LTER: Secret of the White Rose

My LTER from last month was an ARC for the mystery The Secret of the White Rose, by Stefanie Pintoff.  A trial is wrapping up in 1906 Manhattan; the defendant is one of the most reviled men in the city in decades, an anarchist called Al Drayson who made an inept attempt to blow up a Carnegie wedding and wound up killing, among other innocent (and non-upper-crust) bystanders, a small child.  And on the eve of jury deliberations, the judge is murdered, his body found with the right hand resting on a Bible, a white rose sitting before him.  This turns out to be the first act in a chain of violence, conspiracy, ciphers, and revenge.

This is the third book in a series about Detective Simon Ziele’s uneasy partnership with criminologist Alistair Sinclair, and the first I’ve read.  Here, they become involved because the judge was an old classmate and old friend of Sinclair, and the widow has asked for his aid – and where he goes, so does Ziele.

From the beginning this bore a strong resemblance to Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and Angel of Darkness.  Those took place in 1896 and 1902 Manhattan, and feature the friendship and partnership of a journalist and a criminalist; they were dark and complex and detailed with a wonderfully real setting – I still wish I could go to turn of the century Delmonico’s.  The Sinclair novels – or this one, at least – treads the same ground, although not the same restaurant – Ziele goes to Lombardi’s for a slice of tomato pie (pizza – Lombardi’s is now closed).  The comparison isn’t favorable for White Rose … It wasn’t bad.  It was a rather clever, red herring-filled mystery, though perhaps a bit too filled with herring.  The writing was good, although some of the dialogue bore little resemblance to anything most human beings would utter in this century or the last.  I liked the main character, Ziele, from whose point of view the story is told in the first person, but I didn’t form attachments to him or any of the others.  The setting was well done, but not as strong and sensual as Carr presented.  It’s a shame that the comparison is so inevitable, because on its own merits it might do better.

On Goodreads, there are no half-star ratings, which is a shame; this is one of the times when three stars isn’t quite good enough, but four is a little too strong: 3 1/2 on LibraryThing is right.  I enjoyed it; it was a quick read; I will certainly read the other books in the series if I come across them but won’t seek them out.

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