“This historic detective mystery won the Edgar award for best first novel. The Edgar is a prestigious award among mystery writers. Ms. Pintoff is among such heady company as Steig Larsson and James Lee Burke. Had she not the won the award, I don't think I would have finished In the Shadow of Gotham. I kept waiting for it to wow me.
The strengths of the book lie in the events and circumstances surrounding the setting and time period, NYC 1905. The automobile is a "new fangled" invention, and more to the point, modern criminology is in its infancy. An interesting tension between the protagonist, Simon Ziele and criminologist Alistair Sinclair, creates a sociological complexity: Sinclair believes in rehabilitation, a new idea at the time, and has released a recently 'rehabilitated' criminal back into society. Now it looks like the ex-con has killed again, and Simon Ziele, our hero, is ticked off. Pintoff also does a good job of maintaining a consistent 'voice;' there is a formality to the descriptive language that feels decidedly un-modern.
I started reading the book carefully; by page 100 I was making like Evelyn Wood. The book lacks complexity; almost everything is on the surface. Dialog often takes the form of lecturing. Ms. Pintoff seems eager to include research that often stops the story cold, and the characters blend together. When the killer is revealed I didn't know where or if I'd even met him/her before. And the ending? Well, the loose ends got tied up. I guess that's something.
Pintoff is often compared to Caleb Carr, in that both writers have written detective mysteries set in NYC at the turn of the century. There the comparison ends. Ms. Pintoff has yet to develop Carr's skill at summoning sumptuous language to make a reader want to savor every word. The Curtain Falls is Pintoff's second book, about murders along theatre row in NYC. I'll probably pass.”