“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A White Knight Rises

I don’t read an awful lot of historical crime fiction, but THE GODS OF GOTHAM by Lyndsay Faye (Headline Review) has persuaded me that I very probably should. A fascinating backdrop, neatly observed historical detail, an intriguing protagonist, and beautifully written, with the added bonus that many of the characters speak ‘flash’, aka the argot of New York’s criminal underworld: it’s a potent blend. Quoth the blurb elves:
August 1845 in New York: enter the dark, unforgiving city underworld of the legendary Five Points ... After a fire decimates a swathe of lower Manhattan, and following years of passionate political dispute, New York City at long last forms an official Police Department. That same summer, the great potato famine hits Ireland. These events will change the city of New York for ever. Timothy Wilde hadn’t wanted to be a copper star. On the night of August 21st, on his way home from the Tombs defeated and disgusted, he is plotting his resignation, when a young girl who has escaped from a nearby brothel, crashes into him; she wears only a nightdress and is covered from head to toe in blood. Searching out the truth in the child’s wild stories, Timothy soon finds himself on the trail of a brutal killer, seemingly hell bent on fanning the flames of anti-Irish immigrant sentiment and threatening chaos in a city already in the midst of social upheaval. But his fight for justice could cost him the woman he loves, his brother and ultimately his life ...
  The book is published in March, and I’m not the only one who likes it: “THE GODS OF GOTHAM is a wonderful book. Lyndsay Faye’s command of historical detail is remarkable and her knowledge of human character even more so. I bought into this world in the opening pages and never once had the desire to leave. It’s a great read!” - Michael Connelly.
  So there you have it. Incidentally, the book reminded me very strongly of Dennis Lehane’s THE GIVEN DAY, but also Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND, particularly in terms of Tim Wilde’s fish-out-of-water quirks and foibles and Faye’s use of real historical figures, and Wilde’s pursuit of a killer pulling the political strings of sectarian hatred. All in all, it’s a hell of a book.

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