Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book 11: A Curtain Falls

A Curtain Falls by Stefanie Pintoff

In her sequel to In the Shadow of Gotham, Pintoff once again follows the detective Simon Ziele as he faces another intricate case. Ziele still lives in the sleepy town of Dobson, but finds himself called back to New York City when his old partner Declan Mulvaney calls him in for assistance on a case involving minor actresses in New York's theater district. What at first appears to be a suicide is actually an elaborately staged murder that is the second of its kind and threatens to be the beginning of a spree.

Despite some initial reservations, Ziele involves Alistair Sinclair, a criminologist. While criminology is still a developing science, Ziele's previous interactions with Sinclair have made him more open to its use than some of the more traditional-minded police men such as his partner Mulvaney. While today's readers raised on CSI and crime novels looks at Mulvaney's suspicions as simplistic (one note left at the scene makes reference to Pygmalion, a character an actors had happened to play earlier in the season so that actor becomes a suspect), Pintoff does a good job of setting her novel in a historical context and explaining how people viewed criminals in those times. Additionally, Mulvaney has quite a bit of political pressure on him to find a suspect. Besides, Ziele is also rather single-minded in his focus, and while it eventually leads him in the right direction, he was definitely approaching it from the wrong angle.

Due to the time period and the fact that Pintoff deals with the development of criminology, the covers of her novels keep comparing her to Caleb Carr and The Alienist. While I can see the comparison, I actually prefer Pintoff's novels - since they are a series, she keeps her novels shorter, and keeps the story moving a bit faster. The Alienist may have more literary merit, but I'd rather read more about Ziele and his relationship with Sinclair and Sinclair's widowed daughter in law.

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