Detective Simon Ziele (A Curtain Falls, 2010, etc.) investigates his third case in Gilded Age New York.
The city is riveted by the 1906 murder trial of anarchist Al Drayson, who aimed a bomb at Andrew Carnegie but killed innocents. Presiding judge Hugo Jackson receives death threats from both revolutionaries who demand Drayson’s freedom and outraged citizens who want him executed immediately. Few are shocked when the judge is found murdered the night after closing arguments. Criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who eagerly uses his society connections to examine the case for clues to the formation of the terrorist mind, drags along his friend Detective Ziele, who lost his fiancée, Hannah, two years ago in a tragic shipwreck, and is now stunned to learn that Hannah’s younger brother Jonathan became a violent radical leader. The scene of the crime reveals surprising details. Why was the judge’s throat slit when anarchists usually prefer dynamite? More intriguingly, why was the judge left with his hand on a Bible and a white rose? Alistair consults his longtime friend Angus Porter, another prominent judge and a student of symbolism. Meanwhile, the Police Commissioner taps Ziele for his connections to his old immigrant neighborhood. Hours after Alistair sees him, Porter is also found dead with another Bible and another white rose. Despite these peculiar clues, the Commissioner insists that immigrant anarchists be rounded up to pay for the crimes. When the prison holding the radicals is hit by a bomb, Ziele realizes he must bring the killer to justice before the city explodes in violence and the courts become a lynch mob.
Pintoff explores New York at the turn of the century, from its society gentlemen’s clubs to its teeming immigrant neighborhoods, without ever resorting to kitsch or stereotypes. Densely plotted, rich in moral ambiguity and guaranteed to grip readers to the very last page.