Avid Series Reader's Reviews > In the Shadow of Gotham

In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff
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In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff is the first book of the Simon Ziele mystery series set in 1905 New York. Simon is a a former NYPD homicide detective. To cope with grief over the loss of his fiancee, he fled the constant violent crime of the city to Dobson, 17 miles north. Dobson's former solo detective Joe resents Simon, convinced he will force Joe into retirement. Simon's hopes for peace are shattered by the violent murder of Sarah Wingate, visiting niece of a wealthy resident.

Joe and Simon have scarcely begun their investigation when a stranger contacts them, insisting he knows the culprit. Alistair Sinclair founded a criminology institute to study criminal behavior. Patience is required for the lengthy description of Alistair's theories, his staff, and what he initially discloses about his pet criminal. Hang in there for the first hundred pages. During a hunt for a missing man, interest is provided by fascinating historical details of New York City: Tammany Hall fully controlled elections; growth in the city's neighborhoods stratified by economic status, described as they seek witnesses; Grand Central Depot in the process of being rebuilt as Grand Central Station; Delmonico's already famous for its cuisine as well as illustrious customers.

Simon realizes his investigation must not be swept along strictly on one man's opinion. He recognizes Alistair's values are compromised by his research zeal, whereas Simon strives for objective evidence. Simon continues to conduct comprehensive interviews to learn all the facts. Sarah was a brilliant mathematics graduate student at Columbia, resented by classmates with lower grades. She proposed to solve Riemann's hypothesis (still unsolved), working closely with a professor at Princeton. Simon finds mysterious connections to a successful madam, who will not reveal all she knows. Simon keeps an open mind, dedicated to pursuing evidence diligently - traits which serve him well when the case is turned upside down at book midpoint. The case becomes much more of a puzzle, way more interesting. Clues lead in several directions; suspense begins to build.

By the time Simon interviews a witness in Central Park at Bethesda Fountain with its statue of the Angel of the Waters (cover photo), it's impossible to put the book down. The complexity of the case, Simon's astute actions, and rich character development completely redeem the glacially paced start. A patient reader will be well rewarded. Simon is an interesting protagonist with a tragic history, well worth following in his next adventure, A Curtain Falls.
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Reading Progress

January 14, 2012 – Shelved
Started Reading
August 8, 2020 – Finished Reading

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