Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Amy Einhorn Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
New York has always been tough, but in the 1840s, the city was a particular kind of hell for the fainthearted and the poor. Gangs, prostitution, sweatshops, and slums collided with people of all religions, nationalities, cultures, and languages. It's a fascinating point in New York history, and when I heard Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham was set at just that time and in one of the worst of the city's wards, I knew I had to give it a try.
Here's the publisher's summary:
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.Plan some free time before you pick up The Gods of Gotham; like as not, you'll be reluctant to put it down once you get started. Faye's talent is evident on many levels in this historical mystery. By the time you finish the short prologue, you'll have a clear sense of Timothy Wilde, and he's just the first of several vivid characters you'll meet. In addition, Faye brilliantly captures the heart and soul of the seedier and more dangerous side of New York in the 1840s. We hear the accents and slang, we sense the hustle on the streets, we feel the breeze through the window, and we wrinkle our nose at the stench.
Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, fantasizing about the day he has enough money to win the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this new "police force." And he is less than thrilled that his new beat is the notoriously down-and-out Sixth Ward-at the border of Five Points, the world's most notorious slum.
One night while making his rounds, Wilde literally runs into a little slip of a girl-a girl not more than ten years old-dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.
Timothy knows he should take the girl to the House of Refuge, yet he can't bring himself to abandon her. Instead, he takes her home, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of 23rd Street. Timothy isn't sure whether to believe her or not, but, as the truth unfolds, the reluctant copper star finds himself engaged in a battle for justice that nearly costs him his brother, his romantic obsession, and his own life.
But what about the story itself? Here, Faye does a masterful job of interspersing the principal timeline with a welcome mix of background information and subtle foreshadowing that blend well with the plot. One device Faye uses is to circle around an event, so, for example, we learn of the blood-covered girl via three or four avenues before the child makes her appearance. Instead of being repetitious, it whets our appetite, and we need to know more. At the same time, The Gods of Gotham doesn't give all its secrets freely, leaving room for a few surprises before the tale is done.
The Gods of Gotham will appeal to a wide variety of readers, among them are fans of historical fiction, history, mystery, character-driven stories, and literary fiction.
As I often do, I'd like to share a trio of other opinions (click the links to read the full reviews):
- Julie of Booking Mama: "THE GODS OF GOTHAM is an outstanding example of well-crafted mystery as well as a fascinating historical novel. It really is the best of both worlds."
- Kirkus Reviews: "No one is precisely what they seem in Faye’s richly imagined, superbly plotted narrative, which delivers not one, not two, but three bravura twists as Timothy tracks the killer."
- Publisher's Weekly: " Vivid period details, fully formed characters, and a blockbuster of a twisty plot put Faye in a class with Caleb Carr."
Amy Einhorn Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010, or click the Amy Einhorn tab below my banner photo. To join the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge, click the link.