Friday, January 25, 2013

Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

New York City in the 1840’s was a crowded and lawless place. Refugees from the Great Famine in Ireland were flooding in, crowding the already crowded slums. Nativist New Yorkers resented the immigrants, feared their poverty, hated their religion and expressed these feelings through physical violence. Responding to this violence, city leaders created a police force, an organization which was hated by nearly all. Under these circumstances, Timothy Wilde, a young man in need of employment, reluctantly accepts a position on the force offered to him by his brother. Unwillingly, he becomes a skilled and dedicated officer, particularly after he discovers a young girl wandering the streets, covered in blood, muttering about another child being ripped apart.  Eventually, he discovers a mass grave containing nineteen mutilated skeletons in varying degrees of decomposition. Spurred on by a sense of duty and outrage, Timothy’s investigation takes him to all parts of old New York City and he meets all manner of its citizens, men and women, rich and poor, immigrant and nativist. Pre-Civil War New York is vividly described in this book and the combination of fictional and historical figures makes the gruesome plot of Gods of Gotham plausible.