In the Shadow of Gotham (Simon Ziele Series #1)

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Overview

Stefanie Pintoff?s acclaimed and award-winning debut is the taut historical tale of Detective Simon Ziele, a man who lost his fianc?e in the 1904 General Slocum ferry disaster and thereafter flees New York City for Dobson, New York, to escape the memories of her death. But months into his tenure, he catches the worst homicide of his career: a young woman brutally murdered in her own bedroom in the middle of the afternoon. His investigation ...

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Overview

Stefanie Pintoff’s acclaimed and award-winning debut is the taut historical tale of Detective Simon Ziele, a man who lost his fiancée in the 1904 General Slocum ferry disaster and thereafter flees New York City for Dobson, New York, to escape the memories of her death. But months into his tenure, he catches the worst homicide of his career: a young woman brutally murdered in her own bedroom in the middle of the afternoon. His investigation quickly takes him to Columbia University criminologist Alistair Sinclair and one of his patients. But what could lead this Michael Fromley, with his history of violent behavior, to target such a proper young lady? Is Michael really behind the murder or is someone mimicking him? Ziele must discover the truth in this story of a haunted man on the trail of a killer while on the run from his own demons.

In the Shadow of Gotham is the winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Pintoff's debut, winner of the first Minotaur Books/MWA Best First Crime Novel award, will remind many of Caleb Carr at his best. The wreck of the steamship General Slocum in 1904 cost Det. Simon Ziele of the New York City police both his fiancée and the full use of his right arm. In response to those losses, Ziele has abandoned big-city policing for the quiet dullness of Dobson, a town in Westchester County, but a brutal murder interrupts his retreat from the world. Someone slashes and bludgeons to death Sarah Wingate, a Columbia mathematics graduate student whose brilliance evoked jealousy in her peers, in her home under circumstances that resemble the notorious murders of Lizzie Borden's parents. Ziele's investigation is soon co-opted by Alistair Sinclair, a student of criminology who's convinced he knows the culprit's identity. The period detail, characterizations and plotting are all top-notch, and Ziele has enough depth to carry a series. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Detective Simon Ziele fled New York City for Westchester County following the death of his fiancA©e in the 1904 General Slocum disaster, but he finds he can't escape violent death when he takes on the case of a young Columbia graduate student murdered while visiting her aunt. Ziele is approached by criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who claims to know the identity of the killer. The first winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competion nicely contrasts academic theorizing with the reality of police detection set against the backdrop of a vividly depicted turn-of-the-century Gotham. Recommend to readers who enjoy historicals of this period, such as Caleb Carr's The Alienist and Ann Stamos's Bitter Tide. For all collections. [A Minotaur First Edition Selection.]


—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
A detective and several criminologists track a madman from the Palisades to the Bowery in a debut set in 1905. After the tragic loss of his fiancee, Detective Simon Ziele heads north from New York City for the village calm of Dobson. That calm is suddenly shattered by a vicious murder in one of the town's stateliest homes. A young woman, Sarah Wingate, is butchered; a maid and likely witness, Stella Gibson, is missing. But within hours, Ziele has a surprising lead. Columbia criminologist Prof. Alistair Sinclair is studying a psychopath whose macabre fantasies exactly match the details of the crime. With his daughter-in-law Isabella and the rest of his research team, Alistair has been trying to rehabilitate Michael Fromley, but he's escaped. Ziele joins them to hunt for Fromley and follows other leads as well. Gradually they piece together the details of Sarah's life. She was a suffragette and a brilliant mathematician on the verge of solving the famed Riemann Hypothesis with the help of Prof. Angus MacDonald, her mentor and secret love. Other graduate students resented her success, but none seems capable of this brutality. Fromley stays two steps ahead of the team, taunting them and meting out more violence until his body washes up in the Hudson, proving that he died before Sarah Wingate-and that Ziele, Alistair and Isabelle are tracking a killer even more calculating and vicious than they imagined. In a setting rich with period detail, the Gothic horror spirals to a satisfying conclusion.
From the Publisher
Advance Praise for In the Shadow of Gotham

“Pintoff's debut… will remind many of Caleb Carr at his best... The period detail, characterizations and plotting are all top-notch, and Ziele has enough depth to carry a series.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The first winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition nicely contrasts academic theorizing with the reality of police detection set against the backdrop of a vividly depicted turn-of-the-century Gotham. Recommend to readers who enjoy historicals of this period, such as Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and Ann Stamos’s Bitter Tide.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“Pintoff excavates a rich vein of early criminology… She also delivers a gripping detective story… Great for dexterous plotting and for New York atmosphere at the turn of the last century.”

Booklist

“What a fabulous first novel… Pintoff’s fascinating historical mystery has believable multidimensional characters… The mystery is original and carefully planned.”

Romantic Times

“Congratulations to Stefanie Pintoff on this outstanding debut novel! An appealing character, terrific suspense, and skillful interweaving of historical detail make In the Shadow of Gotham a winner.”

—Marcia Muller, author of Burn Out

"Stefanie Pintoff captures time and place expertly while displaying the procedures and challenges of police work at the dawn of a new age in forensics in this fine first novel. In The Shadow of Gotham will fascinate and educate even as it holds the reader in the suspense of a good mystery. That's a special package."

—Michael Koryta author of Envy the Night

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594074076
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009
  • Series: Simon Ziele Series , #1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Stefanie Pintoff

Stefanie Pintoff is the author of A Curtain Falls and Secret of the White Rose. In the Shadow of Gotham is the winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Washington Irving Book Prize, and she has earned nominations for the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards. She is also a graduate of Columbia University Law School and has a Ph.D. in literature from New York University. Now a full-time writer, she lives with her husband and daughter on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The scream that pierced the dull yellow November sky was preternaturally high-pitched. Its sound carried effortlessly, echoing through a neighborhood of Queen Anne Victorians into the barren woods beyond, fading only as it descended toward the Hudson River. Those who heard the sound mistook it for that of an animal—perhaps the call of a screech owl, maybe the shrill cry of a loon. No one believed it to be human.

I did not hear it myself. I can only describe it as others did, after the fact.

But memory can be an odd thing. The report of that inhuman sound, relayed countless times, took root in my mind. It played upon my imagination, creating an impression so vivid it came to seem authentic. I know all too well that memory sometimes refuses to let die what we most want to forget. But now, I also know that memory can create something that never really existed. That is why this particular scream haunts me as surely as though I had been present, then and there, to hear it with my own ears. And I cannot mistake its origin: I know it is Sarah Wingate's dying cry, sounded just before her brutal murder.

News of her death came as the oversized grandfather clock in our office chimed five o'clock. My boss, Joe Healy, never one to stay a minute late, was putting on his coat, ready to leave for the day.

"You'll lock up when you're done?" Joe tucked his scarf around his neck.

I was at my desk finishing the paperwork for an arrest I'd made that morning. Thomas Jones had shown up for work at the Conduit and Cable factory with a hot temper and liquor in his belly, an unhappy combination that led him to sucker punch his foreman.

"Of course," I said, turning over the final page in the file. "Only Tuesday and our third assault this week." I blotted my pen before I signed and dated the report. "At this rate, the local paper will proclaim it an epidemic and we'll have the women's temperance union on our doorstep. Though I'd say it was lucky the assailant in each case was drunk. Men who can't see straight rarely land a solid punch."

We were interrupted by the sound of footsteps clattering up the short flight of stairs that led to our office at 27 Main Street. I stiffened with a flash of foreboding, for no one ever rushed toward our headquarters. After all, the sort of serious crime that might lead anyone to need a police officer in a hurry tended to circumvent the sleepy village of Dobson, New York, at the turn of the century.

Charlie Muncie, the young man who served as village secretary and had taken charge of the building's sole telephone downstairs, brought a terse message from Dr. Cyrus Fields. He needed our immediate assistance at the Wingate home.

"Mrs. Wingate's home on Summit Lane?" Joe asked, frowning in puzzlement.

There was only one Wingate family in town but I understood why Joe was perplexed. The Wingate home was in the estate section of town, and Dr. Fields was not the preferred doctor of Dobson's wealthier residents. One of several local physicians who served in rotation at the county morgue, he also treated the blue-collar factory workers in neighborhoods along the waterfront. He partnered closely with us on calls involving domestic disputes or drunken brawls since, if the altercation were in progress, we could intervene more effectively than the portly but diminutive doctor. The affluent classes of Dobson preferred Dr. Adam Whittier, who catered to their whims with absolute discretion. While rumor had it their homes were not immune to violent disputes, they tended to handle such matters behind a wall of secrecy. The police, certainly, were never involved.

"Did Cyrus say what's happened?" Joe asked. A stout man in his early sixties with bushy white hair and a normally pleasant, ruddy face, today he glared at the young man as though it were his fault Joe's dinner would get cold.

"He says there's been murder done." Charlie whispered the words as though he were frightened to utter them.

In an instant, I recalled the reason why. His mother had worked for Mrs. Wingate as a house keeper for years. He would have practically grown up in the Wingate house hold. In fact, the one time I had met the elderly Mrs. Wingate, she had come by the village offices to vouch for Charlie's character and recommend him for the secretarial job he now held.

"Who's been murdered?" Joe's voice thundered more loudly than he must have intended.

"The doctor said it was a young lady. A visiting relative. But he gave no details." Charlie's face blanched. For a moment, I worried he might faint.

"He told you nothing more because your mother is fine. Not to worry." I patted his shoulder and tried to smile reassuringly. I knew Charlie was eighteen already, but right now, he seemed little more than a boy. "And not a word to anyone, okay? Not yet."

He nodded in agreement as I grabbed my coat and worn leather satchel. Joe and I then sprinted to the corner of Main and Broadway, where we hailed one of the waiting calashes that hovered near the trolley stop. It was not far to the Wingate house. However, it was situated at the top of a steep hill—and we were in a hurry.

Once we were seated, I glanced over at Joe, the "chief" of our two-man force. Tight lines framed his mouth as he drew his oversized black wool coat closer to him in a futile attempt to ward off the icy gusts of wind from the Hudson River that buffeted the carriage.

"When did you last see a murder case in Dobson?" I asked. My voice was quiet so the driver would not hear.

"Why? You're worried I'm not up to it?" He bristled and gave me a withering look that I did not take personally. My hiring five months ago had been the mayor's doing, part of his plan to modernize Dobson's police resources by adding a younger man with newer methods. I was thirty years old and a seasoned veteran of the New York City Police Department's Bureau of Detectives, specifically the Seventh Precinct. But Joe had been Dobson's sole police officer ever since the police department was first created. After twenty-seven years on his own, he did not welcome the addition of a new partner, believing I was the replacement who would force him into retirement. His dark suspicions often strained our relationship.

It was several minutes before he spoke again, and when he did, his answer was grudging.

"In the winter of '93, a farmer was shot dead," he said. "We never solved it." He shrugged. "But we also had no more trouble of that sort. Always figured the culprit was someone from the man's past with a personal score to settle."

Then he looked at me sharply. "I'm sure you've seen your share of murder cases in the city. But maybe I should ask if you're sure you're up to it? You look a bit out of sorts."

I searched Joe's expression, looking for some indication that he knew more of my recent past than I had thought. But there was no sign. His question had reflected his own concerns; he had not expected it to hit a particular mark.

I swallowed hard before I said, "I'm fine," with more confidence than I actually felt. I had a weak stomach, especially for certain kinds of cases, and I feared this would prove to be one of them.

What Joe did not know was that I had come here this past May in search of a quieter existence with fewer reminders of Hannah, a victim of last year's General Slocum steamship tragedy. I was not alone in my grief; nearly every family in my Lower East Side neighborhood had lost someone that awful day—June 15, 1904. For almost a full year following Hannah's death, she haunted me, particularly in cases where other young women met tragic, violent ends. I had planned to marry Hannah and build a life with her—but I had no desire to live with a ghost. That was why this job in Dobson, a small town seventeen miles north of the city, had seemed just the right opportunity: I could grieve quietly and rid myself of unwanted nightmares in a place where murders and violent deaths were not to be expected.

But still they came . . . and this one would test whether my rusty skills—and my weak stomach—were up to the task.

Behind us, the cragged cliffs of the Palisades loomed large over the Hudson River, colored in the faded oranges and yellows of late fall. The character of the neighborhood changed with each passing block; "hill and mill" was how the local townspeople described the division between the row houses and apartment flats nearer the riverbank and the imposing estates situated at the top of the village's rising landscape. Church's Corner marked the dividing line, an intersection with three churches—all Catholic, each distinguished solely by ethnicity, with one church for the Italians, one for the Irish, and still another for the Polish.

As the hills became even steeper, the homes became noticeably more capacious and ornate, some characterized by elegant stonework, others by latticed wood trim and dentil molding. The Wingate house was one of the statelier of these homes, situated on a particularly large expanse of land. It was a magnificent stone Victorian with a pink and gray mansard roof and an angular wraparound porch. On past occasions when I had visited this neighborhood, I had admired its majestic lawn and gardens. Today, it scarcely resembled the place I remembered, for the scene surrounding the house was one of complete chaos.

Dr. Fields was certainly inside, for Henry, the son he was grooming to take over his practice, was keeping several agitated neighbors off the Wingate porch. Two small white terriers were leashed to a stake in the middle of the lawn; they protested their restraints with ear-piercing yaps. And Mrs. Wingate herself, now approaching eighty years old, was seated on a straight-backed wooden chair in their midst. She looked cold, despite the fact that someone had brought her a warm wrap to protect her from the evening's increasing chill. She repeated a series of questions to no one in particular in an anxious, petulant voice. "Why can't I go inside my own home?" "Won't anyone tell me what sort of accident there's been?" And most frequently of all, "Where's Abby?"

Joe and I rushed past all the confusion, hurrying toward the main porch and front door, where Henry acknowledged us with a brief, grave nod. Inside the entry hall, we found Dr. Fields organizing his equipment. Cyrus Fields was a short, middle-aged man who seemed to have boundless energy and a remarkable enthusiasm for each case he encountered. His wide face usually held a jovial expression, even when tending to the dead or dying. But today he appeared unsettled. Heavy lines marked his forehead and his full head of salt-and-pepper hair was uncharacteristically mussed.

He looked up, and when he recognized us, his relief was palpable.

"Thank God you're here," he sputtered. "In all my years, I've never seen anything quite like it . . . I just can't imagine why . . . or what kind of person . . ." And the normally garrulous doctor trailed off for lack of words.

"It's all right," I said calmly. "Why don't you take us to her?"

"Of course. Where are my gloves?" He didn't mean ordinary winter gloves, but rather the cotton examination gloves he used for each new patient. They were behind him, on top of the black bag he had set on the floor. "Oh, yes, here they are. Come then. We're headed upstairs."

We followed him as he began to ascend the giant staircase that rose in a half circle above the entry hall.

"Is anyone else in the house?" I asked, adding, "We saw Mrs. Wingate outside."

"Yes, and her maid should be with her," he said. "Her niece, Miss Abigail, is resting in the library. I didn't want them to overhear us, or worse yet, disturb anything. No one has touched anything. I know that's always your preference even with our, ah, less serious cases." He fumbled before he found the words that would do.

We continued to climb. The stairs creaked under the weight of our steps, despite the plush carpet runner designed to cushion the wood. Upon reaching the first landing, I detected an unmistakable odor—the sickly-sweet smell of blood. I cleared my throat before commencing the next set of stairs. But death's odor is a singular one that, once detected, manages to pervade all the senses. With each step, my awareness of it—and my revulsion to it—grew more intense. I could taste it, feel it, almost see it by the time we reached the top.

I had to pause for a moment. I gripped the banister, fighting to suppress the wave of nausea that welled up, threatening to overwhelm me.

Dr. Fields pointed toward the bedroom immediately on our right, facing south toward the street.

We followed with hesitant, slow footsteps.

When he reached the door, he stepped aside, allowing me to enter first.

I took two steps inside before I halted—for there she was.

I stared woodenly, at once repulsed and transfixed by the scene of ghastly carnage before me. The victim lay propped against the bed, her body precisely positioned, hands folded together in a demure pose. Her head had been so badly battered that I no longer recognized the features of her face. Splattered on the blue toile wallpaper nearest the bedpost, intermingled with red blood, was a gray substance I knew to be brain. I swallowed hard, again fighting the sensation of nausea that threatened to resurface.

"What is her name?" I asked.

"Sarah Wingate. She has been visiting since Friday," the doctor said. His voice was even, but the beads of sweat on his forehead and the way he averted his eyes from the figure by the bed belied his apparent composure.

"And she is a relative of Mrs. Wingate's?"

"Yes. Her niece."

To refocus my wits, I forced myself to survey the undisturbed portions of the room. It was apparent it had been decorated in a tasteful and pleasing style—a fine dark blue and red oriental carpet complemented a pale blue bedspread and curtains, and two delicate Chinese vases adorned matching mahogany tables at either side of the bed. It was an atmosphere that suggested wealth and privilege. Yet today, it was nearly impossible to see past this senseless display of violence. I drew closer to the swath of blood on the wallpaper. Not yet dry, I noted as I came close enough to touch one stain, which indicated her death had occurred within the last few hours.

I breathed deeply through my mouth, vowing not to be sick. Such a response to the sight and smell of blood was a liability in my profession, and I never failed to be frustrated with my body's visceral response. The hollow pit in my stomach was a familiar physical reaction, though it had been nearly six months since I was last summoned to a murder scene. That was in May, just before I left the city. There, I'd seen more than my share of the squalor and crime endemic to my native Lower East Side, not to mention the official indifference to it. Yet my stomach had never gotten used to it. Once again I forcibly willed my nausea to subside.

The doctor and Joe had already begun talking about the case. "When I arrived, her face was covered by that blue cloth," Dr. Fields said as he pointed toward a crumpled, bloodstained material that lay atop the bed. "I removed it so I could check her identity."

"Is that cloth from her dress?" Joe asked curiously, walking a wide perimeter around the body to get a better look.

It took a moment for the meaning of his question to register, but I soon understood. The killer had slashed the victim's dress in haphazard strokes from the bodice down, and the bloodstained cloth was of the same material.

"How old was she?" I asked.

Dr. Fields paused before offering his opinion. "I'd say she was in her mid-twenties. And, judging from the bloodstains, her body temperature, and the fact that rigor mortis has not yet set in, I'd guess she has not been dead long—two hours, maybe three at most." He sighed and wiped his brow with a knotted handkerchief. "I've lived in this town for thirty years. That I should live to witness something like this . . ." He shook his head.

"Were the others home at the time? Did anyone hear anything?" I asked, drawing his attention back to details and descriptions. It was the doctor's analytical skills that this victim required now, not his empathy.

"You'll want to speak with Miss Abigail, Mrs. Wingate's other niece. She's the one who found her cousin's body." Dr. Fields mopped his brow. "She told her aunt to call me before she fainted. No one else is aware of the murder. We still haven't told them. At this point, it's probably best if you do so." His voice was soft as he added, "It has been quite an ordeal for Miss Abigail. I for one can understand how dif. cult it is to walk into this room unprepared."

But of course no one could ever be prepared for violence such as this. As I tried to refocus on the important details of the crime scene, one inconsistency stood out. The victim had a deep throat wound and multiple slashes on her upper arms, in addition to the battery done to her head. Yet there was not a single mark apparent on her hands or forearms. I knelt down next to her to check more closely. But no—there was nothing. Had she even tried to resist? It would have been a natural instinct to raise her hands to protect her face from the crushing blows. And I did not think she had been restrained, for in that case, her wrists would show signs of bruising or chafing.

The only rational explanation—one the autopsy could confirm—was that she had been incapacitated first, perhaps by a blow to the head. In that case, my picture of her assailant changed entirely. What sort of person would beat and slash a woman who was certainly unconscious, possibly dead? There was no fight in that; only brutal savagery. Was her killer so filled with anger that he had lost all control? Or had he been deranged by bloodlust? Just as I had an instinctive visceral repulsion to it, I knew others experienced a strange attraction to it. They enjoyed its sight and smell, as may have been the case here, where Sarah's cumulative injuries were more than was necessary to kill.

I got up and circled to her left, where I noticed something else so odd I could not believe it had escaped my attention earlier. Part of her hair had been cut and—had it been removed? I searched the room quickly to ascertain it had not been placed elsewhere, but it was not to be found. I took out my notebook and made careful notes of what I observed: Sarah's long blond hair had originally been pulled back in two neat braids; however, the braid by her right ear had been cut off at the level of her earlobe. I examined the shaft of hair nearest the cut and observed that while the exterior of the braid was encrusted with blood, the inner part was clean, which suggested her hair had been removed postmortem. I had seen cases before where bizarre acts were done to a corpse as a message or sign, but the missing braid defied explanation.

Fortunately I had remembered to grab the camera as we left. I breathed deeply and began to take slow, certain photos. What my mind could not grasp now, I would revisit later, when the black-and-white of the film had muted the red blood that covered the room and overwhelmed my senses. I only hoped the record would not be marred by the slight shaking of my hands. As always, that shaking was made worse by the aching pain in my right arm, which had intensified with the first cold chill of autumn. Its dull throbbing these past eighteen months was an ever-present reminder of Hannah's death. Or perhaps more accurately, it was a reminder of the incompetent doctor who had botched my treatment after I was broadsided by falling timber from the collapsing deck of the Slocum. As if I needed anything more to remind me of that horrible day.

From every angle, and varied distances, I photographed the victim and the scene surrounding her. At my insistence, we had acquired a fine Kodak. Even though Joe had seen little practical justification in this expense, he had reluctantly allowed me to out. t the department with what I considered to be an essential tool for recording forensic evidence. While at the detective bureau in the city, I had become fascinated with the latest technology, especially cameras and basic fingerprinting equipment—though admittedly, the latter remained controversial and was not yet accepted by the courts. But earlier this year, London had sent two murderers to the gallows after gaining convictions based on fingerprint evidence alone. And our prison system in New York already used fingerprints to identify inmates. So I expected it would be only a matter of time before fingerprint evidence made its way into New York's courtrooms. Perhaps it would even be evidence I had collected.

Joe remained skeptical that Dobson had any use for all this equipment, but after the mayor supported my request, Joe had acquiesced. No doubt he feared his refusal would give the mayor additional ammunition to force him into the retirement he so dreaded. He waited patiently until I had finished photographing the crime scene; then he and Dr. Fields examined the body while I began dusting for latent prints.

I took out my kit containing the two kinds of fine powder that would make invisible prints appear: black and gray. I used the gray powder on dark surfaces, and the black powder on light ones. Print after print appeared, most smudged and partial, but a few were complete, with each finger ridge delineated. I photographed them all, drawing as near as my lens would allow. I stayed clear of Dr. Fields, though I knew his initial exam would not take long. The bulk of his work would be done at the morgue.

"Will you be performing the autopsy?" I asked.

"I expect to. While it's not my turn in the rotation schedule, I suspect they will honor my request given the circumstances."

To my relief, Joe announced he would go downstairs to break the news to Mrs. Wingate, who remained unaware of Sarah's death.

"We'd better call in help on this one," he said, explaining he planned to call our neighboring police department in Yonkers for additional resources.

"Do you want to telephone Mayor Fuller, as well? He will want to hear about this," I said.

He scowled. "No. He'd only bother us with useless questions that we've got no answers for."

I shrugged. "It's your decision."

But the repercussions would affect us both. The mayor and Joe intensely disliked one another, and I had come to understand why. When problems arose, Joe was practical in his approach to tackling them; he had little patience for the mayor's preoccupation with political expediency. For his part, the mayor had long ago lost patience for what he viewed as Joe's frequent insubordination.

We discussed how the Wingates might retrieve some personal items from the house for their immediate needs this evening, for I did not want them walking past this bedroom—certainly not until we had finished a thorough examination, and the more gruesome signs of death had been scrubbed away. Joe pointed to the area at the opposite end of the hall by the guest bath. "There's a back stairwell off the kitchen that takes them up over there," he said. "I expect the family uses it more regularly anyway, since it links these bedrooms with the kitchen."

"Good. Then let's cordon off this room and the front stairway; we can examine it again tomorrow, in first morning's light."

We were lucky to have light at all this evening. The Wingates had been among the first families in the area to install electric lighting in their home, but each individual light was placed so sporadically as to offer little real advantage over the ever-growing darkness. Still, I continued my work until well past seven o'clock.

After the county coroner's wagon arrived, and Dr. Fields removed Sarah's body, I finished my examination of the room in haste, for the blood splatters on the walls and bed were almost as unsettling as her corpse itself. Her possessions were spare, typical of a visiting guest. Opening the small wardrobe, I discovered three shirtwaists, each plain with large cuffs. They were next to two dark-colored skirts and a pair of boots that buttoned up the side. There was a modern Hammond typewriter at the desk, next to which was a notebook. On its cover, Sarah Wingate had written her name, as well as a title—THE RIEMANN HYPOTHESIS. Inside, line after line was filled with mathematical symbols and equations that resembled mere gibberish.

At the nightstand by the bed, there were two books: The Ambassadors and Dracula. At the bottom of the stack was last month's serialized installment of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth as well as the September issue of Harper's. Sarah appeared to share popular literary tastes. Ten dollars was shoved into the back of a drawer, as was a pamphlet entitled Common Sense for Women's Suffrage.

I checked between the pages of each book, in each drawer, and even in the pockets of each piece of clothing hanging in the closet. But I found no letters, diary, or notes—in short, no personal item that connected Sarah with anyone, much less the person who had wanted to kill her.

I went on to explore the first floor of the house, checking whether anything appeared to be amiss. In the kitchen, I lingered a few moments; amid the odors of mulled spices and baked fruit, I could almost forget the stench of death that seemed to cling so tenaciously to my skin and clothes. I was so preoccupied with my thoughts that I was startled to hear Joe's voice calling me, insistent and loud.

"Ziele!" His voice echoed through the back hallway. "We need you over here. You've got to take a look at this."

I followed the sound of his voice to a rear exit near the back porch, where I became aware once again of the coroner's wagon as it rumbled over the cobblestones of the Wingate drive, departing for the county morgue. Through the door, I saw a full moon gleaming in the stark November sky. A number of glowing lights bounced up and down in the yard; they were lanterns carried by our neighboring police reinforcements, who had recently arrived and were searching the grounds outside the house.

Joe met my gaze, and I noticed how his lined features reflected the grim events we had endured this day. With a flash of foreboding, I had the unsettling sensation that we were being drawn into an even more complicated case than I'd originally thought—one that would draw upon our every power of deduction to unravel.

Excerpted from IN THE SHADOW of GOTHAM by Stefanie Pintoff

Copyright © 2009 by Stefanie Pintoff

Published in May 2009 by St. Martin's Press

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Reading Group Guide

Stefanie Pintoff’s acclaimed and award-winning debut is the taut historical tale of Detective Simon Ziele, a man who lost his fiancée in the 1904 General Slocum ferry disaster and thereafter flees New York City for Dobson, New York, to escape the memories of her death. But months into his tenure, he catches the worst homicide of his career: a young woman brutally murdered in her own bedroom in the middle of the afternoon. His investigation quickly takes him to Columbia University criminologist Alistair Sinclair and one of his patients. But what could lead this Michael Fromley, with his history of violent behavior, to target such a proper young lady? Is Michael really behind the murder or is someone mimicking him? Ziele must discover the truth in this story of a haunted man on the trail of a killer while on the run from his own demons.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 110 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(35)

4 Star

(39)

3 Star

(23)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 111 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Stefanie Pintoff provides a wonderful historical mystery.

    In the summer of 1904, the steamship General Slocum catches fire in the East River. Many die including the fiancée of NYPD Detective Simon Ziele who also lost the use of his right arm. Distraught, Ziele quits the force, leaves the big city, and accepts a law enforcement position in rustic Dobson in Westchester County just outside the Bronx.

    However, the quiet community is shocked with the violent murder of Columbia mathematician Sarah Wingate. The culprit in a rage slashed and bashed the graduate student numerous times in her home. Ziele's investigation is superseded by an inquiry by criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who swears he can identify the killer, but must prove it.

    Readers will understand why the engaging IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM won the first Minotaur Books/MWA Best First Crime Novel award. The story line provides the audience with a superb police procedural anchored strongly in early twentieth century Westchester County with entries like the General Slocum calamity and other tidbits. Ziele is a terrific lead character still grieving his loss of his fiancee; so though he ran away from NYPD he buries himself in the investigation. Stefanie Pintoff provides a wonderful historical mystery.

    Harriet Klausner

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Mystery to Me

    In the Shadow of Gotham is a great opportunity for the reader to retreat into an earlier New York. Interesting characters are involved in an interesting crime, one which offers us many different possibilities in terms of trying to determine the real killer. A previous reviewer disliked the last few pages, and I cannot understand that as the book offers a fairly conventional ending. It's a very good read, do not be put off by one's person's distaste for the ending.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for best first novel by an American author

    Atmospheric and richly-detailed, this well-written mystery is set in New York in 1905. Occasional flashes of brilliance in Pintoff's wordcraft are complemented by a likeable detective, a fast pace, and a solid (if slightly predictable) solution. Worthy of its Edgar award. I really liked this book -- highly recommended.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2010

    I loved this book!I devoured it! It took me a day and half a night to read it and I did not leave my easy chair except for food and water.

    Outstanding characters whom you hope to meet in a future, longer book. I hated when this one ended. Simon, Alistair and Isabella call out for a series including the three of them. Please Stefanie Pintoff, write another book as hauntiing, perfect and excellent as Shadow. The First Crime Novel Award was truely given to a remarkable author.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2011

    An enjoyable period murder mystery

    This was an enjoyable easy read. Not as good as The Alienist, which this has been compared to, but still a decent turn of the century New York who-dun-it. The clues to the villian's identity are definitely there for the reader, and at times it was frustrating that the protagonist didn't see them and was constantly dismissing things that a detective shouldn't dismiss casually. But overall, I enjoyed it. I'll probalby check out her other books from the library unless the NOOK version is as reasonably priced as I got this one for.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Writing Not A Substitute For Disappointing Ending

    I found this book off of the 2010 Edgar Submission List for potential nominees for best first novel. Having already won that award from Minotaur my expectations were very high. I will know better next time when the publisher makes a self-serving award to one of its own authors. Initially this debut author did not disappoint. Her writing style is quite interesting and appropriately matches the historical approach that brings the reader authentic turn-of-the-century New York City factual references. This is a murder mystery, but not a terror laden thriller, and the style and setting bring us along, much in the way most good Sherlock Holmes novels do. Unfortunately that comparison does not follow through. The plot strings loosen significantly as you reach the ending that unfolds quickly without any twist, turn, surprise or originality. Sort of like a television crime drama series that you find interesting for the first 58 minutes and comes crashing to a sudden dull end because time is running out. The book does not stand alone on good writing and historical placement. It needs a good plot and this one is mediocre at best. For 348 of the 381 pages I was loving this book, certain that Stefanie Pintoff was going to come through with a novel blockbuster ending, only to be terribly disappointed by the last 33 pages. Not good enough to interest in me in reading anything subsequent from this author.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    BORING

    I found it slow and boring....not only that, but guessed whom had done the dasterd deed more then halfway through book. Would not recommend

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2011

    Simply Boring

    I could no longer force myself to read this book. It is slow, lacks creativity, sorry I purchased it. I had planned to read all three of her books in this series, but don't any more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2011

    Good but not great

    Well written, but it didn't have the "feel" of the turn of the century setting. The mystery itself was only mediocre.

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  • Posted May 27, 2011

    Well written - good read

    I don't usually read period books but really enjoyed this one. Looking forward to more in this series.

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  • Posted May 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A speedy trip through a 1900's murder mystery!

    Enter the world of murder mystery and detective work in turn of the 20th century New York. Maybe it's this period of time that leads to interesting characters but hats off to Pintoff for allowing the reader to get to know, root for, and even have disgust for some of the players. A number of guesses with an interesting ending that at first had me thinking, "I thought so" and then saying "wow, what?" A fun, quick read with plenty of action and believable plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2011

    Highly recommeded,

    Easy read, good story

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  • Posted April 23, 2011

    couldnt het through it

    i just got to about 50 pages from rhe end and i couldnt take it anymore. not one character seemed to have any depth or personality. there mever seemed to be an explanation of who they were. i never found out who killed who and i dont even care

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 22, 2012

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    Posted June 13, 2010

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    Posted July 23, 2011

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    Posted January 24, 2011

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    Posted April 23, 2011

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    Posted November 11, 2010

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    Posted September 7, 2011

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