The Great Mistake

Knopf. Jun. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780525658498. $26.95. F
In 1903, 83-year-old lawyer Andrew Haswell Green was shot dead in broad daylight outside his Park Avenue home. Greene, a real-life New York figure, is at the center of Lee’s (High Dive) historical novel. Penniless and friendless when he first came to New York to apprentice in a mercantile shop, Green overcame his family’s misfortune and his father’s disapproval to become the “Father of New York”—the man behind the creation of Central Park, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Natural History, and much more. Despite his achievements, he never overcame the sense that he didn’t belong. Inspector McClusky, himself an outsider on the police force, is tasked with uncovering the truth behind Green’s murder. Told in chapters that alternate between events in Green’s life and McClusky’s search for the truth, Lee’s novel details the remarkable life of a man now almost forgotten and a city that would not be the same today had he not lived. It’s light on details of building projects, focusing instead on the man who created them.
VERDICT Give this entrancing story of an exceptional man to novel-reading fans of Erik Larson and those who enjoy a little mystery with their historical fiction.
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