In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff

7709967Fiction — print. Minotaur Books, 2009. 389 pgs. Purchased.

In 1905, Detective Simon Ziele is called to investigate the brutal murder of Sarah Wingate in the home of her aunt in the small town of Dobson, New York. Before the investigation can get underway, however, Ziele is contacted by the criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who suggests the murder bears an uncanny resemblance to the violent fantasies of his patient, Micheal Fromley.

Sinclair is a researcher at Columbia University in the budding field of criminology and believes crimes can be prevented by treating people like Fromley before their crimes can escalate to murder. Yet Ziele is not entirely convinced of Fromley’s guilt and begins to wonder if Fromley is meant to derail his investigation and prevent him from finding the real murder.

“Criminals are best understood through their crimes. But you can flip it around, and say that crimes are best understood through criminal behavior at the crime scene.” (pg. 72)

I am not entirely convinced the murder was solved in a logical manner. The person I assumed would be guilty, the “twist” I expected never came, and I was surprised by the conclusion Pintoff offered at the end of the novel. I had to go back and reread several sections at the end of the novel in order understand exactly how the crime was solved, although that may be due in part to the fact I was reading this novel during the final hours of the read-a-thon.

“Circumstantial evidence is not foolproof — but sometimes it’s all we have, and when we can weave it into a seamless chain of events, it can be persuasive.” (pg. 256)

Yet the writing was quite strong and I enjoyed learning about the two topics — unproven mathematical proofs and criminology — Pintoff’s characters were involved in. Her research on these particular topics was very strong making up for the unbelievable zealous use of a camera to photograph every detail of a crime scene and other seemingly small errors.

I also enjoyed Ziele as a character and am glad to hear Pintoff has since written additional novels focused on him as he possess an air of mystery throughout the entire novel, although there are brief mentions of a fiancee who died tragically. Given how enjoyable and well-written Pintoff’s first novel featuring Ziele is, I would gladly read more and hope additional novels in the series provide more information about Ziele’s history and a slightly more enjoyable conclusion.

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