The Gods of Gotham (Timothy Wilde #1) by Lyndsay Faye
From description: 1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.
Timothy Wilde, a young bar tender, has saved his money and hopes to eventually be worthy of asking Mercy Underhill to marry him. A devastating fire burns his dreams to ash. His money is gone, his imagined future destroyed, his face disfigured.
Now jobless and homeless, his brother Valentine signs him up with the newly created "copper stars," and a reluctant Timothy becomes part of what will become the NYPD. The idea of a police force is anathema to many and distrusted by more.
Political corruption is rife, and Timothy's brother is deeply involve in political high jinks; the setting is largely in areas of extreme poverty, crime, and debauchery; religious and racial divides are extreme, bitter, and dangerous; the immigration problem of the time was the influx of the detested Irish.
Chapters are preceded by excerpts from political and religious tracts of the time and letters excoriating Catholics and Irish. The Gotham that Faye creates is rich in historical (and often extremely unpleasant) details: homeless children, poverty, corruption, drug use, sexual exploitation, and violence.
Plot: During one of Timothy's rounds a young girl of about ten in a blood covered night gown runs into him. Bird's presence will change everything for Timothy and leads to an investigation involving murdered children. As it turns out, Timothy's strength is his persistent compulsion to solve crimes.
While the mystery plot is interesting and twisty, just as intriguing is the look into the past in which so many of the problems present nearly 175 years ago are still prevalent today. Faye's language and atmospheric creation of 1845 New York immerses the reader in an environment that feels genuine. I will be reading more in this series.
Lyndsay Faye's Jane Steele, a fascinating re-imagining of Jane Eyre is also wonderful, evocative, and darkly funny.
And don't miss Faye's The Paragon Hotel, a stand alone that will be published in January. Reader, I loved it.
Historical Mystery. 2012. Print length: 408 pages.