I know I keep saying this but every time I review a historical crime novel, I wish read more of the genre. An author can make a time and place come alive and this was certainly true of Ann Aptaker’s book Criminal Gold. We’re plunged into the heart of 1940s criminal New York with a thrilling tale of murder and deception.
Cantor Gold has been thief since a young child and by 1949 is a smuggler of fine art. One evening, as she waits in New York harbour to hand over a precious jewel, a woman’s body drops from Brooklyn Bridge. Opal Page is the daughter of the city’s most famous fence and was educated to take her way from criminal society. But she became the mistress of gangster Sig Loreale who hires Cantor to find out why Opal died. But Cantor, a lesbian mourning the disappearance of her girlfriend finds herself open to innuendo and blackmail because of her sexuality.
The character of Cantor is this books main attraction. She’s a wonderful creation. Emotional, sassy but loyal to her friends and acquaintances. It’s this loyalty that propels her to investigate the background to Opal’s death. The descriptions of the treatment of gay women by the police is hard to read but completely believable. Other elements of forties also come alive in the book. The system of theft and passing through stolen goods is fascinating to read about along with the descriptions of people on the margins of society.
The actual crime story is narrated in a straightforward fashion which I always like. It reminds of the golden age crime stories that I read as a teenager. Aptaker has set herself up for a cracking series not only because of the character of Cantor Gold but for choosing a period of time that is fascinating to read about. I’m off to New York in February. It makes me want to take fur and pearls to wear.
Thanks to the author for my review copy.