Top positive review
One person found this helpful
on 12 May 2012
The author paints a convincing portrait of New York in 1845. In many ways it is a grim place with extreme poverty and sickness. Brothels abound and numerous abused and vagrant children live on the streets or in `bawdy houses'. This is a city which has grown rapidly to a population of some 400,000 and which is increasing in size daily as the Irish flood driven by the potato famine in their native land. The Irish jostle at the bottom of the social scale alongside the blacks and there is particular resentment towards Catholics.
The story is told in the first person by Timothy Wilde who loses his lodgings and his savings and is hurt in a great fire which devastates a large part of lower Manhattan. His brother, Val, who is older than him and with whom he has an extreme love hate relationship, is a political animal involved with the Democrats. As a result of this he secures a position as Captain in the fledgling police force, and manages to find a job for an initially reluctant Tim as police roundsman or a `Copper Star'.
Tim quickly finds himself involved with a case which involves the murder and disposal of a number of children. Unlike most of his colleagues who patrol the streets and intervene if they see something illegal, Tim's skill is in solving crimes. He is intelligent, resourceful, analytical and has a lot of perseverance. Whilst initially he, and the other members of the force are mainly observers, his skills are quickly recognised by George Washington Matsell, the Chief of Police and he is then given the go ahead to investigate crimes. A further essential skill in his new career is that he is sufficiently politically and emotionally astute to be able to make sensible judgements.
There is a lot of `flash' in this book which is the language of the underworld. In many books, authors drop in the occasional non English word to give their tale a local flavour, and usually this is meaningless as far as the reader is concerned and somewhat irritating. However, one does not feel this with flash as many of the words or expressions are either already vaguely familiar or fairly obvious or the reader becomes accustomed to them quite quickly.
This is an impressive and well written novel which has clearly been thoroughly researched to give it an authentic background. New York is so well described that you can almost feel the sights and smells of 1845. In particular we really get under Tim's skin and appreciate that he is a complex character. He is using his skills to do the job of solving crimes after the event rather than preventing them happening, which is unique in this setting, since this concept has not even been considered by the powers that be. I would think there is plenty of scope for further stories about Timothy Wilde. I certainly hope that the author does choose to write more since this character and setting are well worth persevering with. If further books do follow they will be high on my personal reading list.