Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (image via amazon.com)

By Lyndsay Faye
August 21
Finished: August 29

The Gods of Gotham is a book that while reading, I couldn’t make up my mind if I actually liked it or not. Turns out I did, because when I found out this was the first in a new book series (The Timothy Wilde series) I was pretty bummed that I had to wait for the new book, Seven for a Secret, to be released in softcover (another weird practice of mine).

Gods combines so many of my favorite things in one neat little novel, it’s almost like the book was written for me specifically. Murder, Victorian-era NYC, a history of the NYC police force, NYC politics, and immigration issues just to name a few. Oh, and there’s also a few characters that, judging by Lyndsay Faye’s age, she had to have based off the amazing Disney musical, Newsies (maybe she didn’t but seriously, the similarities are so extreme that it would be a really strange coincidence if she had never seen the movie).

Gods focuses on Timothy Wilde, a young bartender with a tragic past who hopes to earn enough money to convince the woman of his dreams to run off with him. Those fantasies come to an abrupt end when a huge explosion rocks Manhattan, devouring Tim’s stash of money and permanently disfiguring his face. His older brother, Valentine, lands Tim a job on the newly-formed NYC Police Force, where his beat is on the edge of one of the worst areas of Manhattan. One night, while on patrol, Tim runs across a young girl name Bird….clad only in a thin nightgown, which is completely drenched in blood. Helping Bird leads Tim to a cache of bodies buried just outside the city, and he unwittingly becomes the lead detective in the police force’s first serial murder case.

Honestly, I really love Faye’s writing, it’s engaging and fully captures not only the narrative but the history of New York City and the turbulent political climate at the time. My only compliant is that i completely called the “twists” in the story.


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The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum (image via amazon.com)

By Deborah Blum
July 12
Finished: July 20

And we’re back to my macabre obsession with murder and forensics. Listen, not only do I hold a certificate in Criminal Justice from my university, I was also insanely excited when I got into a class called “Serial and Mass Murder.” I have issues. I know.

The Poisoner’s Handbook is less a guide to how to poison your enemy and more a lively historical narrative about the birth of forensic science in Jazz Age New York City. Dr. Charles Norris and forensic chemist Alexander Gettler manage to turn the corrupt and cushy position of “city coroner” (the appointment was a political one, often the coroner had no previous experience or credentials and would destroy valuable evidence at the scene) into a position based on excruciating attention to detail and a formidable science (I had a full on geek-out at work when I found out PBS was adapting the work for an upcoming episode of American Experience). Before Norris and Gettler pioneered the field of forensics, guilty parties easily escaped murder convictions because there was no way to prove an individual had been deliberately poisoned.

Each new chapter is presented as a case study, Blum starts off with a murder or death with no discernible cause, and uses the murder as a frame for the scientific process of identifying how–and by what poison–a person died. A word of caution, while Blum does craft a great narrative, she is a science writer; and as such she goes into great and graphic detail about grinding up organs and bones, autopsies, and the experiments conducted on animals to prove Norris & Gettler’s theories (as a pet owner, this part was really difficult for me). I highly recommend the interactive comic American Experience developed based on cases presented in the book if you want to get an idea of the stories and poisons you’ll see profiled.



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