Title: the Gods of Gotham
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Page count: 376
Rating: 4/5 stars
*warning: I try to make book reviews spoiler-free. Still, an unintended spoiler might sneak in. Let me know if you found one?
The Gods of Gotham is a book about a young man, Timothy Wilde, whose life gets turned upside down when one day after work a fire breaks out and burns down his house, his savings, and part of his face. Scarred and jobless, his brother arranges a new job for him: one of the very first copper stars in the new police. This job turns out to be more difficult than expected, especially with the influx of Irish immigrants who are fleeing from the great potato famine in their own country.
Set in 1845 in New York, this book gives a very good idea of what life must have been like in the Big Apple back then: rough, ruthless, but in a strange way good. Although it does already show signs of being the great melting pot, there is still that distinction between the different nations and cultures living in one city. The Irish especially seem to have a hard time there.
I really enjoyed reading this book for that exact reason: the atmosphere. You really get a feel of the gritty streets, the despair, the insanity, and everyone struggling to just make it through daily life.
It was an exciting book, filled with twists and turns and action. You could feel the excitement of starting new things (the police department), people turning from strangers into friends & colleagues (the copper stars), the despair of the hungry immigrants. There was great turmoil in these days, when lines between politics, religion, and law were not as much blurred as rather non-existent.
The characters were plenty, and interesting too. No one was quite who you thought they were at first. Still, this is where the first problem arises: it gets hard to keep track of the characters. By the time the mystery started unravelling, I was losing track of who`s who. Especially the whodunit was getting harder to follow.
And, to be honest, the nearer I got to the end of the book, the more I felt like Timothy Wilde, the main character, was just running through the city blindly, assuming things left, right and centre. Everyone was the criminal yet no one was. It got very confusing. People would drop out of the story and pop back in later while others were introduced and explained who could do with a whole lot less explaining, as they were only mentioned to keep the story going.
As such, the ending left me very unsatisfied. It was a good ending, everything wrapped up nicely, but it felt very unsatisfying for some reason. I haven`t put my finger on the exact problem just yet, I might not ever do that, but I do know I didn`t like the ending much.
Still, this doesn`t spoil the joy for the rest of the book, which was a great read nonetheless. Lyndsay Faye is very obviously influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. No surprises there, as she`s a member of the Bakerstreet Babes. It`s not a bad thing either.
It did sometimes feel like she was trying a bit too hard to mix detective, film noir, historical accuracy, and action into one book. But overall, she did a pretty good job at it. Like I said, the atmosphere of the book is done right. It drags you right in and pulls you along.
So do I recommend this book? Yes. If you like the typical gritty film noir-esque shady characters and gritty main character. Don`t read it for the Big Mystery, but read it for the feel of a city still trying to find its own identity while dealing with great changes at the same time.
(Currently reading: E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core (The Guardians #2) by William Joyce. And yes I`m reading #2 without having read #1, because I am an idiot and did not pay attention when I bought it. Let`s see if it can stand on its own too.)