Gilded Needles Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Welcome to the Black Triangle, New York's decadent district of opium dens, gambling casinos, drunken sailors, gaudy hookers, and back-room abortions. The queen of this unsavory neighborhood is Black Lena Shanks, whose family leads a ring of female criminals - women skilled in the art of cruelty.
Only a few blocks away, amidst the elegant mansions and lily-white reputations of Gramercy Park and Washington Square, lives Judge James Stallworth. On a crusade to crush Lena's evil empire, the judge has sentenced three of her family members to death. And now she wants revenge.
One Sunday, all the Stallworths receive invitations - to their own funerals. Can even the wealth and power of the Stallworth family protect them from Lena's diabolical lust for vengeance?
This first-ever republication of Michael McDowell's chilling classic of revenge features a new introduction by Christopher Fowler and cover art by Mike Mignola.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 13 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 21, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #17,487 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#741 in Horror Fiction
#1,282 in Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,983 in Horror Literature & Fiction
Top reviews from the United States
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So it’s interesting that the second title I’ve read features none of the author’s signature supernatural forces at all. The evil and machination within Gilded Needles are all resolutely human, and are knotted around a basic drive: for revenge.
The novel, set in Gilded Age New York, is a tale of haves and have-nots. It’s rooted in reality, where corruption and graft are part of political ambition, and families are either dirt-poor or Masters of the Universe. Set in ritzy enclaves and the squalid Black Triangle, the story that’s told is one of what happens when the ruling class (the Stallworths) bring judicial authority to bear on the criminal class (the Shankses).
What happens is a story of revenge served cold: how one woman can rise from failure and poverty to a position of influence, gathering an army. It’s a commentary on class difference – on tenacity versus the laxity that comes with privilege. It’s about how the apparent rulers of the city can be undone by criminals; those who are assumed to be lower than low. And importantly, it’s about how failings, however small, can be taken and turned to advantage by the observant.
It would be churlish to spoil any more of the story than that. The many parts of the plot are clockwork: they snap together with a most pleasing thunk as the pages pass. There’s a lot to be said for McDowell’s portraiture, too: between sapphic pugilists, pawn-shop geniuses and judicial curmudgeons, it’s hard to pick which character is best drawn.
How this thing hasn’t been turned into a film yet is absolutely beyond me. The novels has a distinctly cinematic feel, and offers the reader plenty of “wait, what?” and “no you didn’t!” moments. It’s a story which had me fully invested from the outset, and one which comes to an excellently satisfying crescendo.
McDowell referred to himself as someone who wrote for next month, not for the ages. His outlook was distinctly commercial, yet within Gilded Needles (and, I suspect, much of his other work) there’s a surehandedness that will ensure his creations live far beyond the pulp cycle of their genesis. This is a masterly novel of period revenge, and is very much worth your time.
I would count this book as a horror novel, although it's not supernatural like some of McDowell's other works (Elementals, Cold Moon Over Babylon). The horror in this book is somewhat Dickensian, with the plight of poverty examined in morose details of disease, dark alleys, vermin, desperation, and crimes and death that will haunt you. However, no Dickens work I ever read contained this kind of horrific detail. Despite there being no supernatural element, there was something very haunting and atmospheric about this book that FELT supernatural. It's a dreamy piece, also sharply rooted in dismal reality.
Juxtaposed to the dark alleys of the Black Triangle is the affluent upper crest. Their world is rooted in society, showmanship, smart connections, and being known as ethicists. The Stallworths are obsessed with their image, as politicians, as a judge, a lawyer, a preacher, a lady of genteel society clubs, and perfectly-poised children among their lot. However, like many families, theirs has a dark underbelly, where weak moral fiber hides behind their guise of perfection.
In a balanced society, both families can co-exist, with one ignoring the other. But when the Stallworths target the Shanks, the two families will come together in an epic, complicated game of cat and mouse.
I highly recommend this read if you love dark, Victorian-era reads; realism horror; and tales of revenge. Be warned, this is not a light story, but the kind that will haunt you long after you finish. The characters in this book really come to life, and I was attached to members of both families. It was a touching, emotional read, with witty commentary and relief in the form of a community gossip and newspaper reports.