Tuesday, May 16, 2017

An Awful Truth- Gilded Needles

I came back for a second helping of Michael McDowell after reading the new edition of The Elementals, released by Valancourt Books. I picked up Gilded Needles. The sinister cover art, along with the premise of a family invited to their own funeral, sucked me in.

It did not have the supernatural ambiance of The Elementals, which was disappointing, but it was no less dark for it. It painted a grim, painstakingly realistic portrait of New York at the end of the nineteenth century, and pitted two families against one another to the bitter end. The book showcases the discrepancies that still run rampant in cities such as these. The well-to-do Stallworths care only for their reputation and meteoric rise to influence among the the city's social and political elite, targeting the Shanks family for their depravity, and inciting a heinous, (and ultimately rewarding) revenge for stealing the lives of those confined to the Black Triangle: the nexus of New York criminality.

Black Lena, as the Shanks matriarch is called, could have taken it even further, but I suppose that's part of the point. When she exacts her revenge on each member of the Stallworth family in turn, I cannot help but grin. McDowell's deft hand makes it clear at every moment just who are the villains here, and exposes the dark underside of the wretched city in every rank. It is also perfectly plain that these families are more intertwined than they believe themselves to be, just stuck in different corners of their urban cage.

Gilded Needles was not the triumph of mood or atmosphere that I was hoping for, but it is successful in its intention-to pinpoint the true nature of humanity, of depravity, of vanity and false righteousness, and the details of his all-too-real world are delightful. Those select few who can write characters that are vivid, those who linger after the tale is told, are worth second and third looks. I'm certain that I'll be returning for more.

K Rating; 7/10
Image result for old lady american gothic
Add some dirt and about two hundred pounds, and you've got Black Lena

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