In The Gods of Gotham, Lyndsay Faye delivers a harrowing view of old New York that we’ve likely never seen before. Forget Edith Wharton’s genteel and moneyed world of the nineteenth century upper crust. The Gods of Gotham’s 1854 New York swarms with villains, victims, filth and corruption. Irish immigrants, escaping the potato famine, have flooded into the city, arousing violent anti-Irish sentiments. Timothy Wilde, former bartender and recently disfigured in a horrendous fire that swept through Manhattan, is a reluctant member of the newly organized police force. His corrupt and debauched brother, Valentine, got him the job through his vast political connections, and now expects Timothy to make good. One night, as he returns home after work, a small, and blood drenched girl collides with him in a panic, leading to the shocking discovery of the mutilated corpse of a boy prostitute, and dozens of buried bodies, similarly mutilated. The dynamic characters, twisty and ingenious plot, and rich period detail make this book a headlong, exciting rush. When you’re done with this book, check out its sequel, Seven for a Secret.
And for a nonfiction account of the cesspool that was New York in the nineteenth century, try Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s doomed quest to clean up sin-loving New York, by Richard Zacks.