Frank Harris is an German immigrant in post-Civil War New York City. His name isn’t really Frank Harris, but it becomes that after P.T. Barnum’s stable, where he works as a stableman, burns down. He escapes the fire, but is fingered as the arsonist. To avoid that charge, he falls in with the Whyos a New York City Gang. He’s not the hardened criminal the Whyos think, so how will he survive in the gang?
This was a great novel, very full of historical detail. I particularly enjoyed the Whyos and the Why Nots—the corresponding girl gang—as they used their musical talents to carry out their crimes. Frank Harris is a great main character. He is a bit idealistic, but also fairly canny. There’s a great bit of socialism and feminism mixed in. I loved this book. I rank it in the top 10 this year.