Stefanie Pintoff — In the Shadow of Gotham

Stefanie Pintoff’s first novel was one I’ve had on my radar since the cover caught my eye, and the summary inside caught my attention: a murder mystery set outside of New York City in 1905, starring a cop haunted by his tragic past and an arrogant criminologist… yep, I was definitely interested, especially after leaning that Pintoff had won an Edgar award for best debut novel. And mostly, I wasn’t disappointed.

Simon Ziele is grieving the loss of his fiance, Hannah, in the General Slocum ferry disaster. Unable to stomach New York City anymore, he has retreated to Dobson, a small town several miles north, a quiet town whose last murder occurred in 1893 and remained unsolved. Here, he could be alone with his grief–or so he thought. The brutal murder of Sarah Wingate, a young, talented mathematician, sends Ziele on a dangerous investigation. Soon after he discovers the body, Alistair Sinclair appears to offer his assistance; the professor at Columbia, a studier of the criminal mind, makes an astonishing claim: he knows the identity of Sarah Wingate’s murderer.

The mystery that follows is full of twists and turns; while I had the identity of the murderer partially correct by the middle of the book, Pintoff still managed to surprise me at the very end. I liked that it’s very fast-paced, too; the chapters are delineated by day, and the entire thing takes only five days to come to its conclusion. Ziele was slightly too trusting and willing to hand off bits of the investigation to Sinclair and his compatriots for my taste, but in general, this is a smartly written mystery that has the turn of the century city fleshed out perfectly.

Headed to the library on Monday to pick up the sequel!

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