Takes place in 1899.
It's 1899 and the new century is almost here. Change is everywhere. Kinescopes parlors are open, there are plans to build a bridge connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, and automobiles are claiming the space that belonged to the horse.
With the digging of a rapid transit system about to begin, land speculation is intense. Police Detective John "Dutch" Tonneman, is home from serving with Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish American War. He's eager to convince the lovely Jewish immigrant and photographer Esther Breslau to marry him rather than her mentor, Oswald Cook.
Dutch and his cousin, Detective Bo Clancy, are investigating a series of brutal stiletto murders, beginning with that of Delia Swann, a young prostitute in Madame Sophie's establishment. Sophie asks about Delia's missing heart-shaped locket and steers Dutch and Bo to Esther, who has been working on her new project--photographs of prostitutes--has taken two photographs of Delia. One shows Delia wearing the locket. Esther is in grave danger.
Appearing in this wild ride through turn-of-century New York are a murderous organ grinder; an Italian detective named Petrosino; Wong, Oz Cook's enigmatic Chinese houseman; Flora Cooper, a New York Herald reporter; Jack West and Little Jack Meyers, private investigators; cops, robbers, street urchins, land speculators, New York aristocracy, Tammany Hall politicians, and various and sundry early mafia organizations like the Black Hand.