The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum

The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum by Margalit Fox

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum:

Her talent was crime.

Quick synopsis:

The story of Gilded Age crime boss, Fredericka Mandelbaum.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Brooks Brothers was founded in 1818 in New York City and was known for the shoddy products it provided to the Union Army during the Civil War.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

An 1859 study found that 25% of New York City prostitutes died each year.

My Take on The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum:

It turns out that crime does pay! Especially if you become a fence in NYC during the mid to late 1800s. A woman named Fredericka Mandelbaum found this all out way back in 1850. Her life of crime is chronicled in Margalit Fox’s The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum.

For those looking for a deep dive into Mandelbaum’s inner life, you may be a bit disappointed. Mandelbaum’s life as a criminal meant she wasn’t writing a daily diary of her thoughts and activities. As an arch criminal, that would have been a very bad idea. However, Fox does what every great historical true crime author does. She drops you into Mandelbaum’s world and the people within it. This includes crooked cops, master thieves, pickpockets, shady lawyers, and cultural touchstones like rampant antisemitism! You think Twitter is bad? You should see the words a New York paper would put on its front page back in the day.

I really enjoyed the book, and the details Fox is so adept at finding and presenting to the reader. My personal favorite is always a good bank heist, and they don’t disappoint. Sure, I would have loved to learn a little more about “Marm” Mandelbaum herself, but then again, I probably wouldn’t believe a word she said.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Random House Publishing.)


A great historical true crime yarn. Buy it here!

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