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In the Shadow of Gotham
First in a new series

by Stefanie Pintoff


It is no wonder that Stefanie Pintoff won the first St. Martin's Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel award for her debut novel, In the Shadow of Gotham. Holding both a degree from the Columbia Law School and a Ph.D. in literature from New York University, Pintoff knows how to write well. However, her experience as a modern lawyer hardly prepared her for the depth of detail and authenticity in this novel, not only in historical relevance but in the legalities of 1905 New York. She also nails the social roles so well I often thought I was reading a book written from that period—except this novel had a clarity of language I wouldn't expect from that era.

The story is an intricate one dealing with the brutal slaying of a young woman, a graduate student in mathematics. Enter Detective Simon Ziele, who has transferred from the violence of Manhattan to the sleepy burg of Dobson, NY. Unfortunately, even in this Westchester County hamlet, Ziele cannot escape brutality and murder (of which this young woman's is but the first), and he returns again and again to New York City, working through leads. Aiding him is Alistair Sinclair, a wealthy university researcher who is delving into the criminal mind, revealing the rudiments of modern criminology and profiling. Sinclair insists that the young woman's murder is the work of Michael Fromley, a criminal he has been studying for several months. But it is Sinclair's recently widowed daughter-in-law, Isabella, who provides Ziele with more help than Sinclair's entire research staff, accompanying him on interviews and doing detailed research. Finding the murderer, however, is much more complex than Sinclair's early deductions and offers the reader a fine chase from red herring to red herring.

In the Shadow of Gotham is an exquisite work that could easily compete with the master, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Stefanie Pintoff, however, offers a much more complete picture of women, showing them as brilliant and capable, and also vulnerable or tough when they have had to take up unpleasant livelihoods. When I finished In the Shadow of Gotham, I truly hoped I would see more of Detective Simon Ziele and perhaps Isabella Sinclair in the future. Ms. Pintoff will continue the adventures of Detective Ziele in the early twentieth century in a series dedicated to him. The second book, The Darkest Verse, will be available next year.

The Book

St. Martin's Press / Minotaur Books / Macmillan
April 28, 2009
0312544901 / 978-0312544904
Historical Mystery / Detective / 1905
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NOTE: Ms. Pintoff won the first St. Martin's Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel award

The Reviewer

Janie Franz
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Janie Franz is the author of Freelance Writing: Itís a Business, Stupid!and co-author of The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book and The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book.
© 2009