Willem van den Oever's Reviews > De Goden van Gotham

De Goden van Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
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's review
Mar 29, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: history, in-dutch, thriller-mystery
Read from March 24 to 30, 2012

The Gods of Gotham” could hardly have opened in a more impressive way. Starting off at breakneck speed, the reader is shot back in time to New York, 1845, as a raging fire destroys a large portion of the city. Debris flies through the air, the stench of burning skin lingers in the air and thousands of people are left homeless by the destruction. Amongst those whose life is destroyed in Timothy Wilde. Formerly a barkeeper at a local oyster bar, he discovers his workplace is eaten by the flames, as well as his savings with which he was hoping to impress that one special lady with.
Along comes Wilde’s brother, who picks Tim up and offers him a job within the ranks of the newly formed NYPD, where the former bartender has to walk 16-hour beats in one of the poorest slums of New York. It is a draining, depressive business and Wilde seems just about ready to quit his work, when one night a small girl bumps into him. Her nightdress drenched in blood, she reveals to Wilde the existence of a mass grave just outside of town, where dozens of children were buried after having been butchered by a psychopath. It's the final chance for Tim Wilde to find out if his made of the right stuff to be a detective.

As the murder mystery continues to unfold, the pacing of the narrative starts slowing down ever more. That, which was so exciting for the first few chapters, begins to drag. The whole thing doesn’t feel as tight anymore as it did at the start, as more and more characters are introduced who hardly leave an impression and one gets the feeling Faye’s writing could use just a little more polishing – or at least some editing. What’s even more disappointing is the feeling one gets about halfway through the novel, that one has seen all this at least once before. There at hints and glimpses at Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and “Gangs of New York” whenever you least want those influences to show. Worst of all is some of the dialogue, which feels just a little too melodramatic at times. There are plenty of great confrontations between Wilde, his suspects and his loved ones, which are halfway through diminished by the soap opera lines people scream out at each other.

There’s no doubt Lyndsay Faye is a great writer, and her prose shows a lot of promise. She makes New York – before it became the grand flashing city it is now – come to life in all its murky nastiness, creating a wonderful background against which Wilde and his companions can walk, talk and fight. But as a thriller, “The Gods of Gotham” is less successful, demanding a tighter plotted narrative and lots more tension.
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03/27/2012 page 197
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