One of the Edgar Nominees this year for best novel is Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham.
It is a story of the very first policemen in New York City, circa 1845. Timothy Wilde is a newly appointed "copper star" thanks to connections his brother has in the Democratic Party. He isn't sure he wants the job but he has just lost his savings and part of his face in a devastating fire. The police are not welcome in the city and are seen as a threatening "standing army" by citizens who feel their freedoms are threatened.
Timothy patrols the sixth ward and on one of his first patrols a young girl runs into him in a blind panic. She's covered with blood and tells a tale of a man in a black hood who kills young child prostitutes in some kind of horrific agreement with the house madam.
Nineteen bodies are found thanks to the frightened girl, all Irish in a time when thousands of new Irish immigrants are coming to New York. The Irish are reviled by "natives" and it is a difficult task for Timothy to solve the murders without creating riots between the Irish and the established New Yorkers.
The city is fascinating as always, and the historical snapshot is seething with vice and hard living and hope. I found the description of Harlem as a lovely country retreat from the evils of the city to charming.
Timothy is a great hero, principled, hard working, protective of children and anyone who is downtrodden. His unrequited love certainly has a twist.
You will be pleased to find after reading The Gods of Gotham that a sequel is due out in August 2013 titled Seven for a Secret. (Yes! it is an old Victoria Holt title!)
Visit Lindsay Faye's site for more on the background of the early New York Police Department and the incredible patter of the New York Streets called "flash".