BookBrowse Reviews The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Gods of Gotham

A Novel

by Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2013, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

An historical mystery about the first police force in New York City in 1845 and the hunt for a brutal killer

Lyndsay Faye's novel, The Gods of Gotham, is an excellent historical mystery set in a time and place not many fiction writers have ventured to date: New York City, circa 1845. On the surface, the year seems unremarkable - James Polk is President, and the American Civil War has yet to occur. However, Faye manages to capture the setting brilliantly, breathing life into the era, making it interesting and relevant to modern readers. She provides real insight into the tensions that permeated New York City during that period.

The mystery upon which the book is predicated is outstanding - well-reasoned and exceptionally complex. After a fire ravages Lower Manhattan, Timothy Wilde joins the newly-formed New York Police Department and, upon encountering a young girl covered in blood, finds himself on the trail of a killer. The author has constructed an intricate, entertaining puzzle that will keep readers guessing until the very end of the novel, and once the main character has figured out "whodunit," the story continues until all twists have been unraveled and loose ends tied up. The conclusion is satisfying and makes sense in every way, and Faye leaves ample room for a sequel without allowing those openings to feel too contrived.

The historical elements of The Gods of Gotham work equally well. The novel is obviously well-researched, particularly the culture clash between the city's founders (predominantly British Protestants) and the rapidly growing freed black and Irish Catholic immigrant populations. Faye also weaves in information about the all-important politics of the day, adeptly illustrating the influence of the Tammany Hall political machine that was gaining power. The author's attention to detail is evident.

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.

In truth, I'd be hard-pressed to name a character in The Gods of Gotham that wasn't well-developed, as Faye has imbued even minor characters with tons of personality. She also does a particularly good job with the children she portrays. They come across as worldly yet vulnerable, and not overly precocious. It's a difficult balance to achieve, but the author manages it perfectly. Constables, bakers, doctors, clergy, petty crooks - all fully fleshed-out and unexpectedly "real."

The Gods of Gotham is the first book in a series that will feature Timothy Wilde, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment. Faye's first novel, Dust and Shadow, pitted Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper. Gods of Gotham, her second novel, is sure to win her many new fans, as it will certainly appeal to historical fiction aficionados as well as those who enjoy well-written mysteries.

Additional Information
New York City is popularly referred to by the nickname "Gotham City." The title was popularized by Bill Finger, the writer of the Batman comic books, starting in 1939, but the term originated much earlier. Washington Irving first used the sobriquet to refer to New York City in the November 11, 1807 issue of Salmagundi, a journal that satirized New York politics and culture. Irving borrowed the name from Gotham, a village in Nottinghamshire, England that was purportedly "inhabited by fools." According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the village was originally called Gatham (1086), which meant "[an] enclosure (lit. 'homestead') where goats are kept."

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in April 2012, and has been updated for the March 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hot Milk
    Hot Milk
    by Deborah Levy
    When people reach their early 20s, they often choose to go abroad – they want to get away from...
  • Book Jacket: Ninety-Nine Stories of God
    Ninety-Nine Stories of God
    by Joy Williams
    I have to preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of religious fiction - not even books ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book That Matters Most
    The Book That Matters Most
    by Ann Hood
    BookBrowse First Impression reviewers appreciated the innovative structure of The Book That Matters ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
    by Bryn Greenwood

    A memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Underground Airlines
    by Ben Winters

    "The Invisible Man meets Blade Runner in this outstanding alternate history thriller." - PW Star

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain

An intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Lady Cop Makes Trouble

The Kopp Sisters Return!

One of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs returns in another gripping adventure based on fact.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Manners M (T) M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.