Genuine Gold by Ann Aptaker is the 3rd book in the Cantor Gold Crime Series, and it is as captivating as the first two books. Whilst it is a series, I believe you could read this volume as a stand-alone, although it would not give you the richness of character that Cantor Gold deserves. Time has moved on, so that it is now 1952 and this novel focuses more on Coney Island than New York. Aptaker is still painting with words, describing Coney as ..still sassy but a little sad, the way an ageing Grand Dame is sad when her fancy clothes are not in style..

The story begins with Cantor Gold, our butch heroine, and smuggler of jewellery and antiquities, in Greece. She is smuggling an antiquity to the US and nothing about this trip or the artefact goes according to plan. Cantor finds herself pitting her wits against both New York and Coney Island criminal underbellies and their respective police forces to get the artefact to the buyer, get paid, and save her reputation.

The Characters

Cantor Gold is still completely mesmerising, as she talks and struts her way through the story, wearing hand tailored silk suits, with woollen overcoats, caps and fedoras. Just wearing the clothes is likely to get her noticed at a time when butch women were jail bait, and likely to be grabbed by men to show that a ‘good man could put her right’. She loves to have a woman on her arm and spends a lot of time thinking about women, their bodies and what she would do with them. Her personal journey finds her still trying to make her way in the world bouncing off Sig Loreale and Mom Sheinbaum, her guides since she was a child. All the while ruing a lost love that ensures she has no deep attachments.

As in previous books, gangland boss Sig Loreale makes an appearance. He has a greater role than previously, but he is still ruling with a rod of iron, and has Cantor running herself ragged, out of fear of what he may, or may not, do. Cantor seems to have an unusual relationship with him, but he is holding her hostage over previous agreements he has made with her.

Esther “Mom” Sheinbaum, Cantors homophobic mother figure, has a bigger role in this story. Cantor has avoided her for two years. She was upset at finding out that Mom, who was a second mother to her, found her defective and unnatural with loving women, and wearing men’s suits made it worse. The picture Aptaker paints of her is just exquisite, a Queen of the underworld that even Sig Loreale takes note of. 

The Writing Style

Aptaker uses words like thick oil paint, sweeping them across the page. The criminal underworld, with gang bosses, crooked cops and prostitutes is painted expertly. I must be getting used to her style as I found this book an easier read than her previous two books and I just loved seeing the world again through Cantors eyes. The storyline is also good and sweeps you along, moving expertly through the action.

The Pros

It is Aptaker’s words that make this series so special, and the unmistakable words of Cantor Gold describing her world, her life and her feelings that sets it apart.

The Cons

I found none. However, there is some violence in one scene that involves a death. It is not clearly described, although the cause of death is obvious, and some readers may find this disturbing.

valdens favourite booksThe Conclusion

An elegantly scripted mystery/adventure set around the criminal gangs of New York and Coney Island in the early 1950’s described from the point of view of a suit wearing butch, smuggler and girl about town.

Oh my! I am undoubtedly hooked on Aptaker’s style. I am hooked on that wonderful feeling whilst turning the pages, of Cantor Gold going her own illegal way, against the tide.  All the while, I am getting more of my personal, black and white movie of gangs and the mob in New York.


Excerpt from Genuine Gold by Ann Aptaker

The thug’s cap is pulled low, his face hidden in the shadow of the brim. He waves a knife; it glints in the light of the car’s headlamps. I go for my gun but the guy’s too fast, already on me before I can grab the gun from its rig.

His knife keeps coming at me, missing me by slivers as I bob and weave away from the blade. He uses his free hand to try to wrestle the satchel from me. I don’t dare let go—it’s worth twenty grand to me!—and I don’t dare let it drop and break what’s inside, but the guy’s tough and relentless, jabbing at me, pulling the satchel, and bending away just enough to keep me from kneeing him.

I’m losing this battle. I can’t hold this guy off much longer, can’t get a good grip on the satchel. But I can’t give up, because even if I let go, the guy might kill me anyway, knife me and toss me into the harbor. So I keep twisting my head away from the blade that comes ever closer as I get more tangled in the battle.

I’ll be a goner any minute. I know it, because even through the stinging sweat dripping into my eyes, blurring my vision, I see the gleam of the blade heading right for my throat.

The guy’s eyes open wide.

He goes down. Stavros, pale and bleeding behind him, pulls his own knife out of the guy’s back.

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Cantor Gold Crime Series

Criminal Gold

Tarnished Gold

Genuine Gold

Flesh and Gold

Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781626397316
  • Publisher: Bold Stroke Books Inc

Ann Aptaker Online

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Note: I received a free review copy of Genuine Gold by Ann Aptaker. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.