A small girl in her night-shift, covered in blood and in headlong flight, cannons into Timothy Wilde, and that is where this story begins. Timothy is a brand new “copper star” in the brand new New York police force; he stumbled into the job by default, having lost his livelihood, his savings and his looks in a disastrous fire. Luckily his brother Valentine, with whom his relationship is tempestuous to say the least, is involved in the police, the fire service and in politics and thus has the influence to help his brother. (Quite how Valentine manages to keep all the plates in the air while being a practising drug addict is another mystery, but they were heady times).
Timothy finds that the skills which stood him in good stead in his previous job of bartender, those of observing, listening and extrapolating, are instantly transferable to his new calling. What he ultimately uncovers is tragic at a very personal level, but he also has to contend with personal danger and a view of the squalor, despair and poverty which forces people into horrific acts.
The research for the setting of this book has clearly been very thorough, so much so that it is a rich mix of detective fiction and social history. This works extremely well to establish the background and to move the plot and characters along – all seem in keeping with the times, which are so alien to us. However, the style moves beyond both history and mystery and is at times just a little too lush, distractingly so.