August 5, 2011 by Reader's Connection
It was her first book, for one thing, and it seemed like quite a debut. Also, it had been nominated for an 2010 Edgar, by the Mystery Writers of America, as Best First Novel by an American Author. I thought to myself: Black Water Rising was only a nominee? What on earth won that year?
The answer is In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff. It is set in 1905, in Dobson, New York, which is (fictionally) just north of New York City. Simon Ziele is a police detective who has left NYC after a personal tragedy; but of course he has barely gone to work in Dobson when a horrible murder is committed there, and of course the case’s complexities draw him back into the city.
In one of the Amsterdam Cop novels by Janwillem van de Wetering–it would be against the rules to tell you which one, and to be honest I don’t remember–Grigpstra and DeGier are struggling with a case, making no headway, when some guy walks up to one of them at a party and tells him who committed the murder. So much for cagey detective work.
Something like that happens in Gotham. Simon Ziele and his commanding officer have just started working on the case when a criminologist named Alistair Sinclair–an early criminal profiler, as it were–appears uninvited and says he knows who did it. His reasoning is pretty convincing, but Ziele doesn’t want to rule out any other possibilities. And neither do I, given the fondness of mystery writers for twists and turns.
Does Stefanie Pintoff’s 1905 New York work as well as Attica Locke’s 1981 Houston? I’m about halfway through Gotham, and I’ll have to wait until I’m finished before deciding which one deserved the Edgar. But I’m rooting for poor Simon Ziele. A coroner in NYC recognizes him at an autopsy and says, “Ziele, why, I thought you were working upstate now.” Dobson isn’t exactly upstate, but getting out of town had indeed been the plan.