Satan’s Circus had a cover and title that caught my eye in Border’s. They made me think about The Devil in the White City, which is a favorite book of mine. The book is also set around the same time that The Devil in the White City is set.
The book is specifically about the New York City Police Officer Charley Becker’s rise, fall and eventual execution. However, it also does a great job of drawing a picture of a corrupt city and corrupt police department. It’s a dark story about an area of Manhattan called Satan’s Circus where vice and crime ruled.
Becker began as an honest cop who came from a farming community. However, his years on the force surrounded by cops who were nearly as bad as the men they arrested changed him into one of them.
As bad a Becker was, once the trial started, I felt somewhat sorry for him. Overzealous prosecutors and judges needed a scapegoat for an embarrassing murder and it seems like they found one with Becker.
I think that’s what I found sad about this book. It had no heroes. Still, I liked it for the most part. It was a fascinating story, though it got bogged down in some areas with side stories that held no interest for me and little connection to the main story. At one point, I found myself wondering when the book would come back to Becker’s story because it strayed into other territory for long.
Reading the book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Caleb Carr’s novels, The Alienist and the The Angel of Darkness. They share the same setting and take the reader into a different world that is governed by a different set of rules.