Intriguing premise that quickly becomes a write-by-numbers plot, with an unbelievable Hollywood Dan Brown-style conclusion that was ridiculous. It’s also obvious that the author, Charles Belfoure, is an architect, since his descriptions of buildings and their designs offer the best writing in the book. Too bad he didn’t bother to create characters as interesting as the buildings.
John Cross, a successful architect in late 19th century New York City, has a problem. Seems his eldest son has accumulated excessive gambling debts, and is entangled in a web of organized crime, thugs and opium dens. A gentleman gangster, James Kent, is determined to make the son, or the father, pay up. So the son is kidnaped and John is blackmailed into helping Kent and his gang set up robberies of prominent New York citizens whose houses and office buildings Cross designed.
Cross gets in deeper with the gang, finds he actually enjoys the robberies, and then, his wife gets involved, as does his teenage daughter and younger son. Talk about stretching the limits of the suspension-of-disbelief? The characters soon became boorish and I openly rooted for the older son to be killed, since his selfish behavior was the root of the entire plot and he was such an ass. By the end, this upper crust, prim-and-proper family, is involved in the world of pickpockets, murderers, opium dealers, and organized illegal gambling. The climactic scene takes place during the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty and is so silly that I literally tossed the book on the floor.
Instead of going for gritty realism, depicting the disparity between the New York elites and the horrific poverty of the lower class and the homelessness of thousands of children, the author, Charles Belfoure, opted for a sanitized on-the-surface plot and shallow characters.