Queen of Thieves: The True Story of “Marm” Mandelbaum and Her Gangs of New York

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In the mid-1800s, New York City was a flashpoint for gang activity, political chicanery, and immigrant exploitation as thousands of would-be Americans streamed into the city. Amidst poverty, corruption, and lawlessness, only partially abated by the city’s young police force, there were fortunes to be made, and Fredericka Mandelbaum would forge a criminal empire that reigned for a quarter-century.

Queen of Thieves is a rags-to-riches story with a criminal twist, as mother and saleswoman “Marm” Mandelbaum became one of the most effective “fences” in American history. Whether you view her as an unlikely feminist icon or a criminal mastermind, she remains a curious wrinkle in New York City’s rise to prominence.

The book focuses on Mandelbaum’s heyday and fall from grace, and I was a little disappointed not to learn more about the day-to-day workings of her empire and how she built her elaborate network of contacts. Nonetheless, her story is told with old-timey flair, including newspaper excerpts from the time and a marvelous narrative by Conway that sometimes feels like a great radio serial.

Part-biography and part-celebration, Queen of Thieves is an appropriate epitaph for an underappreciated criminal icon.


Reviewed By:

Author J. North Conway
Star Count 3/5
Format Hard
Page Count 272 pages
Publisher Skyhorse Publishing
Publish Date 2014-Sep-02
ISBN 9781629144351
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue January 2015
Category History
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