The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
Published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Penguin
Timothy Wilde makes his living tending bar in New York City in 1845. But when a fire devastates much of Manhattan, including his home and job, Timothy’s brother gives him an offer he can’t refuse – to be one of the first police officers ever in the brand-new NYPD. One night, during his routine evening rounds, Timothy runs – literally – into a ten-year-old girl covered in blood. The little girl tells him that she is from the local brothel, and has escaped because there is a killer on the loose, targeting children, and that in fact there are dozens of bodies buried nearby. While Timothy doesn’t know whether to believe her or not, he sets forth on investigating her claims, and what he learns is that her stories are intricately tied to the details of his own life, and by investigating this his life will never be the same.
I wasn’t incredibly interested in reading The Gods of Gotham based on the description of it. Don’t ask me why, but for whatever reason it wasn’t speaking to me. Then my work book club chose it as our July read, and thank goodness we did because I absolutely loved this book! Everything about it was fantastic and I could not put it down. I don’t even know how to properly explain everything that I loved about it, but here goes an effort on my part to do just that.
First we have the characters. Obviously Timothy was the star of the show and I did really like him, but everyone in this novel was just so well-drawn and realistic it was hard for me to believe they weren’t actual historical figures. Valentine, Timothy’s older brother, is on the surface difficult to like but as the novel goes on we find there may be more to him than meets the eye. Silkie Marsh, the woman who runs the brothel that the little girl, Bird Daly, ran away from, is the character that the reader loves to hate – based on every piece of information given about the brothel and about Silkie herself, she is a completely despicable person, but even she can be seen in a slightly different light by the end of the book. And Mercy Underhill, Timothy’s crush and the reverend’s daughter, is a character that on the surface seems perfectly likable but I felt while reading that something was just off about her. She was elusive and so perfect in Timothy’s eyes as to cause me to think that she wasn’t so perfect after all. All of these characters, as well as many of the more minor ones, were so well-crafted, so realistic, as to make me immerse myself completely in their story – I felt that I was reading about real people, truly.
Next we have the writing. Oh my goodness does Faye know how to put a sentence together. The prose is perfect, drawing me into the story while also allowing me a few extra seconds to pause and enjoy her beautiful writing. It’s compelling and interesting while not being too flashy – perfect. The use of flash, an Irish dialect, was difficult for me to appreciate at first, but once I got into the rhythm of the novel it just added to the overall atmosphere of the novel.
And then we come to the actual plot, the mystery if you will. It wasn’t a traditional mystery, of course, but there was a huge question running throughout the book that needed answering, and let’s just say the answer to that question shocked me. Faye kept me on my toes throughout the entire book, and just when I thought I knew or understood something, she would shake things up and make me question what I had been thinking.
So can you tell I loved The Gods of Gotham? I did, so much. It was even more of a treat for me because I wasn’t expecting to like it, and wouldn’t have read the book if not for my book club. Don’t you love when that happens? Anyway, read this one! I highly recommend it for fans of mysteries, literary fiction, books with great characters, etc. … basically everyone!