In the Shadow of Gotham

For Craig and Maddie


No book, especially a first one, comes about without the support of many people. First and foremost, thank you to everyone at Minotaur Books and Mystery Writers of America for giving me what is truly a unique opportunity.

Special thanks go to Kelley Ragland, who has been a wonderful collaborator and terrific advocate, and to those at St. Martin’s Press who helped to bring this book to publication.

Thanks to David Hale Smith for excellent advice and guidance.

This novel was tremendously improved by those who read portions of it as a work in progress: Marianne Donley, Gita Trelease, Karen Odden, Barbara Fischer, and especially Natalie Kapetanios Meir, whose ready encouragement and keen insight were invaluable.

Thanks to all my family—but to no one more than Craig, who always believed this day would come. He is a tireless and dedicated creative partner, without whom this book would not have been possible.

Finally, in grateful memory of Elaine Flinn, who first discovered me. No one could have been more generous and encouraging.

While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer;

nothing is more difficult than to understand him.

—attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky




Dobson, New York

Tuesday, November 7, 1905


The scream that pierced the dull yellow November sky was preternaturally high-pitched. Its sound carried effortlessly, echoing through a neighborhood of Queen Anne Victorians into the barren woods beyond, fading only as it descended toward the Hudson River. Those who heard the sound mistook it for that of an animal—perhaps the call of a screech owl, maybe the shrill cry of a loon. No one believed it to be human.

I did not hear it myself. I can only describe it as others did, after the fact.

But memory can be an odd thing. The report of that inhuman sound, relayed countless times, took root in my mind. It played upon my imagination, creating an impression so vivid it came to seem authentic. I know all too well that memory sometimes refuses to let die what we most want to forget. But now, I also know that memory can create something that never really existed. That is why this particular scream haunts me as surely as though I had been present, then and there, to hear it with my own ears. And I cannot mistake its origin: I know it is Sarah Wingate’s dying cry, sounded just before her brutal murder.

News of her death came as the oversized grandfather clock in our office chimed five o’clock. My boss, Joe Healy, never one to stay a minute late, was putting on his coat, ready to leave for the day.

“You’ll lock up when you’re done?” Joe tucked his scarf around his neck.

I was at my desk finishing the paperwork for an arrest I’d made that morning. Thomas Jones had shown up for work at the Conduit and Cable factory with a hot temper and liquor in his belly, an unhappy combination that led him to sucker punch his foreman.

“Of course,” I said, turning over the final page in the file. “Only Tuesday and our third assault this week.” I blotted my pen before I signed and dated the report. “At this rate, the local paper will proclaim it an epidemic and we’ll have the women’s temperance union on our doorstep. Though I’d say it was lucky the assailant in each case was drunk. Men who can’t see straight rarely land a solid punch.”

We were interrupted by the sound of footsteps clattering up the short flight of stairs that led to our office at 27 Main Street. I stiffened with a flash of foreboding, for no one ever rushed toward our headquarters.