Audiobook Review: The Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye

16 04 2012

The Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye

Read by Steven Boyer

Penguin Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 9 Min

Genre; Historical Thriller

Quick Thoughts: I really couldn’t have picked a better book for one of my first forays into Historical Thrillers. Faye has combines a gritty and authentic portrait of New York City in 1845 with a wonderful, complex mystery that will keep you guessing even after you think you may have it all figured out.

Grade: A-

I’ve been in a sort of a non-speculative fiction funk so far in 2012. Of the nearly 60 audiobooks I’ve listened to so far in 2012, only 8 have been thrillers with no elements of science fiction or fantasy. Of those 8 novels only two of them have been by authors I’ve never read before, and both of those have been legal thrillers. I have taken a lot of chances this year in my SFF readings, trying new authors, taking on debuts and reading outside of my comfort zone but in in thrillers and mysteries I’ve stayed pretty much pat. When I received a list of upcoming digital releases from Penguin Audio, the title The Gods of Gotham jumped out at me. I mean, I like mythological stories about gods, and Gotham is where Batman is from, where could I go wrong? Then I researched the novel and discovered it’s a Historical Thriller set in New York City around the time of the formation of the NYPD. Now, I realty haven’t read much Historical fiction, unless you include Joe Lansdale’s various depression era novels. I’m really not sure why I haven’t taken the plunge into this genre. I have always loved history. In college, I tried to pepper my schedule with as many history courses as I could fit. Alternate History is one of my favorite subgenres of science fiction, and I always enjoy when real historical figures are immersed into these types of tales. With my current thriller funk, and knowing that I will have very little flexibility in my listening schedule due to various commitments and events until June, I decided to give The Gods of Gotham a chance while I still could.

In 1845 New York City, the Irish potato famine has lead to a flood on Irish immigrants bringing with them their Catholicism and willingness to take on even the dirtiest of jobs. Bartender Timothy Wilde is trying to save up his tips in order to marry the girl of his dreams while avoiding his politically active low life brother. Then a devastating fire leaves Timothy penniless, disfigured and dependent on his brother. Against his instincts, Timothy takes a job with the newly founded New York City Police Department that his brother arranged, planning to use it to get back on his feet. Yet, a chance encounter with a 10 year old child prostitute covered in blood gets him entangled in a case that will take him from the lowest degradations to the highest levels of corruption. The Gods of Gotham is a brilliant Historical thriller set in a powder keg of a city ripe with ethnic tension, religious fervor and class warfare. Everything about Faye’s vision of New York feels authentic, the streets and the people are dirty, tired and bug ridden. Timothy Wilde is a fascinating and flawed character. While he resist the job his brother arranged for him, he, and the readers, slowly realize that he’s perfectly suited for it. Timothy begins to realize that this job isn’t just about being a brute who is there to prevent crime, but he can actually solve crimes. The mystery itself was well plotted. There were numerous times where I cockily believed I had it all figured out, then Faye would through me for another loop. Yet, the best part of the novel was how Faye took historical facts and brought them to life. The depiction of the mistrust of the Irish and Catholicism was something I know of intellectually, but never really understood the depths of it until I read this book. In historic context, with the debates over immigration and this country’s changing demographics, this is the timeliest of books showing how we often isolate ourselves in our own history forgetting that these issues have been a struggle in our country since Jamestown was first founded.  I really couldn’t have picked a better book for one of my first forays into Historical Thrillers. Faye has combines a gritty and authentic portrait of New York City in 1845 with a wonderful, complex mystery that will keep you guessing even after you think you may have it all figured out.

Steven Boyer is a wonderful narrator with a crisp pleasant voice. Yet, there was something just a bit off in his reading of The Gods of Gotham that it took me a while to figure out. In the early part of the book, I had trouble connecting with the time period of the novel, and Timothy Wilde as a character, and I knew it was due to the narration and not the writing. I should have figured out why sooner. I have always stated that the most important job of a First Person narrator is to create an authentic voice for the main character. Here, Boyer reads Timothy Wilde in his narrative default voice. Wilde is a character who is emotionally devastated, just lost everything he cared about, forced to work with people he doesn’t trust, and taking on an emotion filled job, and Boyer reads his with an almost pleasant nonchalance. I could never feel the turmoil of the soul that the text of the novel seemed to be presenting. Also, while Boyer wonderfully captured the spirit of the city in his interpretations of the salty, colorful characters that filled the pages of this story, he read Wilde in a sort of neutral, Middle American unaccented voice. There are some narrators, like MacLeod Andrews and Phil Gigante who have spoiled me by tailoring their voices to create unique narrative voices, and I believe Boyer is capable of doing this, yet in The Gods of Gotham, he just didn’t. Overall, the reading was nice, but for someone who listens to as many audiobooks as I do, and expect more than just clear concise readings, there was something missing in Boyer’s interpretation of Lindsay Faye’s beautiful and tragic novel.

Note: A special thanks to Penguin Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.



3 responses

20 04 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

Well, now I’m glad I read this instead of listening to it, I’m disappointed that Boyer didn’t quite do this wonderful book justice.

6 06 2012
4 09 2012
Coffee & a BookChick (@CoffeeBookChick)

I had the same thoughts you did on this book with the unfortunate narration. I will definitely keep up with the sequel, but I’m planning on reading it versus listening.

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