Dobson, New York, 1905.
Detective Simon Ziele lost his fiancée in the General Slocum ferry disastera thousand perished on that summer day in 1904 when an onboard fire burned the boat down in the waters of the East River. Still reeling from the tragedy, Ziele transferred to a police department north of New York, to escape the city and all the memories it conjured.
But only a few months into his new life in a quiet country town, he's faced with the most shocking homicide of his career to date: Young Sarah Wingate has been brutally murdered in her own bedroom in the middle of an otherwise calm and quiet winter afternoon. After just one day of investigation, Simon's contacted by Columbia University's noted criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who offers a startling claim about one of his patients, Michael Fromleythat the facts of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to Fromley's deranged mutterings.
But what would have led Fromley, with his history of violent behavior and brutal fantasies, to seek out Sarah, a notable mathematics student and a proper young lady who has little in common with his previous targets? Is Fromley really a murderer, or is someone mimicking him?
This is what Simon Ziele must find out, with the help of the brilliant but self-interested Alistair Sinclairbefore the killer strikes again.
With this taut, atmospheric, and original story of a haunted man who must search for a killer while on the run from his own demons, Stefanie Pintoff's In the Shadow of Gotham marks the debut of an outstanding new talent, the inaugural winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel Competition.
In the Shadow of Gotham is the winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.
About the Author
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.
Read an Excerpt
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.
Reading Group Guide
1. A key element of the novel is the relationship between Detective Ziele and Alistair Sinclair. There is an obvious tension between the two, yet they need each other to solve the brutal murder at the center of the book. Is their budding partnership borne simply of necessity, or is there more to it than that?
2. Another relationship central to the novel is that between Detective Ziele and Isabella Sinclair. While there is clearly an attraction between the two that is greater than mutual admiration, it is harnessed by the social dictates of 1905 New York and the awkwardness of Isabella's relation to Alistair. Discuss how their attraction is authentic, and how it is masked by the tragic losses each has experienced in the recent past.
3. Detective Ziele has seen more than his share of tragedy. How have these events shaped him into the man we first meet in the novel?
4. On page 72 of the novel, Alistair explains the science of criminology in layman's terms: "Criminals are best understood through their crimes," Alistair clarified with a slight smile. "But you can flip it around, and say that crimes are best understood through criminal behavior at the crime scene." This premise is the focus of Alistair's studies at his Research Center at Columbia University. Discuss the impact of Alistair's knowledge of criminology in the murder investigation into Sarah Wingate. Does it help them to solve the crime? Or is it an impediment to Detective Ziele's preference for tried and proven investigative methodology?
5. There are two very strong women at the center of the novel-Sarah Wingate, a brilliant young mathematician, and Isabella Sinclair. Yet they exhibit their strength in very different ways. Sarah is bold, a leader in a man's field, and not willing to keep in step with society's dictates. On the other hand, Isabella prefers to stay within accepted boundaries, but her inner strength is no less remarkable. Discuss the differences between the two women and their roles in advancing women's issues at the turn of the century.
6. The ethical dilemma at the heart of the novel is best described on page 200. "I need to know just one more thing," I said quietly. "Had you known about Moira Shea from the beginning, would you still have facilitated the dismissal of charges against Michael Fromley and accepted him into your custody?" His answer was important to my judgment of him, for in my mind, the question of his intent was crucial. Had Alistair made reckless decisions along the way because he had been blinded by the importance of his research? Or was his hubris so large that he believed his own intellectual pursuits were all-important, and the rest of the world be damned? There was a long moment's pause as I waited for his reply. Finally, he looked at me, and I saw both honesty and fear reflected in his eyes as he replied, "I do not know." Does Detective Ziele judge Alistair too harshly for his decisions? What would you have done had you been in Alistair's shoes?
7. How is contemporary life at once different and yet surprisingly the same as life 100 years ago? Interesting areas of comparison include: cuisine, dress, social dictates, technology, modes of transportation, and entertainment.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Good historical piece.not much of a mystery, but an easy read.
Spoilers set to kill.Because everyone compares this with Caleb Carr¿s masterful novels, and I couldn¿t help thinking of them too when I read the synopsis, I¿ll continue with the comparison even though it doesn¿t go Pintoff¿s way. Even without Carr¿s books to refer to as a model of sorts, this novel wouldn¿t be a stand-out. Not for me. Maybe it¿s because I read a lot of detective fiction, but I fingered the guilty party way ahead of Alistair and Simon. For two guys who are supposed to be really clever and ahead of the curve, they were incapable of looking within their inner circle and they blew it. The signs were very clear in both situation and in behavior. And maybe it¿s because my husband¿s former boss, also named Horace, eventually was indicted and is now serving a long sentence for embezzlement that I first suspected him. When Fred showed up in the end, seemingly by coincidence, I knew he had to be in on it, too. I wasn¿t shocked when he pulled a gun. Creep.Anyway, as far as the characters go I found Simon to be stilted, insecure and a weird candidate for a cop. He spoke strangely and the way the book was narrated just came across as maladroit and stiff. This is supposed to be a street detective fresh from the cesspit that is New York in 1900? No way. He¿s way too awkward and unsure of himself. I didn¿t buy it. The pining for the dead fiancée was sort of nice at first, hey we¿ve got a sensitive guy on our hands, but after a while it just seemed part of the whole wrongness about Simon as a cop. He has no vice, no hang-up, no outlet for his grief over his loss. Made him less human despite the angst.And Alistair is a frigging bore. Always lecturing, always grandstanding. Ugh. Unattractive. At least he wasn¿t trying to out-Kriezler Kriezler. He wasn¿t weird and inscrutable. He wasn¿t eccentric and brilliant. He wasn¿t mercurial and Holmesian. Thankfully. He was fording his way into a new field and it rang mostly true; his need to convince person after person that the work was worthwhile, his need to explain theories and techniques, his need to attach himself to a university etc. The foundation though I found to be a bit of a stretch¿and the self-funding and all that. Seemed a bit too much too soon if you know what I mean.The bits about contemporary police procedures were interesting, as were the bits about women¿s Suffragism and their struggle to win the vote. Those elements were nice and not overly done. But, something was missing. None of it was personal in the way that Carr made it personal. And the emotional pitch wasn¿t as acute either; I didn¿t really feel tense during my whole reading. No one was desperate. No one was at their wits end, no matter how much Simon opined that he was and I¿ll probably give the next installment a miss.
New York City Detective Simon Ziele moved to Dobson, New York, searching for a more quiet life after the General Slocum ferry burned and killed over 1,000 people, including his fiancee.His peace is shattered when Simon and his boss, Joe Healy are summoned to Mrs. Virginia Wingate's home. Her neice, Sara, has been brutally murdered.The killing was senseless. Sara had only recently arrived at the Wingates, in order to find a quiet place to study. She was a grad student at Columbia, majoring in mathmatics.Simon is visited by Alistair Sinclair, a professor of law at Columbia. Alistair states that he believes that the killer is Michael Fromley. Alistair is a criminologist and claims that Fromley has killed before. After receiving this information, Alistair and his niece, Isabella, assist Simon in the investigation.Interspersed within the story are historical facts about the times. This adds realism and is an interesting side of the story. An example of this is when Simon goes for a ride in a new Model B motorcar and realizes that this is his first ride in an automobile.The psychological novel is well told and the conclusions are logical however, the finale of the novel was a bit of a stretch.Simon Ziele is an original and refreshing character. He is very analytical and takes advantage of the latest scientific advances, such as the art of fingerprinting to help solve the case.
In 1905 Detective Simon Ziele needs to find the killer of a young woman killed in her own bedroom in broad daylight. His hunt leads him to New York City and to the offices of a criminologist who has as his case study the man who probably was the killer. Working together, against time, it takes Ziele and Sinclair less than 2 weeks to learn the truth.A debut by a winner of the first Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition.
While this is a fascinating story, there were several historically questionable references that detracted from the overall story and, I believe, undermined my interest.
Great adventure into 1905, the politics and time. A murder involves a local policeman who has left NYC becuase of the Gen'l Slocum disaster. A woman is murdered and he investigates with added help from Alistair Sinclair, of Columbia U., who assists him in early crime detection. He finds help from Sinclair's daughter in law, Isabelle.
This historic detective mystery won the Edgar award for best first novel. The Edgar is a prestigious award among mystery writers. Ms. Pintoff is among such heady company as Steig Larsson and James Lee Burke. Had she not the won the award, I don't think I would have finished In the Shadow of Gotham. I kept waiting for it to wow me.The strengths of the book lie in the events and circumstances surrounding the setting and time period, NYC 1905. The automobile is a "new fangled" invention, and more to the point, modern criminology is in its infancy. An interesting tension between the protagonist, Simon Ziele and criminologist Alistair Sinclair, creates a sociological complexity: Sinclair believes in rehabilitation, a new idea at the time, and has released a recently 'rehabilitated' criminal back into society. Now it looks like the ex-con has killed again, and Simon Ziele, our hero, is ticked off. Pintoff also does a good job of maintaining a consistent 'voice;' there is a formality to the descriptive language that feels decidedly un-modern.I started reading the book carefully; by page 100 I was making like Evelyn Wood. The book lacks complexity; almost everything is on the surface. Dialog often takes the form of lecturing. Ms. Pintoff seems eager to include research that often stops the story cold, and the characters blend together. When the killer is revealed I didn't know where or if I'd even met him/her before. And the ending? Well, the loose ends got tied up. I guess that's something.Pintoff is often compared to Caleb Carr, in that both writers have written detective mysteries set in NYC at the turn of the century. There the comparison ends. Ms. Pintoff has yet to develop Carr's skill at summoning sumptuous language to make a reader want to savor every word. The Curtain Falls is Pintoff's second book, about murders along theatre row in NYC. I'll probably pass.
This is a really good debut novel & it is obvious why it won a "First Crime Novel Award" from the Mystery Writers of America. This book reminded a lot of The Alienist, but also of other books that deal with New York in the same time period; in particular, Banished Children of Eve by Peter Quinn & the classic Low Life by Luc Sante. I was pleased to see that she referenced Sante's work & I went promptly to my bookshelf to put Low Life on my TBR (again) list.This book has the feel of its time period while still managing a modern sensibility. I cared about the characters & about the mystery. There were plenty of clues, but the perpetrator wasn't glaringly obvious & that made the book more fun, too.I especially appreciated her depiction of women in the time period. She presented many different kinds of women living in many different ways & that was nice to see. So often we are given one-dimensional female characters in historical fiction who pursue only one avenue - it's nice to see a multitude of other options on display. Her portrayal of Mamie, the brothel keeper, made me think of Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbot which I also loved. Yes, I really do like this time period.Wonderfully written, complex, atmospheric read. I hope she writes another one.
A year ago, Simon Ziele lost his fiancee on the General Slocum ferry disaster. He recently moved to upstate Dobson, NY as assistant to the local Chief of Police, Joe Healy, in the town's 1 (now 2) person police department. Joe's concern is that young Simon is going to force Joe into retirement.When they are called to the Wingate estate, they are unprepared for the grusome scene they encounter, the brutal murder of Sarah Wingate. The next day, Simon receives a note from Alistair Sinclair, Esq, from Columbia University stating that he knows the killer. This is intriguing since there has been no publicity surrounding the murder.It seems that Sinclair is studying murderers with the goal of determining how to rehabilitate them. This begins a tense journey for Simon, Alistair, his daughter-in-law Isabella and his research assistants.In the Shadow of Gotham takes place in 1905, a time when investigative forensics is emerging and when people were beginning to look into the psyche of crirminals. Pintoff's debut novel is suspenseful, tense, exciting. The characters are well fleshed out. The writing is good and descriptive. The struggle between a typical murder investigation and getting into the mind of the murderer are, to some extent, at odds and Pintoff does a great job contrasting Ziele and Sinclair. The clues are there but they are not so blatant that you can guess the ending. In the Shadow of Gotham is well worth the read. Enjoy.
Stefanie Pintoff has just won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author for In the Shadow of Gotham, and it is a well-deserved win. This historical mystery, set in the very early 20th century, is in many ways about new crime investigation techniques just being born: fingerprinting and profiling, most obviously, but basically the whole idea of a scientific approach to figuring out whodunit. The book is populated with interesting characters, including several strong women in an age when those women who agitated for the right to vote were considered odd, and those who wanted a career downright unnatural. All of these historical elements are folded into a strong plot with a genuine mystery that challenges the reader into beating the detective protagonist to the solution.Detective Simon Ziele has just transferred from the New York Police Department to a smaller department in Dobson, just north of the city, in the wake of the loss of his fiancée in a ferry disaster. Simon has some newfangled ideas about criminal investigation, which his boss doesn¿t much approve of. But those ideas come in handy when a murder occurs in the quiet town. Sarah Wingate, a visitor to a prominent and wealthy family, was murdered in a particularly brutal fashion, and seemingly without motive. It is a challenge that the small police department, firmly mired in the 19th century, does not seem equipped to solve.But Ziele proceeds with his investigation in ways unexpected by his contemporaries. Most particularly, he joins forces with Alistair Sinclair, a professor at Columbia Law School, who has been studying the psychology or criminal behavior based on the work of Eugene Vidocq in France. Together, they hope to work backwards from the crime to create a profile ¿ though they don¿t phrase it that way ¿ of the killer. In fact, Sinclair believes he already knows who committed the crime.It is, of course, much more complicated than that. But the book is a fascinating study in the development of criminal investigation. It is fun for a fan of criminal procedurals like ¿CSI¿ and ¿Criminal Minds¿ to watch how the procedures now taken almost for granted began in the minds of early psychologists and law enforcement officials to become the science that solves many of today¿s crimes.While that is what fascinated me most about this book, there is plenty else here for whatever suits the reader¿s fancy. Sinclair is skillfully conceived, a combination of self-interest and scholarly study that seems almost contradictory. Ziele is an interesting man attempting to find his place in society. The victim is a fascinating woman, a mathematician of surprising promise in a time when women and mathematics were considered to be virtual opposites. And I greatly enjoyed Isabella Sinclair, Alistair¿s daughter-in-law, a young widow who seems likely to be Ziele¿s love interest as a series ¿ and it does appear to be a series, as A Curtain Falls, starring Detective Ziele, is to be released on May 11 ¿ develops.In the Shadow of Gotham is a very promising first novel from Pintoff, a graduate of Columbia University Law School with a Ph.D. in literature from New York University. I can¿t wait to read what she comes up with next.
In self-imposed exile to the sleepy town of Dobson in 1905, mere miles but worlds away from his former life in New York City, Detective Simon Ziele hopes to escape it all: the corruption, the senseless brutality, and most of all, the death of his fiancee in the sinking of the General Slocum. Unfortunately, murder comes to Dobson one quiet winter day with the death of young Sarah Wingate and soon enough Simon finds himself drawn back into the life he swore off.To make matters more vexing, the noted criminologist Alastair Sinclair is soon knocking on Simon's door, claiming to have the solution: a patient of his, Michael Fromley. And Fromley's violent fantasies prove to bear an all-too-eerie resemblance to the death of Sarah Wingate...but can the solution genuinely be so simple?There are several mystery series at present set in the 1895-1905 period in NYC, and hallmarks like Tammany corruption, the NYPD, the shifting roles of women, and the slow growth of modern detective methods are familiar to each. Remarkably, however, each manages to present its own unique take on the time and place. Pintoff in particular makes a strong mark on the genre with this book in several ways. The first is introducing the character of Simon Ziele. As a leading man he has a definite darker streak than many other Gilded Age NYPD leads. His distant past remains enigmatic and shadowy, and the first-person narrative deftly lends itself to his vaguely hinting at some elements and in some cases claiming them to be too disturbing to dwell on. And forced, initially reluctantly, to work with Sinclair and his "witch doctor" methods, he proves himself adaptable to the task by grafting together the new science of criminology with the old school detective methods, becoming one of the new breed of police that arose in the early twentieth century. He's an engaging, complex character who comes to life in a vivid way, dealing with the worst of the proverbial "man's inhumanity to man" while still toting around his share of humbler emotional baggage.Second, the integration of criminology as a fledgling science of the era is a new twist. In a time when mental illness was usually attributed to an inherent flaw of nature and frequently treated by incarceration in a lunatic asylum, lurid and seemingly senseless crimes such as those of Jack the Ripper led some pioneers to try to formally understand and rationalize the processes of the criminal mind. Sinclair, who is passionate about his subject (perhaps, as some observe, to the point of dangerous folly), and more than a tad self-serving but utterly dedicated, makes for a nicely ambiguous partner/foil to the young Simon.Pintoff's depictions of Old New York are strong, and particularly deft in drawing in details of life of the time and integrating them in seamlessly, whether simple things like the decor of a room or the quiet solitude that could be found then in a town barely thirty miles from Manhattan, or larger things like the difficulties of a woman's life as a graduate student of mathematics and the notorious Tammany election of 1905. "In the Shadow of Gotham" is a very strong, well-written mystery, rich in detail and tautly paced, and I hope more entries in a series may follow.
Somewhat interesting; saw the twist coming early. Not particularly rich in prose. An interesting premise but somewhat superficial execution. Often the male lead character talks in ways that don't sound terribly masculine, and it felt false.
In this book featuring Detective Simon Zeale, a murder has occurred in the small town north of New York City where he is now working, having moved there from the larger city¿s detective squad. He is soon approached by criminology professor Alistair Sinclair who tells him he knows who the murderer is based on what we would now call the modus operandi. Zeale and Sinclair partner to resolve the crime although there is more death before it is resolved. I read the third book in this series before reading this first installment, and I believe that the author¿s skills have improved from this first installment. While I enjoyed this first installment, I had pinpointed the murderer long before Ziele and Sinclair and kept waiting for them to realize who had done the dastardly deed. I will admit that I did not know the motive quite so early, but I had put my finger on the perpetrator. The book is set in 1905, and I enjoyed bits of historical perspective that were integrated into the narrative.
Detective Simon Ziele left New York City for a job in the small town of Dobson after a tragic accident that killed his fiancée and damaged his right arm. However, his investigation into a shocking murder takes him back to New York and into an uneasy alliance with a Columbia University research institute for the study of criminal behavior. The institute's founder has noticed similarities between details of the murder and the violent fantasies of a missing research subject.This is a promising start for a historical mystery series. The turn of the 20th century was an era of modernization of forensic science and criminal investigation. The attitudes and dialogue at times seemed a little too modern for that era, though. Even though my top suspect turned out to be the culprit, I questioned my judgment right up to the point of revelation because no one in the story seemed to notice what I thought were clues. The author did a nice job of introducing characters and situations that,while they helped to resolve this mystery, may cause problems for Ziele in future installments of the series. The teasers have already prompted me to add the next book in the series to my TBR list.
A very impressive debut!!!
I saw Pintoff¿s books recommended in an article by Jason Pinter, and knew immediately that I had to add them to my wish list. This was an entertaining depiction of turn-of-the-century investigation, where one often had to rely more upon luck than physical evidence. Not only do we see the earliest days of forensics, where even fingerprinting is brand new, but we see the beginnings of the use of criminology. It¿s a time period I find particularly interesting to read about; a world caught somewhere between the past and the present.I liked Simon Ziele. He was a little bit of a fish out of water in the rural town we meet him in, but really comes into his own once he is let loose upon the city again. He¿s fragile in a way; not just physically, but emotionally. The ferry disaster that took the life of his fiancé has affected him in ways he would rather not reveal. You want to root for him to not only have success professionally, but to find happiness personally.As for the mystery, it spins its wheels a bit at times until Ziele turns to the techniques he finds tried and true. Despite the study of criminology being central to the story, it¿s not the star in the end. The reveal didn¿t completely surprise me, but parts of it did.A good historical mystery always pleases me, so I look forward to reading more of Pintoff¿s series.
I found this book to be just an ok read. I guess I expected a little more "wow" factor, since it won an Edgar award last year for best first novel.Simon Ziele lost his fiancee in the 1904 General Slocum ferry disaster, and fleeing from his painful memories, relocates from NYC to Dobson New York. While solving the case of a young woman murdered in her bedroom, Simon consults with a Columbia University criminologist, Alistair Sinclair. It appears as though Alistair's patient, Michael Fromley is the murderer. But is he, or is it someone else?There were a few things that annoyed me about this book: First, there seemed to be many references to the "telephone" for the story to take place in 1905. Also, I felt as though I never got a real feel for turn of the century New York. Lastly, I was waiting for a twist, a turn, a suprise, but alas, nothing. It's kind of like when you devote a couple of hours to a movie or a tv show thinking that there is going to be this great ending, and nothing happens.
This was just okay. Not a bad story line, but very simply written, with no great depth or character development. I looked forward to becoming immersed in the Victorian era, but aside from an occasional reference to a push-cart or other prop, the story could have taken place in any time period (did people really use the telephone that much in 1905?) It certainly didn't have a turn-of- the-century New York feel to it either. I'm annoyed that this was compared to Caleb Carr's excellent writing.