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Secret of the White Rose (Simon Ziele Series #3)

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The murder of Judge Hugo Jackson is out of Detective Simon Ziele’s jurisdiction in more ways than one. For one, its high-profile enough to command the attention of the police commissioner. The judge was presiding over the trial of Al Drayson, an anarchist, who set off a bomb at a Carnegie wedding, but instead of killing millionaires, it killed passersby, including a child. The trial has captured the attention of 1906 New York City.

Furthermore, Simon’s precinct doesn’t ...

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Secret of the White Rose (Simon Ziele Series #3)

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The murder of Judge Hugo Jackson is out of Detective Simon Ziele’s jurisdiction in more ways than one. For one, its high-profile enough to command the attention of the police commissioner. The judge was presiding over the trial of Al Drayson, an anarchist, who set off a bomb at a Carnegie wedding, but instead of killing millionaires, it killed passersby, including a child. The trial has captured the attention of 1906 New York City.

Furthermore, Simon’s precinct doesn’t include Gramercy Park, which is where the judge is found in his town house with his throat slashed. But his widow insists on calling her husband’s old classmate criminologist, Alistair Sinclair, who in turn enlists Ziele. Together they must steer Sinclair’s methods past a police force that is focused on rounding up Drayson’s supporters and have all but rejected any other possibilities.

Edgar Award–winning author Stefanie Pintoff’s combination of a fascinating case and the sometimes-brutal and sometimes-glittering history of turn-of-the-century New York in this stellar historical makes for an utterly compelling read.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Stephanie Pintoff

“Densely plotted, rich in moral ambiguity, and guaranteed to grip readers to the very last page.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on Secret of the White Rose

“Edgar-winner Pintoff proves with her third historical that she’s the equal of Caleb Carr.”

—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Secret of the White Rose

“Mystery lovers might just have found the next Caleb Carr.”

The Huffington Post on A Curtain Falls

Marilyn Stasio
…Pintoff delivers a rousing and admirably fair account of the anarchist movement that was unnerving the city at this time.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Edgar-winner Pintoff proves with her third historical (after 2010's A Curtain Falls) that she's the equal of Caleb Carr. In the fall of 1906, New York City is fixated by the murder trial of anarchist Al Drayson, who planted a dynamite bomb meant for Andrew Carnegie in a horse-drawn cab that exploded and killed five bystanders. While Drayson's fate remains unresolved, criminologist Alistair Sinclair rouses Det. Simon Ziele in the middle of the night with some shocking news: someone has cut the throat of Hugo Jackson, the judge presiding over Drayson's trial, and left a Bible and a white rose near the corpse. Sinclair reveals that Jackson was an old friend, but Ziele eventually concludes that his colleague is hiding something. Drayson's accomplices are the obvious suspects, but Ziele is troubled by his commissioner's refusal to consider alternative theories, even as the killer adds to his body count. The author couples spot-on period details with her most sophisticated plot yet. (May)
Library Journal
New York City is gripped by anarchist riots and bombings in the fall of 1906. One bombing goes horribly awry, a child is killed, and the arrested young suspect endures the wrath of the city. On the eve of his trial, the presiding judge is murdered in his home, with a Bible under his hand and a white rose next to his corpse. NYPD detective Simon Ziele once again is sleuthing with his mentor, criminologist Alistair Sinclair, and Sinclair's widowed daughter-in-law, Isabella, using the new and controversial method of profiling. When another judge is slain in a similar manner, finding the motivation behind the crimes takes on greater urgency. For one thing, both judges were friends of Alistair; his life is probably in danger, too. VERDICT Pintoff is at the top of her game in this third entry in her Edgar Award-winning historical series (In the Shadow of Gotham; A Curtain Falls). Hand sell to readers who still talk about Caleb Carr's The Alienist. Suspenseful and overlaid with symbols, ciphers, and early psychological study—a real winner. [Library marketing; regional author appearances.]
Kirkus Reviews

Detective Simon Ziele (A Curtain Falls, 2010, etc.) investigates his third case in Gilded Age New York.

The city is riveted by the 1906 murder trial of anarchist Al Drayson, who aimed a bomb at Andrew Carnegie but killed innocents. Presiding judge Hugo Jackson receives death threats from both revolutionaries who demand Drayson's freedom and outraged citizens who want him executed immediately. Few are shocked when the judge is found murdered the night after closing arguments. Criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who eagerly uses his society connections to examine the case for clues to the formation of the terrorist mind, drags along his friend Detective Ziele, who lost his fiancée, Hannah, two years ago in a tragic shipwreck, and is now stunned to learn that Hannah's younger brother Jonathan became a violent radical leader. The scene of the crime reveals surprising details. Why was the judge's throat slit when anarchists usually prefer dynamite? More intriguingly, why was the judge left with his hand on a Bible and a white rose? Alistair consults his longtime friend Angus Porter, another prominent judge and a student of symbolism. Meanwhile, the Police Commissioner taps Ziele for his connections to his old immigrant neighborhood. Hours after Alistair sees him, Porter is also found dead with another Bible and another white rose. Despite these peculiar clues, the Commissioner insists that immigrant anarchists be rounded up to pay for the crimes. When the prison holding the radicals is hit by a bomb, Ziele realizes he must bring the killer to justice before the city explodes in violence and the courts become a lynch mob.

Pintoff explores New York at the turn of the century, from its society gentlemen's clubs to its teeming immigrant neighborhoods, without ever resorting to kitsch or stereotypes. Densely plotted, rich in moral ambiguity and guaranteed to grip readers to the very last page.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250001665
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Series: Simon Ziele Series , #3
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 390,200
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Stefanie Pintoff

Stefanie Pintoff is the author of A Curtain Falls and In the Shadow of Gotham—the winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Washington Irving Book Award. She 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. She lives with her husband and daughter on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

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Read an Excerpt

Secret of the White Rose

By Stefanie Pintoff

Minotaur Books

Copyright © 2011 Stefanie Pintoff
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312583972

171 West Seventy-first Street. 1:30 A.M.
Despite my best intentions—not to mention an excellent cup of French roast—I had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion. Lying on a gold and green paisley sofa, halfway through W. D. Morrison’s treatise Crime and Its Causes, I was startled awake by a ferocious pounding at my door. I bolted upright—causing Morrison to tumble to the ground, followed by my now empty coffee mug.
I fumbled for my battered pocket watch. Half past one. At such an ungodly hour, most people would telephone. Thanks to the modern black and brass Strowger dial telephone installed in my new quarters here last month, I could be reached at any hour. That was a mixed blessing, of course—but I’d already come to appreciate the telephone as a more civilized method of interruption than the incessant knocking that disturbed me now.
Why the devil was someone determined to wake me in person?
I walked barefoot to the door over newly varnished hardwood that was cold and smooth against my feet. As I drew close, the pounding stopped, but an urgent voice called out my name.
“Ziele! Open up.”
I turned the lock and withdrew the chain. By the flickering light of the gaslight lanterns that lined my hallway, I recognized my friend and colleague: criminologist Alistair Sinclair.
The normally poised and garrulous professor staggered into my living room, collapsed onto my paisley sofa, and looked up at me helplessly. “Ziele, I need your help.” He managed to rasp the words, before he succumbed to a fit of coughing.
“What’s happened?” After I closed and locked my door, I lit the additional oil lamps in my living room, then surveyed Alistair closely for signs of an injury. I saw none.
Not once in our acquaintance had I ever seen Alistair in such a state. His dark hair, heavily lined with silver, was not smoothly coiffed; rather, it stood up on end as though he had run his hands through it repeatedly. His expensive cashmere-blend coat was torn at the sleeve and splattered with mud. But most disturbing was the blank expression in his blue eyes when he looked at me. Clear as ice, and always too cold for warmth, his eyes normally blazed with intelligence—yet tonight all I saw was emptiness.
I brought him a glass of water. He accepted, saying nothing.
The lanterns flickered, the result of a draft that perpetually ran through the room, and I pulled my dressing gown tighter. Then I sat in the overstuffed green armchair opposite Alistair.
My professional demeanor was carefully practiced for times such as these, so my voice was calm when I asked him what had happened. But my manner belied my deep private concern—for whatever had undone his usual composure had to be significant. My immediate worry centered upon Isabella, Alistair’s widowed daughter-in-law who assisted him in his research into the criminal mind—and who preoccupied more of my own thoughts than I usually cared to admit.
“A man was murdered tonight,” he finally managed to say. “Someone I once counted among my closest friends.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, and meant it.
We were silent for several moments while he composed himself.
“Who was he?”
“Hugo Jackson. He’d gone to Harvard Law with me, class of ’seventy-seven.” With a quick, wistful smile, he added, “We’d not spoken in years, but we were close once. In fact, he was the best man at my wedding.”
“You had a falling-out?”
He shook his head. “Nothing like that. We simply drifted apart. We made different friends, developed varying interests, saw each other less often…”
“You’re certain it was murder?” Now wide awake, I crossed my arms and regarded him soberly.
“Without a doubt. His throat was slashed from ear to ear.”
“If you weren’t close, why are you among the first to know?” A long-ago relationship of the sort he described wouldn’t merit his involvement. Or explain why he was so broken up about it.
“Our wives had developed a friendship that lasted through the years, even as our own waned. In part, that’s why Mrs. Jackson called me immediately.”
“And the other part?” I asked, knowing that what Alistair didn’t say was usually more important than what he did.
“There were unusual circumstances.” Alistair lowered his voice instinctively, though no one was here but us. “Mrs. Jackson found him in the library, slumped over his desk in a pool of blood.” He frowned and grew silent, lost in some thought of his own.
“Go on,” I urged.
He passed me his water glass. “You don’t have a stiff drink, do you, Ziele? Something to buck up our strength?”
All I had was the Talisker single-malt scotch that Alistair himself had given me for my birthday last summer—a souvenir from a recent trip to Scotland’s Isle of Skye. I poured him a generous glass, neat, then waited for him to continue.
He swirled the tawny mixture, seemingly more content to smell its earthy essence than to drink it.
“There was a Bible next to his body—not the family Bible but one his wife had never seen before. And my friend’s right hand was resting on top of it,” he said at last.
I tried to envision the scene as Alistair described it. “Like the way you take an oath in court?”
He nodded, adding, “My friend was a judge.”
“But don’t judges usually administer oaths, not take them?”
“Exactly.” He gave me a meaningful look. “And, given it was a Bible unfamiliar to his wife, we might presume his killer brought it with him to the crime scene.”
His hand trembled, forcing him to put his drink on the table.
I leaned in closer, more concerned now. I’d never seen him so shaken up.
“We are,” I reminded him, “discussing a crime scene neither one of us has actually seen. But you already believe it signifies something of importance?”
“What do you think, Ziele?” he said, bursting out with an exasperation suffused with grief. “Have I done nothing this past year to convince you of the importance of crime scene behavior?”
He was right: it had been nearly a year since the Fromley case, when he first waltzed into my office and announced that he could use his knowledge of the criminal mind to help me solve a brutal murder. He had not been entirely correct, of course. But as he himself would say, knowing the criminal mind is as much an art as it is a science—and I never doubted that he understood more about criminal behavior than I ever expected to.
He shook his head. “There’s more: a single, white rose was placed next to his hand.”
“A white rose? Like a bride’s?”
He nodded sagely. “I know. Hard to come by this time of year.”
“The color of purity, innocence,” I added, thinking of brides I had seen with such roses on their wedding day.
“Sometimes it is.” He paused. “Other times, it’s the color of death—usually associated with betrayal. During the War of the Roses, a white rose was given to traitors who had betrayed their word. It warned them that death was imminent.”
“So you think—”
He cut me off. “I don’t know what to think. But I want you involved.”
“Where was Judge Jackson killed?” I glanced at him with skepticism.
“Gramercy Park West.”
“That’s in the Thirteenth Precinct; not my jurisdiction.” I was now working as a detective under my longtime friend Captain Mulvaney of the Nineteenth Precinct.
“I’ve seen you help out other precincts.”
“This new commissioner is a stickler for protocol.” Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham didn’t want officers straying beyond their jurisdiction, absent specific orders from him.
“I can make the necessary connections,” Alistair said, getting up and crossing the room toward my Strowger telephone. “May I call a cab?”
He picked up the receiver and spoke into it. “Operator, yes, telephone twenty-three eighty Columbus, please.”
While he waited for the connection to be made, he spoke to me again. “My friend was an eminent man. Your police will be under significant pressure to solve his murder quickly.”
I was obviously going to have to accompany him downtown. I got up and started toward my bedroom to get dressed. But his mention of the police brass triggered something in my memory. “What did you say this judge’s name was?”
“Jackson. Judge Hugo Jackson.”
My brow furrowed as the name he had just mentioned stirred a flicker of recognition. The name registered, and I spun back around toward Alistair. “Not the same judge who is hearing the Drayson case?”
“Of course.” Alistair held up a finger as he spoke into the telephone once again. “New York Transportation? Yes, I need an electric automobile at Seventy-first and Broadway, please.” He then hung up, grim-faced as he turned back toward me. “The jury was to have begun deliberations today. Now? There’s a strong chance a mistrial will be declared.”
That changed everything. The death—the murder, even—of the judge presiding over the most controversial trial the city had seen in years would set off the worst unrest imaginable.
Like everyone, I had been following the trial with great interest—more so because I’d known men like Al Drayson. They grew and flourished in my native Lower East Side neighborhood, where new immigrants weary of hardships in their adopted country were sympathetic to those who championed their rights. Most were idealists who wanted only better working and living conditions.
But I’d seen the way some men’s eyes fired with passion when they discussed their cause, lit with an enthusiasm I could not comprehend. Not when their talk turned to guns and dynamite. Not when they showed no regard for the human lives they destroyed. It made no sense to fight one injustice by creating another. I understood the devotion and sacrifice men might feel for another human soul.
In my experience, even the loftiest ideals were often twisted for individual profit and ambition.
Real good rarely came of it. The worst sort of evil often did.

Copyright © 2011 by Stefanie Pintoff


Excerpted from Secret of the White Rose by Stefanie Pintoff Copyright © 2011 by Stefanie Pintoff. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1.   In Secret of the White Rose, how is the anarchist movement depicted in both positive and negative viewpoints? The portrayal of the anarchists is necessarily limited by the first-person POV of Detective Ziele, himself a policeman.  Is he fair-minded?  Or does he reflect the prejudices one might expect from a person of his class and profession?  (From the Haymarket Riots in Chicago in 1886 to the Union Square bombing in New York City in 1908, policemen were frequent targets of anarchist violence). 

2.   This novel depicts a New York that is in the midst of social upheaval. Discuss the role of class in the novel, particularly Simon Ziele’s feelings returning to his old neighborhood and reuniting with the Strupp family.  How do his own ambitions, not to mention his attraction to the world Alistair and Isabella inhabit, play into it?

3. The story takes place during a time of rapid technological change and progress.  What are some of the innovations represented? How do they have both a good and bad impact on society? 

4.  How does the relationship between Simon and Isabella change in this novel?  In spite of the class differences – which are a major obstacle in 1906 – do you believe there’s any possibility for a real relationship between them?  Likewise, the relationship between Detective Ziele and Alistair Sinclair evolves significantly in this novel.  Does it ever approach an equal partnership?

5.  “Duty” is a theme that plays out in the book through many different characters, from Judge Jackson in the beginning, to Ziele, to Alistair and others.  How does each characters’ conception of duty shape their actions?   

6. At the beginning of part two, the author chooses quotations by President Teddy Roosevelt and Alexander Berkman to introduce the section.  What does each signify?

7.  If you had been in Ziele’s position at the end of the novel, would you have helped Jonathan Strupp?  Why or why not?  

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 29, 2011

    Highly Recommend!

    I've read all three of the Detective Ziele books now and I am anxiously awaiting the next installment. It took me a bit longer than I thought it would to get into and finish the first (Under the Shadow of Gotham), but by the time I was finished I couldn't understand why. All three of her stories are amazing, the details are incredible and unobtrusive. She gives you the history of NYC in a totally enjoyable way. I am really looking forward to reading more by this author. Although, I would really like to see a longer book. Each one averages about 260 pages. I really think her stories could support more pages and detail. Regardless... I do recommend this...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a super historical whodunit

    In 1906, New York City residents and much of the country remain riveted to the trial of anarchist Al Drayson. The accused allegedly planted a bomb to kill industrialist Andrew Carnegie, but instead murdered five other people.

    Criminologist Alistair Sinclair wakes up Detective Simon Ziele with a shocker. An unknown assassin sliced the throat of Judge Hugo Jackson, presiding over the Drayson homicide trial. The killer left behind a Bible and a white rose. Sinclair tells Ziele that Jackson was a long time friend, but the cop believes his crony conceals something important from him. While the NYPD commissioner and the brass insist an anarchist murdered the judge, Ziele thinks it is too soon to rule other possible killers even as the murderer strikes several times since giving Jackson a necktie.

    Mindful of the Gaslight mysteries by Victoria Thomson, the third Ziele-Sinclair police procedural (see In the Shadow of Gotham and A Curtain Falls) is a super historical whodunit. The investigation is exciting and fast-paced as the killers keeps striking while the two sleuths struggle to end the murdering spree. Yet with an excellent whodunit, it is the feeling that we armchair readers are in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century that makes the Secret of the White Rose a terrific thriller.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2013

    So glad to find a new author who knows how to weave period detai

    So glad to find a new author who knows how to weave period details (the setting sizzles with atmosphere) and divertingly interesting characters.  Haven't read the first two with the main protagonist, but certainly look forward to doing so, and to future installments!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    To Sunfall

    If you read this go to the next result, please. *Autumnstar*

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  • Posted June 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fabulous Historical Mystery

    Pintoff's characters are both well-rounded and believable. Historical accurateness adds to a well-paced and exciting plot that does not stop until the past page is turned. The other Simon Zeiele tites in the series are Im the Shadow of Gotham (Edgar award winner) and A Curtain Falls. Writing at its best! Lisa

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