Review

The Gods of Gotham

by Lyndsay Faye

Twenty-seven-year-old Timothy Wilde works as a bartender at an oyster bar while saving money to work up the courage to ask Mercy Underhill to marry him. Orphaned as a child after his parents perished in a fire, he has been raised by his older and much wilder brother, Valentine. While Timothy is deathly afraid of fire, Val rushes headlong into burning buildings without regard for his safety. To many, Val is a hero. To Timothy, he is a depraved addict spiraling out of control.

"THE GODS OF GOTHAM is a vibrant tale that weaves historical facts along with a suspenseful storyline... a compelling story with vivid details, memorable characters and lots of surprises."

To Democratic politicians like real-life historical figure George Washington Matsell, Valentine Wilde is a rising star. The first Chief of Police for the City of New York, Matsell has created a police department with an army of copper stars. Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic hatred has divided the city, and many of the new coppers are themselves Irish immigrants. Because of his heroic reputation as a fearless firefighter, Val becomes a captain on Matsell’s newly formed police force.

When fire destroys Timothy’s place of employment, burns up his life savings, and disfigures part of his face, Val convinces him to join the police force. Becoming a policeman in New York’s Sixth Ward is “an unwelcome surprise” to Timothy, but with nowhere to live and no money, he relents. Timothy eventually finds a place to rent in the Sixth Ward and begins his new job, using what he learned as a bartender about being observant and listening to people.

While Timothy is vigilant on the job, he is unconcerned about becoming a hero; he only has eyes for Mercy. The attractive daughter of a widowed minister, Mercy is a zealous missionary who travels to the city’s most squalid neighborhoods to treat and give comfort to society’s outcasts.

On his way home from work after a long night, Timothy rescues Bird Daly, a 10-year-girl covered in blood. Bird is fleeing after being forced to work as a kinchin mab, a child prostitute in a house of pleasure operated by a notorious madam. Bird weaves unbelievable tales about murdered Irish children buried in the woods. Skeptical at first, Timothy starts to believe Bird after the discovery of the body of Liam, a 12-year-old boy with a crude cross cut into his chest. And that’s just the beginning, as the remains of 19 additional Irish immigrant children are unearthed. When Timothy receives a letter from a man claiming responsibility for the grisly murders, public outcry and panic engulf the city. Chief Matsell quietly assigns Timothy to the case.

THE GODS OF GOTHAM is a vibrant tale that weaves historical facts along with a suspenseful storyline. Told in the compassionate voice of Timothy Wilde, this is a story of poverty, discrimination, debauchery, arson, addiction and murder. The listing of Selected Flash Terminology at the beginning of the book aids in understanding the unfamiliar historical jargon, while the maps on the inside covers also help bring the old city to life. Lyndsay Faye’s debut is a compelling story with vivid details, memorable characters and lots of surprises.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on April 6, 2012

The Gods of Gotham
by Lyndsay Faye