Jun 5, 2013

The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye

I have only one problem with this literary mystery, as it is on the whole quite good. "The Gods of Gotham" is written in the first person, which is perfectly fine, except that the narrator, Timothy Wilde, claims more than once to be "no dab hand with words," and Faye is decidedly not that. She is, in fact, a talented, evocative writer, and I'd absolutely read anything else she writes. But it's incredibly jarring to write beautifully in the first person then have your narrator claim to be bad at writing. The whole point of first person narrative is to get deep inside the protagonist's mind, to see the world through his or her eyes and experience it as they experience it. Tim Wilde says he is a simple man, a drawer but not a writer, but every word of this book is rich and textured and deliberate. Faye's good writing is completely out of character for her protagonist, and it took me quite a while to train myself to ignore that fact and just enjoy the book. It's simply incredible that no editor picked up on this dissonance immediately.

Aside from that, as I said, the book is quite well written and interesting. I especially liked witnessing the birth of New York City's first police force, and the politicking that went on around and alongside it is fascinating. The crime itself was a bit on the morbid side for my taste, but in today's society, one has to get pretty far out there to create a feeling of shock, and Faye can hardly be blamed for her audience.

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