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by Stefanie Pintoff
Minotaur Books, May 2010
390 pages
ISBN: 0312583966

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A CURTAIN FALLS returns us to turn-of-the-century New York City, following the debut of this successful series (Pintoff recently won an Edgar award for Best First Novel for IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM.) This second book is set four months later, in springtime, 1906. Detective Simon Ziele, who lives in Dobson, just north of the city, is called in to help his longtime friend, New York Police Captain Declan Mulvaney.

A Broadway chorus girl has been murdered, and a note left by her body. But it is, in fact, the second such murder the beginnings of a serial killer? Ziele brings in the two people who helped him in his last investigation, Alistair Sinclair, a criminologist, and Isabella, Sinclair's assistant and the young widow of Sinclair's son. The team also relies on two New York Times reporters the killer has sent the newspaper a letter. In return for not publishing it, the reporters are given the chance to work closely with police. Investigators soon focus on Timothy Poe, an actor who is concealing a secret. But Ziele believes Poe to be innocent. After being unable to convince Mulvaney to look elsewhere, he decides to carry out his own rogue investigation with Sinclair and Isabella. He and Sinclair also believe the serial killer will strike again and soon.

The characters and the plot are well done, with a few good twists thrown in, but where Pintoff really excels is in vividly putting the reader into 1906 Manhattan. Not only does she shed information on police procedures fingerprinting was still a new science, not yet used in courts as evidence, and Ziele relies on a handwriting expert, despite being dubious at first but we also get marvelous tidbits about the Dakota building, Times Square, Central Park and Broadway. The book is so well-researched that we even get the menu of the day for a famed Fifth Avenue restaurant.

A CURTAIN FALLS is an even stronger book than the first, which had some bumps in plotting. There is also more depth to the characters, and an interesting development in Ziele's personal life which coincides with the investigation. With this book, we have the beginnings of what promises to be a strong series.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, May 2010

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