period details, fully formed characters, and a blockbuster of a twisty plot put Faye in a class with Caleb Carr. Readers will look forward to the sequel.

Library Journal

The Wilde brothers are a valiantly flawed pair whose adventures dramatically light up this turbulent era. Faye's use of flash, an underground language akin to thieves' cant (British criminal jargon), further enriches this engrossing historical thriller, the first in a new series.

Author Blurb Matthew Pearl, bestselling author of The Dante Club
Lyndsay Faye is a superstar-caliber writer. She confidently and exquisitely re-creates the past while her characters live on with you in the present, the elusive gold standard for a historical novel. Gods of Gotham is a gift to the genre that readers will surely relish while we wait for Faye's next one

Author Blurb Katherine Howe, bestselling author of The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane
Lyndsay Faye's exquisite new novel, The Gods of Gotham, plunges us into the teeming, sordid streets of Old New York... Faye's prose crackles with historical authenticity so cunningly rendered that readers will lose themselves from the very first turn of the page.

Author Blurb Laurie R. King, New York Times bestselling author of The God of the Hive and The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Intriguingly complex yet deliciously smooth, The Gods of Gotham is, in a word, stunning. The vivid characters and deft use of the historical setting read like the work of an established writer at the top of her (or, indeed, his) career - that Faye is a newcomer is cause for an exuberance of fireworks, at the mere thought of so many superb novels yet to come.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

Gods of Gotham
This was a fantastic historical mystery taking place in 1852 New York City. The potato famine has caused hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants to flock to New York, causing untoward problems between the protestants and the newly arrived Catholics...   Read More

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A History of New York's Great Fires

In Lyndsay Faye's novel, The Gods of Gotham, a fire ravages lower Manhattan, setting the stage for her suspenseful historical mystery. In reality, New York City has fallen victim to more than one devastating blaze.

In 1609, Henry Hudson, a British explorer hired by the Dutch to find a faster route to "the Orient," followed what is now called the Hudson River as far as Albany. After realizing that the river would not go through to the Pacific Ocean, Hudson returned to the nearby bay and set up a camp, establishing the Dutch Republic claim to the area. It became a fur trading settlement by 1624, officially becoming the colony of New Amsterdam in 1626 when colonial Director-General Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from a small band of ...

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