The Gods of Gotham introduces Timothy Wilde, a brooding Irish immigrant who makes a living serving drinks at a seedy bar in New York City, circa 1845. Left destitute and homeless after a fire engulfs both his residence and place of employment, Timothy reluctantly accepts assistance from his self-absorbed older brother Valentine. As a well connected member of the New York Democratic party, Val is able to nab Timothy a position on the newly formed New York police force. He is given a roughly cut copper star and tasked with patrolling the wretched streets of the sixth ward, which like all other areas of the city is riddled with poverty, filth and crime. Members of the new, poorly trained task force are greeted with suspicion and fear, making this a none to pleasant task. Trekking home after an exhausting day, Timothy encounters a ten year old child in a blood soaked nightgown, who has fled from a nearby brothel. Terrified and delirious, she informs Timothy of the presence of black cloaked man who has been claiming the lives of countless young victims. She leads Timothy and his copper star companions to a nearby forest where they unearth the bodies of over a dozen children.
The discovery of the concealed bodies sends shock waves through the streets of Manhattan. As Wilde slowly begins to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murders, he is plunged deep into the dark underbelly of the city, where he encounters deception and political corruption every step of the way.
Faye paints a vivid picture of a critical juncture in New York City's history; during the early formation of a formal New York City police force, and the onset of the great potato famine that drove hundreds of Irish immigrants into the city. While the expertly paced mystery provides plenty of intrigue, it's the carefully interwoven historical details that really set this novel apart.
If you enjoy The Gods of Gotham, be sure to check out the second book in series entitled Seven for a Secret. For other dark historical mysteries, try Stephen Gallagher's Sebastian Becker series.