Do you love Gotham City as much as Batman?
I chose to read “The Gods of Gotham” by Lyndsay Faye because I like Batman! Don’t laugh, I knew it wasn’t about the caped crusader but I was interested in the use of the name Gotham for New York. Apparently Gotham as a nick name for New York City was coined by author Washington Irving in 1807, and comes from an old English folk tale where it meant goats town in Anglo-Saxon – a not very flattering term as goats were considered a foolish animal!
This book is not about goats or simple-minded people, it is about New York City’s first police force and the influx of Irish migrants who flocked to America after the potato famine. Set in New York’s slums and chronicling the rise of the police and the democratic movement, it is a sharply written and evocative story. The hero Timothy Wilde is a bar man until a fire burns down not only his place of work but his home as well. His politically minded and highly regarded brother gets Tim a job as a police officer.
It is a thankless job at a time when tension is running high. One of Tim’s first cases is the deaths of over 20 children, and his investigation drags him deeper into a world he knew nothing about and introduces him to new and old friends. Although he starts out as a police officer trying to prevent crime, his investigation skills mark him as a detective and he is tasked with solving crimes.
The characters in this book are well written and believable. You invest your time with them and care what happens as the pages turn. There are a lot of sub plots and historical information which rounds this book off nicely and the author has a way of writing that is both fascinating and haunting. There is a sense of the despair and hardship these immigrants suffered and their determination to make a better life is astounding. New York City’s population jumped from nearly 80,000 in 1800, to nearly 400,000 by 1840. New York was built on the backs of these immigrants and this book is a window into how they shaped and influenced one of the greatest cities in the world. Luckily, Ms Faye has written a sequel and I look forward to meeting these characters again.