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Gilded Needles

Written by: Michael McDowell
Narrated by: R. C. Bray
Length: 11 hrs and 13 mins
4 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2016 Michael McDowell (P)2017 Valancourt Books

What the critics say

"Riveting, terrifying, and just absolutely great...Michael McDowell must now be regarded as the finest writer of paperback originals in America." (Stephen King)
"One of the best writers of horror in this country." (Peter Straub)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not what I was expecting

R.C. Bray is one of my favourite narrators. The man can do no wrong. I recently discovered THE ELEMENTALS by Michael McDowell, and it quickly made it into my top 10 books of all time. COLD MOON OVER BABYLON was also excellent. But GILDED NEEDLES was not what I wanted. The book description tells you what will happen, and that's what happens. But not until at least halfway. There were too many characters, not enough character development of almost anyone, and there were no likeable characters. The last 2 hours were not bad. Based on the other 2 books I mentioned, I was waiting for some paranormal activity, but it's not that kind of book.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • CJ Matthews
  • 2017-08-09

Definitely dark, but engrossing.

Any additional comments?

I read this book because R.C. Bray is the narrator and for no other reason and I am glad that I did. This is not my typical type of book, so I am glad that I ventured out a little from my listening comfort zone. This book isn't a murder mystery or who done it or anything other than a story being told to you and I liked that. It is very dark and you will really dislike some of the characters, but that made it even better. Instead of rooting for the hero like in most books, I found myself rooting against the socialites. The author did a fantastic job at describing each person and each scene and painted me a picture in my head of how the city looked and I could actually imagine watching this instead of just listening. Few authors have done this for me. The story itself wasn't the greatest that I have ever heard, but his style along with the narration made this a very easy listen that kept me interested from start to finish. The story had no real hero and no real twists, but it is very entertaining and maybe it's just the comfort of listening to R.C. Bray, but it seemed much more than that. You will have to listen to understand or maybe it's me that is just understanding, but I will look for more books like this when I want to take a break from my normal science fiction/fantasy books.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Melissa and Josh
  • 2017-07-02

A tale of a plot with an unintended consequence

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Let me preface this review up front by stating this is not a tale I would typically search for (not one of my genres of choice). I stumbled upon this book as it was narrated and recommended by R.C. Bray through his Facebook page. Bray also narrated Michael McDowell’s other novel “The Elementals”. Needless to say, as I was a fan of the first novel and I am also a huge fan of Bray’s, I gave this one a shot.

The book takes place in the mid-1800s and tells a tale that, as much as I would like to believe the opposite, probably still holds a strong basis in reality today. The Stallworth family, led by the Judge himself, holds a key role in the city while the Shanks family pursue multiple criminal endeavors from illegal abortion to the pawning of stolen merchandise in a lower end of town.

Judge Stallworth presents an opportunity to boost the name of his firm while setting up a chance to ensure a future role for his close family. This opportunity presents itself as a huge news story which is based on the exploitation of families in the slums. Needless to say, this entire plan backfires when one of the Judge’s own becomes entangled with Maggie Kizer and sets in motion the receipt of funeral notices addressed to each member of the Stallworth family.

The investigations being conducted in the Black Triangle are used as a way to create a bigger news story than really existed. The intent of these investigations was to bring about trials which would be handled by Judge Stallworth himself. When Maggie is sentenced to death, a confrontation occurs in the Black Triangle which leads to the previously mentioned curse being placed upon the family. One by one, members of the family begin to encounter their fate.

Some of the moments which struck me as memorable throughout the book included the nature of the trial for Maggie Kizer. Given the plot set out by Judge Stallworth, her fate was already sealed well before the trial started. Again, tying back to one of my comments above, I wish I could say that I didn’t believe this happened as frequently as I feel it does in the modern day. Likewise, the way Duncan turned his back upon Maggie left me feeling angry as he tried to justify his actions against her. Her reactions upon learning this news really hit home and was one of the stronger emotional moments in the book.

Later in the book, we get to see the Judge shifting blame for the entire situation over to Duncan and his affair with, and concealment of the relationship with, Maggie Kizer. Again, this was a very emotion provoking scene and I found myself quite angry as it was occurring.

Overall, I feel this book merited a 4/5. It took quite a while to get to the meat of the story (6 hours into the audiobook) where the curse was issued. The buildup was good, but I feel it was drawn out at points.

Bray was a fantastic narrator (as usual) and his vocalistic talents really shown through in his various accents.

The slow up-take aside, I would recommend the book to others. It is a great tale and continues on McDowell’s ability to craft some truly emotion-provoking scenes.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Marcheta
  • 2017-06-28

This would make a great movie

Great writing, intriguing characters, and a cringe-worthy retribution plot. I loved it! I'm checking if Michael McDowell (author) & R.C. Bray (reader) have any other books on audible.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bolow
  • 2019-08-20

Brilliant revenge tale.

I have to admit I absolutely love Michael McDowell. However, this book does not have any supernatural elements. It is however, a brilliant tale of revenge. Also, paints a bleak tale of how immigrants lived in New York during the Gilded Age. The story is a clash between two families, one law abiding and prominent, the other criminal immigrants. I love McDowell's writing as his characters and places are well described and fully realized.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Gmram
  • 2019-05-22

Meh...

I love the way Bray narrates so I tried this out. His performance was great as expected but the story just did nothing for me. I kept loosing interest and never cared about ANY of the characters or what happened with them. Try it out, it just wasn’t that interesting to me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mary McCord
  • 2017-10-22

AWESOME!!!

So macabre! Anything R.C. Bray narrates is fantastic and this book is keeps you hooked!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Blake1383
  • 2017-07-06

Revenge in post civil war New York

This book made me feel I was in the same room with the characters and seeing what they were going through. I really enjoyed this book and the suspense kept me listening. If you like historical fiction tale of Eye for an Eye you should check this out. RC Bray does an incredible job and during the book I forgot all the voices were just him

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rinnie
  • 2019-11-13

Beautiful tale of revenge

Rather i should say a timeless tale of revenge because surely this tale reminds you of todays righteous indignant nature ultra religious, privileged morons and political puppets make hard the lives of the poor. While they themselves live in the lap of luxury but can not understand why for the life of them others do not.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Pony
  • 2019-11-05

Although not southern gothic, still a good read

I definitely prefer his southern gothic stories but he clearly is a very versatile writer. This is a well written story about revenge set in new york 1882. It’s an enthralling story and well told with a satisfying end.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-23

Thoroughly engaging bad gals.

This story gives the reader a lot of mixed feelings. There are plenty of reasons to love and hate numerous characters. It's one of those books that will keep you up too late and worth it. Some great comeuppance. You'll find yourself rooting for the bad women who have mad survival skills. Skills that are illegal and immoral and greatly satisfying to read. It all comes together(or apart) really well