THE GODS OF GOTHAM: A Novel. By Lyndsay Faye. Amy Einhorn/Putnam. 432 pages. $29.95.
It’s 1845 in New York City, a crowded, noisy, dirty place — look out for that bedpan being emptied above — full of the heartbreak of newly arrived immigrants fleeing one misery only to be thrust into another, and easy pickings for predatory landlords and companies while nativists hurl abuse if not violence.
Of course, these are not the hordes of Mexicans arriving with strange customs to take away scarce American jobs, but the Irish.
The Protestant Reformation Society is busy warning about the dangers of the papist Catholics and conditions are ripe for the Triangle Factory Fire and the General Slocum tragedy.
However, in order to deal with the ever-increasing chaos, the city assembles its first police force despite a great deal of political and popular opposition.
Just in time for a child prostitute covered in blood to escape her brothel and run into the protagonist, a street-smart bartender who just joined the force.
What ensues is sheer art, a testament to the author’s research, imagination and mastery of language.
Reviewer Carlos Salinas, A writer based in Washington, D.C.